The U.S. Defense of Department (DoD) told reporters Thursday that Russia’s recent restructuring among its military ranks is a reflection of the “systemic challenges” that have plagued the Kremlin’s army since it first invaded Ukraine.
Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov was appointed head of the Russian military on Wednesday, overtaking a position previously held by Sergey Surovikin for only a few months. Surovikin will stay on as deputy to Gerasimov, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
“It likely does reflect some of the systemic challenges that the Russian military has faced since the beginning of this invasion,” Brigadier General Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, said at a news briefing Thursday.
Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov attends an expanded meeting of the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow on December 21, 2022. In the inset, Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, holds a press briefing at the Pentagon on October 18, 2022, in Arlington, Virginia. Ryder on Thursday said Gerasimov’s recent appointment to lead Russia’s military is a reflection of the Kremlin’s “systemic challenges” it has faced since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
SERGEY FADEICHEV/Sputnik/AFP via Getty; Kevin Dietsch/Getty
“We’ve talked about some of those things, in terms of logistics problems, command and control problems, sustainment problems, morale and the large failure to achieve the strategic objectives that they’ve set for themselves,” Ryder continued.
The U.K. Ministry of Defence wrote a similar report in its intelligence briefing Wednesday, saying that Gerasimov’s promotion was “a significant development in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approach to managing the war.”
“The deployment of the [chief of the general staff] as theatre commander is an indicator of the increasing seriousness of the situation Russia is facing, and a clear acknowledgement that the campaign is falling short of Russia’s strategic goals,” read the intelligence update.
According to a report from Reuters on Wednesday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Gerasimov’s appointment was a way to increase the effectiveness of its military operations in Ukraine. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also provided Russian generals with a list of necessary improvements this week that Russia plans to prioritize in the new year, including better command, communication and training.
“The increase in the level of leadership of the special military operation is connected with the expansion in the scale of tasks … the need to organize closer contact between different branches of the armed forces and improve the quality … and effectiveness of the management of Russian forces,” the Russian ministry said its statement Wednesday.
The shakeup in the Kremlin’s military comes as Russia and Ukraine are locked in an intense battle along the front lines in the city of Soledar, a salt-mining town in the outskirts of Bakhmut, where Russian forces have recently refocused their efforts.
On Wednesday, the private Russian militia known as the Wagner Group claimed “liberation” of Soledar, according to a report from Reuters. However, Ukrainian media reported that Wagner had continued to bomb the eastern Ukrainian town 91 times since making the assertion.
Ryder said during the press conference that the DoD “can’t corroborate” on reports that Soledar had been taken by Russian forces. Ukraine’s military has also denied such claims.