The former relationship of Lt. Gen. Alexei Dyumin to the GRU, mentioned in my last blog, is still unclear. As of 24 December 2015, he is a Deputy Defence Minister, although of still unclear portfolio. However, accounts of his promotion say that he was before then head of the Special Operations Forces (SSO: Sily spetsial’nykh operatsii) — and the Spetsnaz are a GRU asset, so this might have been a position giving an equivalence to a deputy headship of the GRU — and even before than, Ground Forces Chief of Staff. That’s a pretty solid pedigree, but given that even back in May 2015 he was being name-checked as still being in the Presidential Security Service (SBP), that suggests a pretty meteoric rise.
Let’s assume there aren’t two Alexei Gennad’evich Dyumins within the Russian security elite. Let’s further assume that these various accounts are correct. That means that in the space of at most seven months, Colonel Dyumin (as he was then), one of the deputy heads of the SBP, moved across to the Defence Ministry, took a senior operational role in the Ground Forces (despite not having been a career soldier), then a crucial command position in GRU special forces, and then a hop up to to deputy ministerial rank. In the process, he also went from colonel to major general to (two-star) lt. general. Pretty impressive.
But not wholly unprecedented — let’s not forget the infamous Viktor Zolotov, close Putin associate and judo sparring partner, who went at flank speed from head of the SBP to commander of the Interior Ministry’s Interior Troops, to First Deputy Interior Minister and potential minister-in-waiting.
It’s all conjecture, but the rapid promotion of close Putin clients from the SBP, people he knows, people he plays judo and ice hockey with, people who are his neighbours, may suggest a degree of insecurity. If he feels he cannot trust the elite as a whole (and I suspect he may be right), the temptation to colonise the key security structures with those you feel on whom you can rely, if push comes to shove, is logical. And interesting.