This is an interview given just before Christmas by Gerasimov. The original at https://www.ural.kp.ru/daily/26775/3808693/ is in Russian so, rather than force all the non Russian speakers here to have to go through the labour of translating it, plus it is worth keeping, here it is in all its Yandex glory. Sorry for the length but there are some real gems in it. Enjoy
EDIT: I have highlighted the section raised on other sites.
About it first of all, I wanted to talk with chief of General staff – first Deputy defense Minister army General Valery Gerasimov.
In the beginning of the conversation I was reminded of the anecdote about the cutlass and hours, told Russian President Vladimir Putin at a recent press conference. I said Valeriy Vasilyevich, that this anecdote certainly warms the soul of every military person.
- How did he seem to you, Valery?
Valery GERASIMOV (VG):
- Very relevant, a good anecdote. With deep meaning.
Victor BARANETS (WB):
- Valery, in the fall of 2015 were able to quickly and secretly transferred to Syria our large group of troops? I then read in the American press that there the generals almost in a panic was. They did not expect such a hurried from our army. And even complained that their intelligence later...
VG: - the Operation was carefully planned, taking into account all issues identified required capabilities. Meaning and military component, and provide. But the experience of transporting troops and forces at such a distance, on the territory of the state which does not border with our country, we almost didn't. There was only one example in 1962 – the operation "Anadyr", when the Soviet Union deployed troops to Cuba. The experience we have also taken into account. Useful and training of our units from conducting unannounced inspections. They worked out the transfer over long distances, using all modes of transport... aviation, rail, marine. The regrouping was carried out secretly as possible, without attracting special attention. At the airport Hamim was concentrated 50 units of aircraft...
WB: what about period? For a month, a week?
VG: - Where-that about one month it took... More time was required to ensure component. Had to create an infrastructure, a system of comprehensive support, including logistical.
WB: Why, when planning operations in Syria, our staff initially did not include the use of ground troops and units, and the main emphasis was placed on the aircraft? What is the "trick" was?
VG: - Assessed the condition of the land forces of the armed forces of Syria. Despite the fact that they for a long time participated in the fighting, suffered casualties, individual parts still was able to perform tasks. It was necessary to solve issues primarily for exploration purposes, their fire defeat, disruption of the control system of the enemy. These tasks and could solve our aerospace component. But directly on the land areas of the fighting were the Syrian divisions with the participation of our military advisers. There were detachments of the Patriotic segments of the population.
Therefore, initially the deployment of the land component was not provided.
Another important task is to manage all the troops and forces involved in the fighting. This was deployed the command post of our groups in Hamima and control points in areas where the fighting is.
WB: - And how our General staff took into account the peculiarities of the tactics of terrorists? What is primarily addressed?
VG: - we Have experience of dealing with terrorists, and we, of course, taken into account. In addition, with the beginning of events in Syria, the General staff monitored the situation, knew the peculiarities of the tactics of these gangs. We understand that in addition to terrorist actions, they used tactics. At the head of these gangs were the commanders, specially trained instructors from a number of countries in the Middle East and Western countries. Was and former officers of the Iraqi army. They captured over a period of time until the operations were conducted, a large number of weapons and equipment from Iraqi and Syrian armies. Alone tanks and armored vehicles they were in service up to 1500. Plus around 1,200 artillery pieces and mortars. It was actually the regular army.
WB: - And what is the maximum number of terrorists do You remember the intelligence reports? At that time, when we started the operation?
VG: - 30 September 2015 in Syria around 59 thousand in all groups. Plus for the past 2 years they have managed to recruit another 10 thousand...
WB: - a Full army, you could say...
VG: But for these 2 years according to our data actually destroyed about 60,000 fighters, of which more than 2,800 immigrants from the Russian Federation.
WB: Americans reported that their aviation coalition until September 30, 2015 was made around 7000 flights. Two years bombed. But why is it so happened that prior to our entry into the war with terrorists they are from 20 percent to 70 percent expanded control over the territory of Syria? What it was doing to the American coalition?
VG: - I think the coalition did not put the problem at the time, and now, on the final defeat of ISIS*. Here's a look at the number of strikes of the international coalition all this time was 8-10 a day. Our aircraft is quite insignificant forces inflicted 60-70 every day strikes on militants, on infrastructure, on their bases. And during periods of high tension – in the order of 120-140 beats per day. Only such methods could break the back of international terrorism on Syrian territory. But 8-10 times a day... Well, apparently the goals of the coalition were different. The goal is that they are mostly staged – the fight against Assad, not ISIS.
WB: for the First time since the creation of the National defense control center, where we are now, the General staff and the Ministry of defence on all cylinders involved. As it was shown?
