A castling of generals: Why Putin appointed Gerasimov in place of Surovikin

Volodymyr Fesenko

Volodymyr Fesenko

Political scientist, director of the Center for Political Studies «Penta»

Regarding Putin’s decision to replace Sergei Surovikin with Valery Gerasimov as commander of Russian forces in Ukraine

Putin is shuffling his deck of generals again. It makes one recall the well-known rule: “changing the order of the numbers doesn’t change the sum.” You can also paraphrase the Russian fable writer: “And you, friends, no matter how you arrange your seats, you won’t make for a winning team.”

This provides further evidence of Putin’s paranoia

For Surovikin, Putin’s decision is a demotion and humiliation, and for General Gerasimov, who heads the Russian General Staff, it is definitely not a promotion, but rather an electric chair for long-term torture.

But this appointment of generals by Putin once again testifies to the Russian president’s personnel impasse. As we say in Ukrainian, he is exchanging a needle for soap – trading in something useless for something even more unhelpful.

At the same time, this provides further evidence of Putin’s paranoia. He does not trust anyone, so he is constantly updating his system of checks and balances. Last year, he appointed Surovikin to the position of commander of the joint forces in Ukraine and removed General Lapin from the front at the request of Prigozhin and Kadyrov. This also meant weakening the positions of Shoigu and Gerasimov.

And now everything seems to be the opposite. Lapin has been returned to a high position. Surovikin is not removed, but subordinated to Gerasimov. It seems that Putin is deliberately provoking fierce “brothers” who are at war with each other.

This is a demonstration that nothing is guaranteed to anyone, but everyone must answer to Putin. But what is the Russian leader himself responsible for? He does not want to be responsible for defeats, and he has no victories.

Once upon a time, the final Russian emperor, Nicholas II, shuffled his generals in the same way, then eventually appointed himself as commander-in-chief. We know very well how it ended. Putin has Peter I as a model, but is rather following the path of Nicholas I and II. Both ended badly. This is the irony of historical fate.



  1. “But what is the Russian leader himself responsible for? He does not want to be responsible for defeats, and he has no victories.”

    Putler is like all dictators, they call the shots, but it is everyone’s fault when the plans go awry. Putler could stop this war tomorrow, tell the sheep they have won a great war against NATO, and the sheep would be no wiser, but the people in the know would destroy his political career.

  2. Besides massive losses on the battlefield, another way to tell that the enemy is clueless on how to turn the tide of defeat is his dismissing and appointing of top generals. The more he rotates them, the worse the situation.

What is your opinion?