Valery Vasilyevich Gerasimov was born in Kazan, in what was the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic until 1990, on 8 September 1955. Since 9 November 2012 he has been the Chief of Defense of the Russian Federation, as well as being first deputy Defense Minister and member of the Russian Security Council.
His biography in Russian begins significantly by emphasizing origins surrounded by an aura of humility: "(Comes) from a family of workers".1 This specification confers an undoubted Soviet-style added value, a little nostalgic-Retro if we want, in line with the image of continuity with the past and the present leadership Russian politics wants to give the country.
His process military training sees him graduated with honors in the three-year period 1971-1973, at the end of the attendance of the Military School "Suvorov"2 of Kazan; subsequently he attended the "Higher School for Tank Command" in Kazan (1973-1977), the Military Academy of the "Malinovsky" Armed Forces (1984-1987) and the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (1995-1997).
After obtaining the diploma at the High School for Command of Tank Units, attended from 1977 to 1982, in the ranks of junior officer Gerasimov held the position of platoon commander, company and, finally, assistant major at the 80th tank regiment of the 6th mechanized division of the Guards, at the time making part of the Northern Forces Group, stationed in Poland. Subsequently, in the ranks of major (1984), lieutenant colonel (1987) and colonel (1992) he would have carried out positions as a staff officer and command positions in units of the Far Eastern Military District (currently incorporated in the Eastern Military District), precisely in the village of Troitskoye, according to Russian sites.
Promoted to major general, from 1993 to 1995 he commanded the 144th mechanized rifle division, at the time framed in the former Baltic Military District. In 1999, shortly before the start of the 2nd Chechen War, Gerasimov received the post of Chief of Staff of the 58th Combined Army (formerly the North Caucasus Military District) of which he became the commander in 2001. During the Chechen period he he was personally involved in the arrest of Colonel Yuri Budanov, later convicted of the murder of a Chechen girl. This episode led the journalist Anna Politkovskaya - who we remember being a harshly critical voice of the Russian-Chechen conflict and who, for this reason, was killed in 2006 - to describe General Gerasimov as "A man who was able to preserve his honor as an officer".3
In the rank of lieutenant general, from 2003 to 2005 we find him in the Far Eastern Military District, where he held the post of chief of staff. It seems that in that period he received a reprimand about an alleged mismanagement of epidemiological outbreaks (it is not known what it was) among the conscripts serving in the District. This would appear to be the only "blemish" on an otherwise immaculate state of service.
In April 2005 he was placed at the head of the Chief Directorate for Combat Training of the armed forces, a body of the Ministry of Defense. Promoted to colonel general (February 22, 2005), in December 2006 he assumed the post of Chief of Staff of the Northern Caucasus Military District.
From 11 December 2007 to 5 February 2009 he served as commander of the Leningrad Military District; from 5 February 2009 to 23 December 2010 he was the commander of the Moscow Military District.
Gerasimov's career proceeds swiftly and brilliantly: on 23 December 2010, by presidential decree, he was appointed Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. We arrive at April 26, 2012, when, after having changed his position, he became commander of the Central Military District. According to some hypotheses, however to be verified, it seems that at the basis of the reasons for the change of office there was a bad relationship with General Nikolaj Egorovič Makarov, at the time Chief of Defense Staff. However, "the star Gerasimov" was by no means destined to go down.
After the resignation of Anatoly Serdyukov from the position of Minister of Defense on November 9, 2012, in fact, the new Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu presented to Russian President Vladimir Putin the candidacy of Valery Gerasimov for the position of Chief of General Staff of the armed forces of the Russian Federation, with the combined post of First Deputy Minister of Defense.
On February 20, 2013, Gerasimov was promoted to the rank of army general. We also want to remind you that from 2009 to 2012 he commanded the parades in honor of the Victory Day which take place on the Red Square.
The appointment of General Gerasimov as commander of the armed forces was welcomed by theintelligentsia Russian close to military circles.