VG: - the Establishment of a National defense control center has dramatically changed the approach to the management of the entire military organization of the state. In particular, we felt that the experience of conducting operations in Syria. When available all kinds of communication, organized the daily data collection and analysis of the situation. To work comfortable with, and we don't feel lack of information.
WB: - In the "on line" many problems have been solved?
VG: Sure. Strikes, for example, our aircraft, missile forces, precision weapons, long-range, with the Minister of defence watched on screens in real time.
The drone transmits images, it sees the commander at the command post in Hamima and we in Moscow are seeing the same thing. But he manages, commander!
WB: Why for more than two years of our operations in Syria have not managed to negotiate with the coalition led by the United States on the joint fight?
VG: - We tried to negotiate, and we got something. Signed a Memorandum on the observance of safety of flights. By the way, this Memorandum scrupulously observed by both parties. We entered into an agreement with the Americans and with Jordan, which had created the southern area of de-escalation. It was the first such zone in Syria. It was a major breakthrough. All the rest of our proposals for the organization of joint planning, the reconnaissance, the destruction of the terrorists, ran into the misunderstanding, failure... We haven't seen from them the desire to interact. Although, of course, it would have been very good. Joint planning, air strikes, conduct of operations...
WB: - However, the Americans some claim we put forward... they Say that our aircraft was too dangerous to fly to their planes... What actually happened?
SH: - deployment of the fighting and the approach of the Syrian government forces to the Euphrates in Eastern Syria, we Americans have established a zone of differentiation of the actions of aviation our videoconferencing and the international coalition. What is it? To the West of the Euphrates operates our aircraft (VC), East American. But not all along the Euphrates, and on de-escalation.
WB: - It was marked on maps?
VG: Yes, it is marked. If you can imagine a map, then the level of Deir ez-Zor... And in the East we... Suvar, Abert Laba, and the transition to the border with Iraq. It is somewhere around 120-130 km from Abu Kamal to the North. In this triangle the planned joint actions. Just the area where there were combat actions. In this area, East of the Euphrates, provided for the joint use of both videoconferencing and aviation of the international coalition with the notification of the party concerned. And there were no problems. One unpleasant incident occurred on December 13.
WB: And what's the essence of this case?
VG: - Two su-25 our videoconferencing performed reconnaissance missions in the Western part of the valley of the Euphrates river. No one in the East did not go. Was there and our su-35. American F-22 came from the Eastern part of Syria, faked several times, outlined the attack, shoot the flares. He was at high altitude, then dived lower. Before our aircraft was less than one hundred meters. He represented a real danger. Came our su-35. F‑22 immediately went to the East in his area. It took about 20 minutes. Su-35 went to carry out their tasks. Again, the F-22 appears...
WB: The same?
VG: - The same. Again the same story. Again comes the su-35. He appeared – the F-22 is gone. The American led a dangerous game.
WB: - in Syria the Americans established their base. It's still there?
VG: Yes, there is. Et-TANF.
WB: what are they, according to your information doing up there?
VG: This base is in the South of Syria, it is limited to an area with a radius of 55 kilometers. This is the border of Syria, Jordan and Iraq. There is a base. According to space and other types of intelligence there are militias. They are actually out there getting ready. Moreover, recently, the British TV channel bi-Bi-si said how organized the evacuation of fighters from Raqqa. Four hundred men were taken by the Kurds under the guise of the Americans in camp Haddadi is in the North-East of Syria. This is controlled by the Kurdish territory and there is also the American base. In addition, camp Shadadi arrived about 800 people from the East Bank of the Euphrates, from the area where the Kurds were advancing...
WB: - It's all outgrowths...
VG: - It is actually – LIH. But after the work, they disguise themselves, take another name – "New Syrian army" and others. Their task – to destabilize the situation. We know that from the camp of Shadadi about 400 people went to the area At Tanfa. After the main forces of the ISIL were destroyed, they tried to destabilize the situation, advancing from the East Bank of the Euphrates. But suffered losses. We think that 750 people is now in Shadadi and about 350 – in Et Tape.
WB: You mean insurgents?
VG: Yes, fighters. In Et Tape the entire territory is blocked by Syrian forces on the perimeter of this 55-kilometer zone. The most important thing – a few months, we have seen the nomination out militants. When control was weaker from the area At Tanfa even went about 350 fighters. Was the threat of capture of the city Karyates in Syria. We just made the arrangements... Was defeated, these forces were defeated. Were the prisoners of these camps. It is clear that there is training. Moreover, there is a refugee camp, Ruban is the largest in Syria.
WB: Right there? In this zone?
