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The Alignment of Service and Personal Values

Pictured: Article from The New York Times, 23 February 1967; Marshal of the Soviet Union V. I. Chuikov, undated.

Authenticity requires leaders to align with their personal core values—the things that matter the most—such as integrity, loyalty, honor, and love of one's family and homeland. It is important to live out these core values not only at work and within a family, but in every sphere of life. In the same way that a person’s purpose guides them back into alignment with who they are meant to be, one’s core values guide them back to who they really are. Authentic leader Marshal Chuikov is a historical example of a prominent leader who demonstrated how a close alignment of personal core values and civil service can lead to outstanding achievements for the betterment of his country. The lives of millions of people were positively impacted through his work in developing a system for civil defense for the Soviet Union.

During the Cold War years, the threat of nuclear attack was at the forefront of concerns for national security for all major world powers. The New York Times article titled “Russians Concede Missile Net Flaw” informed readers about remarks made by two prominent Soviet leaders, Marshals Grechko and Chuikov, which served as counterstatements to a claim made by a Soviet general regarding the ability to thwart enemy missile strikes. Author Michael Mihalka explored this scenario in his book titled Soviet Strategic Deception—1955-1981:

“Soviet claims about the effectiveness of their missile defense began to change just as part of the Tallinn system became operational in 1967. In February 1967, the head of the Frunze Military Academy, General Kurochkin said, 'Detecting missiles in time and destroying them in flight is no problem' [NYT, 2/21 /67]. He went even further and claimed: 'If enemy missiles fly, they will not arrive in Moscow' [NYT. 2/23/67].

Two days later Marshal Grechko seemed to dispute Kurochkin's claims. Grechko, First Deputy Defense Minister, acknowledged that antimissile systems could not completely prevent enemy missiles from reaching their targets. The head of Soviet civil defense, Marshal Chuikov, claimed on television: 'Unfortunately, there are no means yet that would guarantee the complete security of our cities and the most important objectives from the blows of the enemy's weapons of mass destruction' [NYT 2/23/67]. Obviously, Chuikov would find himself out of a job if Kurochkin's boasts proved correct.” (56)

There are two issues to address here. First, the fact that two Marshals of the Soviet Union spoke out on the issue of missile defense effectiveness with statements in contrast to General Kurochkin’s claim in February 1967 is telling. General Kurochkin was not in a position to boast such a declaration, which could be construed as goading an enemy into “testing the waters.” Taking a cautious approach to the topic was a wise and necessary step to provide a more accurate assessment of the Soviet Union’s readiness to counter such threats.

It is a situation demonstrating the mature attitudes of Marshals Grechko and Chuikov toward their duties. No doubt some serious conversations were held privately in the wake of these announcements.

Second, Mihalka made an assessment about Chuikov’s job security if the Soviets could at that time prevent missiles from hitting Moscow (see italicized sentence above). Mihalka’s statement is short-sighted and indicates a lack of knowledge on Marshal Chuikov’s role and progress in overseeing civil defense. Vasily Ivanovich developed a program to defend the Soviet Union which involved strategic, tactical, operational, and contingency types of planning. His was a comprehensive program of training and protecting every citizen, including children and the elderly—Chuikov’s job security would not have been in question. In addition to the planning and organization of the civil defense, Marshal Chuikov was masterful in his messaging strategy regarding this plan to involve all facets of Soviet life—industry, education, domestic, municipal, and rural—which meant complete command of written and verbal communication as well as utilization of mass media to disseminate information.

For Marshal Chuikov, serving the public as the Chief of the Civil Defense was much more than fulfilling a military obligation. His meticulous and passionate approach to his work indicates his service was a calling, a true vocation resonating deeply with his personal core values. The educational and military experience he held prior to this role prepared him well. Developing a thorough civil defense program for the vast Soviet Union was a massive undertaking, but Vasily Ivanovich’s systematic approach was very effective. He understood the importance of connecting with the Soviet people at the grassroots level and maintaining constant vigilance for national security, as well as the role of education in the entire process. Shortly after his public statement in February 1967, Chuikov’s initiative established the Moscow Military School of Civil Defense of the Soviet Union on 8 April 1967, which was the first educational institution of its kind.


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