My companion in the recent past is a military intelligence general who has given her more than 40 years of service. His memory is kept by the scorching wind of the African bush and the intolerable stuffiness of a Latin American selva.
From the photos on the walls of his office people look at me, whose biographies are now being studied in schools of different countries. They are still very young at them, like the general, with whom they are in the pictures.
Behind the general of war - business trips, dozens of secret operations. On the ceremonial uniform - awards of the country. But he rarely gets it out of the closet. We have known each other for a long time, but still the general is bound by a vow of silence. No spy stories, names, surnames. And even agreeing to talk about, perhaps, the most painful topic for him - the fate of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of Russia, he did not depart from his rules.
- How should I address you?
- Call me "Comrade Raul", so they called me Cubans many years ago ... - Comrade Raul, there are many legends about the GRU. The GRU is called the most closed intelligence of the world, the most influential and the most conspiratorial. The abbreviation "GRU" in the West has become a symbol of the most audacious Soviet secret operations. But how did it happen that such a powerful intelligence service did nothing to save their country?
- Why did the GRU miss the decay of the Union?
- In your question - a typical mistake of those who are not familiar with the specifics of the GRU. The GRU could not have prevented the collapse of the Union, primarily because the General Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff was military intelligence, whose efforts and field of activity were always outside the borders of the Union. On the territory of the USSR, the GRU simply had no right to either create its own agents or conduct operational work here: all this was the exclusive prerogative of the KGB. So your question is better to redirect to there.
But I will say my judgment on this issue.
The KGB had its “Achilles' heel” - it was built on a territorial basis. In the territories of the republics of the USSR, most of the KGB apparatus were local cadres. And if in conditions of a stable environment, this gave an advantage in the knowledge of the local mentality and situation, then as the centrifugal processes increased, this personnel principle began to work against the Committee. A large number of employees of all ranks appeared, who - who, by virtue of their convictions, who for purely pragmatic considerations - relied on the support of local separatist movements.
At the same time, the leadership of the KGB made erroneous decisions that only catalyzed these processes. I am talking about attempts to control separatism “from the inside,” when instead of strictly suppressing the activities of all kinds of “popular fronts”, “deputy groups” and “movements”, the agents of the Committee began to be introduced into them to “decompose from the inside”.
This type of special operations has long been known and repeatedly worked out both in the USSR and in other countries, but under the conditions of the Center’s political instability and Gorbachev’s two-faced treacherous policies, these operations, instead of decomposing “fronts”, led to the fact that these organizations began to operate under the cover of the KGB. The agents, with the support of their supervisors from the KGB, climbed higher and higher along the hierarchy of the “fronts”, while the “fronts” kept getting stronger and gaining strength.
As a result, the situation reached the point of complete absurdity - by August 1991, the Committee’s agents in some republics began to form the majority of the leadership of this or that “front”, and sometimes they simply headed it, as, for example, in Lithuania, but at the same time the “front” became a parallel structure of power, destructuring and paralyzing the work of the Soviet authorities. And this position unequivocally testified to the depth of the processes of decay going on in the depths of the once omnipotent Committee.
At the same time, the activity of the special services of foreign states increased exponentially. And virtually everyone whose interests somehow affected the territory of the USSR. Americans, British, Germans, French, Israelis, Turks, Japanese, Chinese, Poles - everyone who could, then joined the section of the Soviet inheritance. And if in Russia they still acted with a certain eye, then in the territories of the republics the actions of foreign special services became more frank and uncovered, sometimes taking forms of direct intervention. At the same time, the republican departments of the KGB did not render any organized opposition to this attack. By August 1991, their activities were almost paralyzed, and immediately after the events of August, their uncontrolled disintegration began. Some employees who remained loyal to the oath and duty were forced, fearing reprisals and persecution, to flee to Russia, some simply left the service, while others immediately went to the service of those who were supervised yesterday, becoming the backbone of the special services of the newly formed "democracies" and almost immediately joined in the struggle with those who yesterday obeyed.
