Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 196

The shake-up in Russia’s High Command continued on October 18 as General Staff chief Mikhail Kolesnikov was replaced by Viktor Samsonov. The two Army Generals may, in fact, be exchanging posts. Samsonov had overseen coordination of CIS military forces since 1993, and reports indicated that president Boris Yeltsin, who issued the appointment order, will propose Kolesnikov for the far less powerful CIS post. Samsonov had himself been bumped into the CIS post after serving in 1991-1992 as Soviet, and then Russian General Staff chief. (Itar-Tass, October 18)

Kolesnikov’s replacement had been expected. Although not seen as a loyalist of either former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, many of whose closest associates have recently been relieved of their posts, or of former security chief Aleksandr Lebed, some of whose allies may face the same fate, Kolesnikov was reportedly not on the best of terms with Defense Minister Igor Rodionov.

The appointment of Samsonov comes at a crucial time. Domestically, Rodionov seems set to launch a series of military reforms that will include personnel reductions and wrenching organizational restructuring. The changes are unlikely to be popular, and Rodionov will need to have the powerful General Staff on board, particularly because there is already reported to be considerable dissatisfaction among some General Staff officers with Rodionov’s performance to date as Defense Minister. Samsonov’s appointment also comes as Russia enters what will likely be a period of intense wrangling with the West over NATO enlargement, Russia-NATO relations, and an array of arms control and other security issues. The General Staff can be expected to play a significant role in formulating Russia’s positions in all of these areas.

Russians and Latvians Clash Over Maiden Voyage of Petr Veliky.