VG: - Directly in this area, where some 25 kilometers West of Et-Tapa. There are more than 50 thousand Syrian refugees. In Syria created Centre of reconciliation in the Russian military grouping.
He actually coordinates and supervises the delivery of all humanitarian assistance, humanitarian convoys, our Russian, UN. Everywhere I go these convoys, although the problems to be solved with the government and with the UN enough, but in Lukban does not work: the Americans will not let them go – neither the Syrians nor the other convoy. The people are suffering. We say: location of the American base is contrary to common sense. Now even more so – the territory of Syria are exempt from all of ISIS, there was no one left, any threat to Syria is not you. What is there? What is the purpose? While the answers unintelligible. But there can appear a new terrorist group...
WB: - Here you are saying that creating new armed groups, the American instructors are trained fighters... And we don't have to return to Syria, those planes and helicopters, the personnel, which is now displayed in Russia?
VG: - we Have, as you know, there are two base. One in Hamima, the air force, and the second Navy in Tartus. In addition, we work closely on Syrian government forces, our advisors are located in almost all the departments. For two years the officers, Junior command staff of the Syrian army got a lot of practice. Now they are able to fight and defend their territory. Our forces, our bases, we can provide assistance. These forces are quite enough to maintain the stability and territorial integrity of Syria.
WB: - I understand that we leave these two our base for continued assistance to the Syrian government army, are you?
VG: Yes, because the situation is still unstable.
To the full stability, you need some time, so base there are reasonable, they're necessary. Not to repeat what had been until September 2015... on the other hand, we must not forget that Russia has its interests in the middle East...
WB: - During the operations in Syria, how often have You and the defense Minister had to discuss the operation with the Supreme Commander. This was done with eye to eye in the Kremlin, the General staff or on the phone?
VG: - different. Usually on the status and progress of tasks I every morning and evening report to the Minister of defense, and he is the President. 1 – 2 times a week, the Minister reports to the President personally presenting the necessary documents, maps, videos. Sometimes the Commander in chief out on me personally, sometimes together with the Minister go to his report. The President determines the goals, objectives, he knows all the dynamics of the fighting. Moreover, on each direction. And, of course, puts the problem in perspective.
WB: - the information Department of the Ministry of defence and the General staff almost every day informed the public almost
not after every missile and bomb attack by terrorists in Syria. Why, in your opinion, in the same way did the American coalition?
VG: - 8 Months ago they also started to inform, to provide a summary. Of course, the difference is fundamental. They from time to time, and we on a daily basis. Center reconciliation acts, gives a summary of all questions and the information Department, the Main operational management of the... Why do people wonder what's going on there? It is necessary to tell that happened during the day, what are your plans...
WB: - That the General staff was the biggest challenge when planning a military operation in Syria?
VG: - the Most difficult thing during preparation and initial period of operation is the organization of interaction with government forces, with all the variegated groups. The many units of the Patriotic population. They are armed, we involve them on the side of the government troops. It was not easy to organize the interaction of all these groups with our Air and space forces, to organize all kinds of security.
But we have already learned. All included in the framework and works fine. In Hamima created a modern command post, which provides control of the grouping of our troops in Syria. The work goes smoothly.
WB: - What adjustments the staff has made in the actions of our troops in the fight against terrorism? Still, it was in fact the first in the history of Russia clash by our troops with such large groups of thugs.
VG: - Adjustments made constantly. Because changing approaches, forms, methods of action. At first in small quantities, then a larger scale was the use of Jihad-mobiles by the terrorists. And it had to respond...
So, during the battle for Deir-ez-Zor, for other towns in the Euphrates river valley, the use of Jihad-mobiles bought almost massive. At first it was 2-3 Jihad-mobile, and then 7-8 is in one battle. What is it? It is a car, a BMP or a tank stuffed with explosives. There may be 300-400 pounds of explosives or more. It is ruled by a suicide bomber. It selects the shortest path to the positions of government troops. With great speed pushed to them and carries on undermine. These machines may be two, three.
On this front the mass loss, many killed and wounded. This is a huge force of the explosion. Panic... Formed a gap – depending on the power of explosives and the number of applicable Jihad-mobiles. In the summer of 2016 in the region of Aleppo in this way the three Jihad-mobiles managed to get out of the city. Blew up two checkpoints of the Syrian government forces. Is formed a gap with a width of 500-700 meters. The actions of the militants was planned in advance, they hit both sides of the corridor and broke through the encirclement. Then had about three months to recover lost ground, and with heavy fighting.
Naturally, this does not fit into, say, a normal fighting. But the findings had to do...
WB: And what are they?