- A GRU? What happened to him?
- As I have already said, the problem of the GRU at that time was that we did not legally have the right to create our own agents on the territory of the USSR and, as a result, we did not have the right to conduct any illegal operations on our territory without linking with the KGB. Accordingly, on the territory of the USSR, for this we simply did not have any structures or divisions for effectively counteracting the destructive processes.
The traditional "philosophy" of the GRU was that the Directorate was built for reconnaissance, information gathering and sabotage work outside the Union in the territory of a possible enemy. Our intelligence and intelligence departments in the Union were deployed in peacetime states and configured to provide for the daily life of troops. They did not conduct any covert work. The units and units of the special forces were also not sharpened for the specific tasks of the special services, being tools for waging a big war, and were deployed in peacetime states.
Therefore, all the information that we received from the field — and almost everywhere there were units and subunits of the USSR Ministry of Defense, from which reports were constantly coming — we simply passed upstairs, always receiving strict instructions not to interfere.
During this period, we have been repeatedly reproached for not showing the GRU. Conflicts flared up in Fergana, Baku, Karabakh, Tbilisi, Vilnius, where parts of the Defense Ministry were transferred, but often the actions of the military were similar to the actions of an elephant in a china shop. The parts of the situation that were thrown into the conflict area did not know, the main source of information was information received through the KGB, and it, as I have already said, was often contradictory, and sometimes it was simply inaccurate.
The situation changed dramatically by the fall of 1991, when, after the collapse of the USSR, civil wars immediately broke out in a number of republics. The process of dividing the former Soviet Army began, and entire districts and armies found themselves in the thick of dramatic events. The war began between Armenia and Azerbaijan, civil wars broke out in Transnistria, Tajikistan, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. It became restless in the Russian Caucasus. All this required a change in the nature of our work. Outside Russia, in conflict zones, we had our hands free, and we began to deploy here our operational units, which began collecting information about the situation, working with the local population. We began training personnel to work in these regions, to cover our troops stationed in “hot spots”, we began to recruit units of special forces.
With the beginning of the “Chechen” war and the fact that the war was almost completely shifted onto the shoulders of the Ministry of Defense, we finally received the “go-ahead” to fully work in Chechnya and the adjacent republics of the Caucasus. But after the completion of the military phase of the operation to restore the constitutional order in the territory of Chechnya, legislative restrictions have again come into force.
Understand, the GRU is not a cinema monster who can do what he wants, the GRU is only a tool. And the tool is very thin, having a bunch of legislative and systemic restrictions. Moreover, it is a very compact tool: all of the GRU, including the cleaners and secretaries, can be seated in one Luzhniki rostrum. And a lot depends on whose hands this instrument is in, how it is used. Therefore, to lay the blame on the GRU for the disintegration of the Union is the same as blaming the dagger hanging on the wall for the fact that its owner went into the forest without him and was bullied by wolves.
- Thanks for the detailed story, but after listening to it, I can not ask about what is happening with the GRU now? Information about the reform of the GRU is fragmentary and stingy and is often more similar to some kind of “actives” that are thrown into society for the purpose of sounding public opinion. Then suddenly the information passes that the GRU stops working altogether as the main directorate of the General Staff and merges the division into the Main Operational Directorate. That is stated that all external intelligence of the GRU is transmitted to the Foreign Intelligence Service.
- That is taken from the GRU special forces brigade, then return. What is happening now with the GRU? And how necessary was GRU reform at all?
- Of course, by the end of the 90-s, the GRU did not fully meet the requirements of the time, and its reform was required. The GRU needed to be adapted to modern realities. In my opinion, one of the atavisms was that, being practically equal to the SVR in scope and capabilities by the intelligence service of the country, the GRU did not have direct access to the top political leadership, being only one of the directorates of the General Staff and closing in on the Chief of the General Staff and the Minister of Defense . Such a subordinate structure was often to the detriment of the cause, especially where it was a question of prompt response and coordination with other special services.