Colonel General Viktor Yesin, former commander of the Russian Space Defense Troops, called him "A full-fledged general ... who has proven to be a thoughtful leader and a good organizer".4 The editor of the magazine "National Defense" Igor Korotchenko described General Gerasimov as "A very competent person, a true patriot".5
According to the Russian vulgate, to underline the merit of a good reputation, it reports that in a meeting with the president, Valery Gerasimov declared: “I believe that all the activities of the General Staff must be aimed at achieving a main objective: to maintain the combat capacity of the armed forces in a state that guarantees the fulfillment of all the tasks assigned to the armed forces. And I will do everything in my power to achieve this. "6
Defense Minister Shoigu then said that Gerasimov is "... a military man down to the roots of his hair".7
Under his command, the Russian military campaign in Syria, launched in September 2015, was planned, organized and conducted. In this context, on 15 September 2016, he met in Ankara the Chief of Staff of the Turkish Army Hulusi Akar (now Minister of Defense) to discuss at the time what the future of Syria would be.
With the motivation "For the courage and heroism shown in the exercise of military service", in May 2016, with a specific presidential decree, he was awarded the highest state recognition: the title of Hero of the Russian Federation.
The Ukrainian conflict.
Following the events relating to the invasion of Crimea and the conflict unleashed in the Donbass, in April 2014 Gerasimov was added to the list of persons against whom the European Union has introduced sanctions "For actions that harm or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine".8 In May 2014, Canada, Liechtenstein and Switzerland added the high officer to their sanctions list, due to Russian interference in Ukraine and his responsibility for the massive deployment of Russian troops near the Russian-Ukrainian border, accusing him not having the will to reduce the tensions with Ukraine associated with the aforementioned deployments of Russian units along the border between the two countries.9 In September 2014, Australia also added Gerasimov to the sanctions list for Ukraine.10
The creators of the website Bellingcat have come to indicate Valery Gerasimov as one of the possible leaders of the organization for the introduction of the air defense system Beech in the Donbass territory used for the launch of the missile that shot down the Boeing 17 flight MH2014 on 777 July 17.11 Another serious accusation made against the Russian chief of staff dates back to August 5, 2015, when the office of the military prosecutor of Ukraine declared Valery Gerasimov "main ideologue of the beginning of the armed aggression against Ukraine in Russia"12.
In this regard, the head of the main investigation department of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) Grigory Ostafiychuk, as part of the investigation into the Battle of Ilovaisk (2014), accused Gerasimov and 10 other unspecified Russian soldiers of organizing the dispatch of Russian troops to Ukrainian soil in support of the Donbass separatists.13
We come to the period shortly before the Russian offensive in Ukraine in February 2022, when on December 9, 2021, General Gerasimov issued a warning to the Ukrainian government against the attempt to resolve the war in the Donbass, according to him, by force. Gerasimov claimed that “Deliveries of helicopters, unmanned aircraft and aircraft to Ukraine are pushing the Ukrainian authorities towards sudden and dangerous steps. Kiev does not respect the Minsk agreements. The Ukrainian Armed Forces are making it known that they have begun using US-supplied Javelin anti-tank missile systems in the Donbass and are also using Turkish reconnaissance / attack drones. Consequently, the already tense situation in the east of that country is deteriorating further ".14
To discuss security and the Ukrainian issue, on 23 December 2021 he met with his British counterpart, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the UK's Chief of Defense.
On February 25, 2022, as a result of the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine, the United States added Gerasimov to its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List.
The "Gerasimov Doctrine"
General Gerasimov's international fame, however, is due to what is now known as the "Gerasimov Doctrine" and which refers to the concept of "hybrid warfare", which combines the use of conventional weapons with non-military tactics and procedures, such as disinformation, cyber attacks or attacks of various entities on a technological, diplomatic, economic, cultural and other level, in order to achieve strategic objectives.