VG: - first, is under constant observation. Determined by road directions they can go. In these areas the nodes are built fences, minefields and so on, organized system of fire damage, ranging from the distant approaches. This ATGM, tanks, closer to a grenade. The result is 2-3 Jihad-mobile were destroyed at the stage of nomination, the other at the approach to the front edge. The troops learned how to counter them.
In addition, all localities had been prepared by ISIS for all-round defense, apparently they used the labor of the local civilian population. Actually under the ground was built the second city: the entire necessary infrastructure. Assault troops should be able to fight in such conditions.
WB: Where the ISIS has gained a huge amount of "Toyota"?
VG: - Them all these years, the aid flow was coming from a number of countries, including the Middle East... And through non-governmental funds. Not just machines – it's just a civil component. And modern weapons, new ammunition, modern means of...
Reconnaissance, binoculars, night sights, communication systems – all modern, not antediluvian.
WB: - There is evidence that some of the fighters already in Afghanistan was, in Jordan. Where else is spreading this infection?
SH: - returns to the countries from which they came illegally. The bulk is moved to Libya, to South-Western Asia. In Afghanistan, it also cannot be excluded, the soil is fertile for them.
WB: - How do You assess the state of the armed forces of Syria at the beginning of the operation today?
VG: the Difference is big. Syrian armed forces during the war, by the fall of 2015 actually lost the entire territory. Under the control of government forces remained 10% of the territory of Syria.
WB: - It's the moment when we began operations?
VG: - Yes. Very difficult the situation was. And morale, and fatigue. The lack of ammunition, the necessary security controls. We started our operation, some time later came the first success. Any victories inspire you, inspire, is now the Syrian army has gained good experiences. We helped them, repaired equipment on site... Today, the Syrian army is able to fulfill the task of protecting its territory.
WB: How much of our military passed through the Syrian campaign?
VG: - 48-odd thousand soldiers and officers. Every fourth of them are awarded or presented to the government awards. Departmental awards were given to all.
WB: - How do You assess the role of our military advisers who worked in the Syrian army?
VG: - Highly appreciate their role. In each unit, battalion, brigade, regiment, division, is the office of the military adviser. It consists of the necessary officials. This operational staff, scout, gunner, engineer, interpreters and other officials. They are, in fact, expect fighting. Assist in the management units during combat missions. In all areas where actions are linked by a single concept, a single plan, is it managed from the command post group in Hamima.
WB: - was the General staff goal to break in Syria and more troops?
VG: - Yes. And we did it. Not just the military – the most important aspect was to test commanders and officers. Commanders of districts – all have been there, and for a long time. All commanded the group. All the chiefs of staff...
WB: there are 4 or 5 changed, commanders?
VG: Janitors, Kartapolov, Surovikin, Serednicki, Zhuravlev...
WB: You gave them the opportunity at this level to direct, right?
VG: - They came with the basic composition of its managerial staff: head of operational management, intelligence, communications, missile and artillery troops, engineers...
WB: Oh, so they staff their took, the whole apparatus was run?
VG: - the same way the control of armies – all, 90% of divisions, and more than half of the regiments and brigades.
WB: so, we now have the command structure, which is hardened in those fights... With actual combat experience.
VG: - Have combat experience, Yes.
WB: Valery Vasilievich, I'd like to come back here to this question: we stay in Hamima, we stay in Tartus. You said, is to help the Syrian army, are you?
VG: Yes, for possible assistance.
WB: Yes. You didn't mention the naval component. The ships will be in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean sea? Just as we now stand there? Ships our. Or we leave?
VG: no, don't go. In the Mediterranean now operates on a continuous basis our staff Union ships.
WB: - It is also remains, right?
VG: - It is there and before the events in Syria acted, 2015.
And stay on a permanent basis...
WB: - You have repeatedly visited Syria, met with our soldiers, officers, looked them in the eyes... What is your impression of communicating with these people, your subordinates? ... With all those people who carried out Your orders, the orders of the Supreme commander, the defense Minister.
VG: - good Impressions, very positive. Immediately struck by the desire to complete the task – whatever was... Good fighting coordination. And it's very good, because the officers there are no additional training, and a rotation... For three months. This means that the whole system of combat training of forces and controls working, people are willing to carry out tasks, and there they actually show it. Our officers, soldiers performed many heroic and courageous actions demonstrated resistance, trained Syrians.
Eventually we came to what became more Syrian units that are able to come, got the fighting resistance... Brigadier General Hassan Suhel and his unit has shown itself very well in offensive operations against the terrorists.
But without our advisers such success would not work.
WB: - And the lessons of the Syrian campaign, the General staff will have to extract?