In the United States, which is now so fashionable to hold a model for us, military intelligence, submitting to the Department of Defense, closing in on a committee of chiefs of staff, is also part of the “US intelligence community”, which is headed by the director of national intelligence, where all intelligence services flow USA, which allows to obtain more complete information and respond flexibly to threats.
It was necessary to legislatively and structurally adapt the work of the GRU in Russia. Reform was necessary. But it’s not for nothing that the devil is in the details.
Reform was needed, but reasonable and well calculated in its consequences. We all went according to the worst scenario.
The main problem of the reformers is that, on the one hand, when they started the reform, they didn’t realize at all what goals it pursues and what results should come out of it. On the other hand, they were generally very poorly oriented in military affairs, trying to transfer to the army the principles that they had previously worked out in business. At the same time, a merely mechanistic approach prevailed. Without any discussion and study, suddenly a directive came to reduce personnel by almost 30%. Nobody knows where this figure comes from, how it is justified, how reasonable it is. Why 30, not 40 or 50?
The GRU is an extremely subtle and sensitive mechanism. We do not have random people, almost everyone who serves in the GRU — what is called a “piece goods”. These officers were selected during the special selection process, years and many millions of rubles were spent on their preparation. And suddenly, without any explanation of reasons and justification, we have to reduce virtually every third in several months. But the GRU is not a privatized plant, where, in order to increase profitability, you can simply dismiss every second, drop non-core assets in the form of kindergartens, clinics, close down and hand over everything that does not generate income, and make the rest work for two. Even in business, this scheme usually leads to only one result - squeezing all resources from such an enterprise, and then its extinction, bankruptcy and resale of already dead land.
The analysis shows that the most efficient productions are those where the reform was scientifically substantiated, where instead of bare cuts there was modernization and development. We had to carry out the reform, as they say, as the Khrushchev five-year plan - “in three days”.
Unfortunately, the current leadership of the Ministry of Defense failed to prove the fallacy of such approaches and decisions taken. In order to accelerate the “optimization” in 2009, the leadership of the GRU was replaced, which tried to prevent the collapse of the Office. The new leadership turned out to be more accommodating, and reform was carried out in the most tragic way by the GRU. Key controls were reduced to a critical minimum, some of them were completely eliminated. Thousands of officers were fired. To date, every second officer has been dismissed. All developmental and research work at a specialized research institute has been terminated. We still haven't recovered from this terrible blow. And the current GRU is only a faint shadow of the GRU to which I have given decades of my life.
Many of his opportunities today are almost completely lost. Today, the training of illegal immigrants has been completely curtailed; the faculty preparing them was closed, the faculty preparing the military attaches was reduced to a critical minimum, the GRU analytical apparatus was crushed, and the transfer of foreign intelligence units to the SVR was initiated at full speed. The reduction of teachers and professors is in full swing. From the unique in terms of capabilities and scale of the strategic tool, the GRU has degraded into an amorphous secondary structure, which is likely to be further "optimized".
The level of thinking of the “reformers” is characterized by the fact that the favorite toy for which the current defense minister spares neither money nor time is the Senezh Special Purpose Center, deduced from the subordination of the GRU and reassigned directly to the Chief of General Staff. The minister personally oversees this center, staffing it with exotic foreign weapons and equipment, trying to make some kind of American Delta out of it. Here is also the personal recreation center of the minister with a pier and yachts. Such, alas, are the views of the current leadership of the Ministry of Defense on the role and place of military intelligence - a hybrid of the cinema Delta with a base of rest ...
- It is here, in Russia, in the central office. And what happens abroad? It is known that in recent years, the Foreign Intelligence Service has been shaken by loud scandals: the failures of our agents in the USA, the departure of major intelligence officials to the West. A well-known fact - for the entire existence of the USSR, traitors and defectors were less than in the 20 years of the newest stories. What happens to military intelligence?