Let's talk about the controversy triggered by the distinguished scholar Mark Galeotti, who first coined the definition "Gerasimov Doctrine" in reference to a series of his considerations regarding a speech given by General Gerasimov and transposed into the article The value of science in forecasting, Published in the Military-Industrial Courier of February 2013.
Mark Galeotti, stated that it was a speech which, due to translation errors, was misinterpreted by the American press as a warlike rather than a defensive strategic proposal; on the contrary, in Gerasimov's idea the "hybrid war" would have been what the United States had used to foment the revolts of the Arab spring and that Washington was trying to use it against Moscow.
Taking note of the clarification made by Galeotti, it is a fact that the procedures adopted by the Russian armed forces first in the Crimea, then in the Donbass and, subsequently, in Syria - with the methods deemed most appropriate and adequate, from time to time, in the different contexts - fully reflect those which, according to Galeotti, would only be subject to examination by the Kremlin for the organization of an adequate defense, if they were implemented by the West against Moscow.
Galeotti argues that the "Gerasimov Doctrine" never meant anything and, literally, says: "It's time to get over it."15
On the contrary, reality has shown us its implementation in facts and certain concepts are now consolidated in the thought of Gerasimov, who has repeatedly reiterated and underlined them on numerous occasions and articles.16 following the now famous speech of 2013.
It is necessary to overcome the idea that the Russian armed forces, regardless of the preservation of capabilities and procedures typical of traditional warfare, are not oriented towards the enhancement and implementation of capabilities and resources for "next generation wars", in which the characteristics "Hybrid" and "asymmetrical" rise to a leading role and no longer have a merely complementary function. Recent history has already proved this.
2 The Kazan “Suvorov” Military School is a military college based in Tatarstan. It is one of the many military training institutes named after Alexander Suvorov, an 18th century Russian general, scattered across the country and funded by the Russian military. These are colleges already active in the former Soviet Union, which have continued to operate in modern Russia and Belarus, attended by boys between the ages of 8 and 18.
4 Profile: Russia's new military chief Valery Gerasimov, BBC, November 9, 2012. https://www.bbc.com.
6Генштаб возглавил Валерий Герасимов - Интерфакс (The General Staff led by Valery Gerasimov), Interfax, 9/11/2012. https://www.interfax.ru.
8 COUNCIL IMPLEMENTING REGULATION (EU) No 433/2014 of 28 April 2014 implementing Regulation (EU) No 269/2014 concerning restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.
9 Bryan Cave Side by Side List of Ukraine Related Sanctions. 22/12/2014.
11 Кто и как расследовал крушение рейса MH17: западные и российские отчеты (Who and how investigated the MH17 crash: Western and Russian reports), Bellingcat, 29/02/2016. https://naviny.belsat.eu.
12Ukraina nazvala имя russian, развязавшего против нее войну (Ukraine indicated the name of the Russian who started a war against it), Apostrophe, 05/08/2015. https://apostrophe.ua.
13Україна оголосила в міжнародний розшук начальника Генштабу РФ і 10 військових за подї в Іловальник начальнис UNIAN, 05/08/2015. https://www.unian.ua.
14Moscow to thwart any provocations by Kiev in Donbass, Russian military chief warns, Tass, 09/12/2021. https://tass.com.
15 Galeotti M., I'm Sorry for Creating the 'Gerasimov Doctrine', Foreign Policy, March 5, 2018. https://foreignpolicy.com.
16 Gerasimov V., By the way Syria. Гибридная война требует высокотехнологичного оружия и научного обоснования (The Syrian Experience. Hybrid Warfare Requires Hi-Tech Weapons and Scientific Justification), Military-Industrial Courier, n. 9, 09/03/2016; Gerasimov. V., Современная войны и актуальные вопросы обороны страны (Contemporary war and current problems for the defense of the country), Bulletin of the Academy of Military Sciences n. 2 (59), 2017
Photo: Russian Federation MoD