Vice Admiral Oleg Veniaminovich Burtsev has been First Deputy Chief, Main Staff of the Russian Federation Navy, since late 2004.
The 58-year-old Burtsev is one of principal public spokesmen for the Russian Navy on many issues, including, most recently, the Navy’s force development and procurement plans. He appears very accessible to the press, and he has been the source of new information for media outlets on numerous occasions.
Burtsev is also involved in promoting his service’s formal ties and cooperation with foreign navies. He participates in high-level Navy policy, operational, and program planning, and coordination with Defense Ministry directorates, other armed services, and ministries, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Burtsev is a career submarine officer, who spent all of his operational tours in Northern Fleet submarines, command posts, and then senior staff positions. He is now three years beyond the statutory retirement age for a two-star admiral, but a third star would allow him to serve until age 60. Barring that, he could retire at any time, and seems an unlikely candidate for promotion or a higher post.
Survives Purge after Kursk Disaster. Burtsev managed to salvage, and further his career, despite being one of about a dozen Navy admirals dismissed or admonished for their failings during the sinking of Oscar II class SSGN Kursk (K-141) in 2000. The Kursk was subordinate to Burtsev’s 1st Flotilla at Zapadnaya Litsa. When the investigation was completed in December 2001, Burtsev was demoted from vice admiral to rear admiral (one-star), but he remained in the service and his post.
Spokesman for Russian Navy Plans, and Hopes. In a 31 October 2009 interview, Burtsev announced that earlier Defense Ministry plans to move the Navy’s Main Staff to St. Petersburg had been shelved. He also confirmed that the Navy is actively seeking an arrangement with Syria to establish a “basing point” at Tartus that would support Russia’s antipiracy operations off the Horn of Africa.
Buying and Building Mistral. Burtsev elaborated on the Navy’s intention to buy the French amphibious landing ship Mistral and a license to build four similar units in Russian shipyards. He said the ships will conduct amphibious landing, peacekeeping, rescue, and antipiracy operations, and will be based in the Northern and Pacific Fleets. Despite the controversy over the purchasing the French ship, Burtsev has called it a “cost effective” move.
Confident About Bulava, Navy’s Strategic Programs. In early 2009, Burtsev said the Russian Navy’s troubled new SLBM, Bulava, “will fly, we have no doubt of this,” adding that there is “no alternative to it.” He attributed its failed flight tests to “technical causes.” He predicted that Russia’s new Borey class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy will complete its trials and join the fleet before the end of 2009, and construction of the next two units of this class would be complete in 2011 or 2012. Burtsev has stated that the Navy will get between six and eight Borey SSBNs by 2015.
In March 2009, Burtsev claimed the Navy’s next generation SSN, Severodvinsk, laid down 18 years ago, would enter service in 2011 or 2012. It will have longer-range cruise missiles, new torpedoes, and imitative hydroacoustic countermeasures which create false targets for the enemy. He predicted a greater role for low-yield tactical nuclear weapons in Navy operations, owing to increases in cruise missile accuracy and range.
In late 2007, Burtsev outlined some of the Navy’s development plans for an annual foreign naval attache briefing in Moscow. He claimed the Navy plans to start serial production of entirely new classes of combatants in 2011-12. He included Lada class diesel-electric submarines, Steregushchiy class corvettes, and new minesweepers and patrol boats. In addition to one Lada SS in sea trials since 2005, he noted that two units are under construction and the Navy wants a class of eight. Burtsev added that the Navy was not neglecting oceangoing surface ships and had already laid down the first units of a new class of frigates and large amphibious ships.
Future of Naval Base in Ukraine. Burtsev has indicated his belief that the Russian Navy could have a future at Sevastopol after 2017, but it will continue building a new base at Novorossiysk regardless. He has stated publicly that the Russian Black Sea Fleet needs at least eight submarines rather than its lone operational submarine.
Burtsev was born on 7 November 1951, but different sources put his place of birth as either the town of Zheleznogorsk or village of Mikhaylovka in Kursk Oblast. After the fourth grade in 1963, he attended the Leningrad Nakhimov Naval School, a naval premilitary preparatory school for the balance of his elementary and secondary education. He wears medals including “For Service to the Motherland in the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union,” 3rd degree, “For Military Services,” and “Courage.”
Burtsev is married with two daughters. In his recent interview, he said his wife says his 11 years as a junior officer at Gremikha in the Northern Fleet were the best of their lives, despite the lack of support and infrastructure at that location.
After commissioning, Burtsev served in junior officer posts in the Northern Fleet. His first submarine was November class SSN K-181 in the 17th Submarine Division (DiPL), 11th Flotilla, at Gremikha. He headed a division and department before becoming assistant executive officer aboard an unidentified submarine until 1981.
In 1982, he completed command training in the Navy’s Higher Special Officers’ Classes and continued his service in the Northern Fleet as the executive officer of a submarine, and then as commander of the first Soviet nuclear submarine, November class SSN Leninskiy Komsomol (K-3), between 1984 and 1986. Leninskiy Komsomol was nearing the end of its service life during this time.
After completing the mid-career Naval Academy, he returned to the Northern Fleet to serve as deputy commander, chief of staff and deputy commander, then commander of the 7th DiPL of Echo II and Oscar II class cruise missile submarines. In 1989, he boarded Echo II class SSGN K-192 in the Barents Sea to help return her to port following a serious reactor accident.
After completing the Military Academy of the General Staff, Burtsev became First Deputy Commander of the 1st Flotilla, then First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Northern Fleet. He was later downgraded to Deputy Chief of Staff due to cuts in the fleet’s staff organization. He commanded the 1st Flotilla during the time of the Kursk accident, but kept his position and then transferred to the Main Staff in Moscow. It is unclear what contacts or connections might have helped him surmount his Kursk punishment and make the jump to the Main Staff.
2004–First Deputy Chief, Main Staff of the Russian Navy (24 December).
2002–Deputy Chief, Main Staff (26 December).
2000–Promoted to vice admiral (two-star) (4 May).
1999–Commander, 1st Flotilla, Northern Fleet.
1997-1998–First Deputy Chief, then Deputy Chief of Staff, Northern Fleet (November).
1996-1997–First Deputy Commander, 1st Flotilla, Northern Fleet.
1994-1996–Completed the Military Academy of the General Staff.
1993–Promoted to rear admiral (one-star) rank (23 August).
1992–Commander, 7th DiPL, Northern Fleet (February).
1990-1992–Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander, 7th DiPL.
1988-1990–Deputy Commander, 7th DiPL.
1986-1988–Completed the mid-career Naval Academy named for Grechko (renamed for Kuznetsov in 1990).
1982–Completed command training in the Navy’s Higher Special Officers’ Classes.
1975–Graduated from the Leningrad Higher Naval School named for Frunze, Navigation Faculty.
1963-1970–Graduated from the Leningrad Nakhimov Naval School.