- The largest political strategist of the twentieth century, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, in one of his works, very accurately noted: “It’s impossible to live in society and be free from society.” Undisputed fact: our society is seriously in pain. Corruption, organized crime, social apathy, separatism, the ever-widening gap between rich and poor eats away at him. These processes are going on at all levels: from the Kremlin to the last village, on all social floors. And the closed order of the special services is no exception.
To judge the state of the special services, just look at the state of the most open of the power structures - the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Bribery, protectionism, cronyism, lack of professionalism - they write and talk about it. But exactly the same problems corrode other power structures, just the information about this does not reach the level of the well-known.
In the special services, all this is aggravated by the “specifics” - the constant state of war between them, the constant influence of the enemy, who is looking for weak links in the state security system to solve his tasks in relation to Russia.
Intelligence today is going through a very difficult time. The main problem of today's intelligence is the erosion of motivation and belief, the faith, without which the work of a scout is impossible. It is becoming more difficult for people to explain to themselves what they are protecting - their country or the interests of specific financial and political groups.
Every year, intelligence is increasingly attracted to the maintenance and protection of the commercial interests of very specific firms and concerns. And you can prove to yourself for a long time that you are defending the interests of Russia, acting in the interests of a bank or an oil concern, but when you know from the specifics of your work where what accounts the profits of the operations you cover go, it becomes very difficult to maintain beliefs and internal integrity. The scout is always in a hostile environment. His will and belief are constantly being tested for strength. And when, in addition to external influences and constant tension, the erosion of the once unshakable principles on which your service was built is added, this can become the wedge that will break the personality and push the person to betrayal.
This is all aggravated by the criminal stupidity of the reformers, when the ill-conceived mass reductions carried out in the operational units led to the fact that hundreds of officers who perform tasks far from their homeland, without any explanation or excuse, suddenly faced the prospect of being simply crossed out from life without work and the future . At the same time, many of them do not have a roof over their heads in Russia, their families are not arranged. I can’t name such an attitude to personnel differently than treason against them. And this betrayal also provokes people to cowardice.
Betrayal, of course, has no excuse. And no matter how guided the traitor is, he will always remain a fallen soul, a pariah, an outcast.
There are no “humane” traitors who, having crossed over to the enemy, would not betray their country, its secrets, would not give in to those people with whom they worked, whom they knew, and who they heard about their actions. For weeks and months, experts will use the most sophisticated technician to “unwind” the memory of the defector, fusing everything from her in the slightest degree. And only when an empty container remains from the traitor, he will receive his pieces of silver and a ticket to the western paradise.
And behind his back, dozens of people will have to look for escape in flight, and those who do not have time to hide will end up in prison for many decades, and someone will just die from poison or bullet. There are no exceptions. But, condemning the betrayal, we must reveal its causes, understand its genesis.
“Is there really no hope?” Is the GRU going to be legendary? fleet Alexander the Great, dissolved without a trace in the unknown?
- You know, I live so long that I have often seen how a bright future became a dark past.
My fate as a scout taught me to keep calm contemplation where you cannot change anything, because, yielding to despair, emotions, you will miss the moment when the situation begins to change. In our land there is nothing final and final, except, perhaps, the Egyptian pyramids. And the current destroyers - all these Serdyukovs and Makarovs - are not eternal. No matter how optimized they are, whether they shorten or compare with the GRU's land, there remain in it those people who keep the genome in themselves and who will certainly outlive these temporary workers.
There are eternal values that do not depend on political conjuncture and bureaucratic tyranny. Do you remember the words of Emperor Alexander III that Russia has only two faithful ally - the Russian army and the Russian navy? This was said almost 150 years ago. But 100 years ago, and 50 years ago, and today, and after 50 years, they will remain an axiom. Russia is impossible without a strong army and navy. But a strong army and navy is impossible without a strong military intelligence - and this means that the history of the GRU is not over.
Once, my favorite writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, having left a defeated, German-occupied France, wrote the prophetic words: “Today we are defeated.
And the vanquished must be silent. How grains ... ".
We are also grain today. And these seeds will germinate, believe me!