Introducing Col. Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, C-in-C of Russian Forces in Syria

It was not by chance that Russian President Vladimir Putin selected Col. Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, an outstanding ground forces commander, as chief of Russia’s military operation in Syria and Iraq.
Their association goes back 26 years to the last moments of the dying Soviet empire. But in 2015, Putin found the general was right for the job he had in mind by virtue of his military experience and high qualifications.
Dvornikov’s appointment, first revealed here by DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources, came after a fierce debate in August among Russia’s politicians and generals over the officer best suited to lead Russia’s military campaign in Syria, one of the most high-powered military ventures of Putin’s presidency.
Many favored a senior air force officer, conceiving the campaign as consisting mainly of air strikes. They proposed Col. Gen. Victor Nikolaevich Bondarev, chief of Aerospace Defense Forces, a branch established just four months ago.
Putin overruled them, having decided that the ground component was to be just as important as the future aerial campaign in the major Russian intervention the Syrian conflict that was due to start in September. He chose Dvornikov in consideration of his extensive experience in warfare against Islamic terror groups during his service in the North Caucasus Military District from 2000 to 2003, first as chief of staff and then as a motorized infantry division commander.
Putin and the general first met in Dresden, then East Germany, a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was Dec. 5, 1989, and anti-Soviet protesters were storming the city headquarters of Stasi, the East German secret police. A group crossed the road and headed to a building which housed local KGB headquarters. A guard at the gate rushed into the building with news of the approaching threat.
KGB Major Vladimir Putin went out to speak to the protesters.
“Don’t try to force your way into this property,” he was quoted as telling them. “My comrades are armed, and they’re authorized to use their weapons in an emergency.”
The warning was enough. The protesters melted away.
But amid the chaos of those days, Putin was not satisfied that the building was safe. He called up a Red Army tank unit and requested protection. He was shocked to hear the battalion commander at the other end of the line replying, “We cannot do anything without orders from Moscow, and Moscow is silent.”
That commander, DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources reveal, was none other than a 30-year old officer called Alexander Dvornikov.
Moscow’s silence on that occasion shaped Putin’s philosophy from that time on. Never, he determined there and then, if he ever reached a position of power, would Moscow be silent. That resolve was shared by Dvornikov, with whom the future Russian president stayed in close touch.
Over the years, while Putin climbed the political ladder to the Kremlin, Dvornikov rose in the military ranks to colonel general, gaining the reputation of a punctilious commander who never gives up until he attains his objective.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources now bring the Dresden episode up to its 2015 sequel.
The tenacious Russian general was given control of the twin Russian commands in Damascus and Baghdad. They function as two halves of the same war room. Their operations are fully coordinated and keep the single overall commander, Col. Gen. Dvornikov, on top of events and in control of decisions 24/7.
At the Damascus headquarters, he has three partners: the Syrian Chief of Staff Gen. Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Gen. Key Parvar and the commander of Hizballah forces in Syria, Mostafa Bader el-Din.
Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iranian commander in Syria and Iraq, occasionally takes part in high command meetings in Damascus.
(See a separate item on Soleimani)
Biographical Note:
Alexander Dvornikov was born in 1961 in Ussuriysk, the Far East of the USSR, and spent his life in military service.
After graduating from Moscow Higher Military Command School in 1982, he served in the Far Eastern Military District as a platoon commander, company commander and battalion chief of staff.
After his transfer to East Germany, he was appointed first as deputy battalion commander, then full battalion chief.
In 1991, he graduated from the prestigious Moscow Military Academy of Frunze.
From 1994-2000, Dvornikov was a regimental chief of staff and then a regimental commander in the Moscow Military District.
In 2005, he graduated from the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia in Moscow; from 2005-2008, he served in the Siberian Military District as deputy army commander and army chief of staff, and then from 2011-2012 as deputy commander of the Eastern Military District.
In April 2012, Dvornikov was appointed chief of staff and 1st deputy commander of the Central Military District. That lasted until October 15, when he won the post of commander of Russian forces in Syria and Iraq.
During his long military career, Dvornikov collected numerous medals and decorations, among them the Order for Service to the Homeland in the Soviet Union’s Armed Forces, 3rd class; Order of Merit to the Fatherland, 4th class; the Order of Courage; and the Order of Military Merit.

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