VG: - Study and generalization of the experience always happens. From the first day of the campaign this work was carried out... All the things that's happened, the battle had been carefully studied, brought to all departments and to the military, that there was only going to decrease, so this was taken into consideration. We have held several conferences to exchange experience. Issued a series of manuals summarizing this experience.
WB: In Syria had tested a large number of our weapons. As the staff evaluates them?
VG: - We have tested more than 200 samples of arms and equipment, the modern those who adopted recently, which was going to take, which was already in service. It seems to be passed all the state tests, and exercises show everything is normal... But in the course of fulfilling this task, there are some problems that I hadn't noticed. Have something to work on.
Of problems reported to our officers and soldiers. In Syria carried out continuous military-scientific support for the use of all types of weapons and equipment.
WB: - I Say were there, and our designers and engineers, right?
VG: - Engineers, designers, military scientists. Developers – were all there. For each weapon marked its positive sides that you need to modify. Now the vast majority of these deficiencies have been corrected. The fact that we checked the equipment and weapons in combat is a huge thing.
Now we are sure in his arms.
WB: You often had to contact the chief of the General staff of Syria?
VG: - Often.
WB: - It is mainly on the phone done?
VG: both by phone and in person. I came to him and he to me in Hamim... Travelled in separate directions. Constantly.
WB - He knows Russian language is more or less talking?
VG: - It learned from us in the Frunze Academy.
WB: Recently the Minister of defence on behalf of the President of Russia presented awards and expressed gratitude to everyone who ensured safety of visit of Putin to Syria. Well, that day when, You know, when he announced the withdrawal group Home. It was a special operation?
VG: - Such actions are randomly not conducted. Requires careful preparation. Brought the necessary forces and means: on land, in the air, at sea, ensuring the safety of the visit. They with their task.
WB: - You can make a prediction of future developments in Syria? Here, at least for 2018?
VG: - In the military sphere – completing the destruction of militants dzhebhat an-Nusra and their ilk. Part of the militants of this terrorist organization is in the areas of de-escalation.
There are a lot of different formations. Some support the cessation of hostilities. Dzhebhat an-Nusra –opposed. So they have to be destroyed.
WB: - It is a large group?
SH: - Misc. More in Idlib, and less in other areas. Different. I think that after a certain time they will be finished. Moreover, in areas of de-escalation is supported by the cessation of hostilities. There is humanitarian aid, social issues are solved, home ...
The second task is to translate a military solution to a political track. Towards a political settlement. And it is solved. Now comes the preparation for the Congress of the Syrian national dialogue...
WB: Our long-range bombers when flying on military work in Syria, they flew through space Iraq and Iran. Were there any problems when you requested airspace?
VG: we Have a well-established collaboration with the military in these countries and the failure did not occur.
WB: I Never used the Russian army, in my opinion, this number of drones in Syria. How do You assess the value of this type of technology, given the Syrian experience?
VG: - Syria is now on an average day in the sky are about 60-70 drones. They are exploring, there are drones that perform the tasks of jamming and other issues to decide.
We made a big step for drones in 5 years. Previously, we were armed with only the old Soviet-type "Flight". Now without the drone was conducting combat operations. It is used by gunners, scouts, pilots, everything. With the help of drones are created reconnaissance and strike, reconnaissance and firing circuits.
WB: - And showed himself in Syria, special operations Forces?
SH: - special operations Forces, in fact, passed its formation, showed their best side. Was engaged in restoring aircraft at the target, the elimination of militant leaders, a number of other tasks. We are very happy with the experience they received.
WB: - All our military who went to Syria, to be recognized or has been recognized by the combatants?
VG: Yes, there is a Supplement to the law "On veterans", it is taken, they are combat veterans.
WB: - In certain media there are "opinions" that the Russian army had nothing to do in Syria. How would You respond to that?
VG: - If we intervened in Syria, what would happen? See in 2015 remains little more than 10% of the territory controlled by the government. A month or two, and by the end of 2015, Syria would be completely under ISIS. Iraq – for the most part too. ISIS to continue gaining momentum, spread to neighboring countries. Thousands of our "fellow" went there to fight. We would have had to face this very site. They would have acted in the Caucasus, in Central Asia, the Volga region.
There would be problems of a much larger order. We broke the backbone of ISIL in Syria. In fact, our Armed Forces have routed the enemy on the distant approaches to the borders of our state.
WB: - That the chief of the General staff of the Russian Armed Forces could wish the military, their families, in connection with the coming 2018?
VG: - Who wants the world? Military. So I want to wish all military personnel and their families peaceful sky, strong health and further success in the service.