Russia’s new supreme commander: he should win the war

Valery Gerasimov is the new supreme commander of the Russian armed forces in the war against Ukraine. He doesn’t have much time for success.

Man with many Russian medals

Received the title of Hero of the Russian Federation in 2016: Valery Gerasimov Photo: Sergey Fadeichev/imago

BERLIN taz | There is hardly a military rank in the Soviet or Russian army that he has not held. He collects medals and awards like other people collect stamps – Valery Gerasimov leaves nothing out. Now there is another important task for the 67-year-old general. On Wednesday he was appointed supreme commander of Russian forces in the war against Ukraine. As recently as December 2021, he had described reports of a possible imminent attack by Russia on the neighboring country as a lie.

Gerasimov was born in 1955 in Kazan, capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. Even as a child he is said to have dreamed of becoming a soldier. He reportedly loved war games and devoured books about Soviet heroes in the Great Patriotic War. Stories from an uncle who had been a tank commander at the time did the rest.

After graduating from school, Gerasimov went through a series of military training schools. In 1997 he graduated from the Academy of Military Sciences of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation – with distinction, of course.

Gerasimov was deployed in various places in his home country – including from 1999 in the second Chechen war, which lasted ten years and cost the lives of tens of thousands of people. From 2010, the man climbed the colleague, according to the web portal Svobodnaya Pressa as an example of an honest, reliable and conscientious soldier, he climbed the career ladder at breathtaking speed: he became deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, two years later its chief, deputy defense minister and a member of the National Security Council.

Major role in military action in Syria

2014, in the year of annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine, Gerasimov ended up on the EU and Canadian sanctions list. According to the Bellingcat research team, he was among the Russians responsible for transporting to eastern Ukraine the Buk medium-range mobile missile system that shot down a Boeing MH17 in July 2014. In 2015, the Military Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine accused Gerasimov of being the “main ideologue of the war in Donbass”.

According to media reports, Gerasimov is said to have played a key role in the military action in Syria that began in 2015. In May 2016, by a secret decree of Vladimir Putin, he received the highest state award for “courage and heroism” – the title “Hero of the Russian Federation”.

Whether the married father of a son – who also serves as an officer in the military – will also prove himself in his new position is not certain. Obviously there is a lot to improve in the management structures of the “operation” as well as the coordination between the individual troop units. It’s clear: Success is finally needed. Gerasimov does not have much time for this.

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