Shoigu’s Promotion Makes Perfect Sense If Seen From Putin’s Perspective


Shoigu is neither the military hero nor the incompetent villain that some have made him out to be, but simply a loyal technocrat whom President Putin trusts in spite of the special operation’s twists and turns, which he doesn’t personally blame him for.

A lot of observers were surprised when the news broke on Sunday that President Putin was removing Sergey Shoigu from his post as Defense Minister, with even more jaws dropping when it turned out that he’ll then replace Nikolai Patrushev as Secretary of the Security Council, thus amounting to a promotion. Those who assess Shoigu’s career trajectory differently and consider this a demotion are being dishonest since these same people previously praised Patrushev’s influence in his now-former post.

Patrushev’s career isn’t ending, though, since the Kremlin said that he’ll soon be appointed to a new post. Observers can only speculate what that’ll be, but Patrushev has been one of President Putin’s most loyal and trusted friends for decades so it’s unlikely that the Russian leader will demote him. Shoigu is another close and trusted friend of his too, which is one of the reasons why he’s being promoted to his new position, which also includes becoming deputy head of the defense industrial commission.

Nevertheless, some of the special operation’s supporters at home and abroad have soured on Shoigu over the past two years, blaming him for late-2022’s spree of setbacks that set the basis for Yevgeny Prigozhin’s meteoric rise before he flew too close to the sun during last summer’s failed coup attempt. While it’s understandable why some well-intentioned criticism would be directed towards him as the Defense Minister, it was always unfair to lay the blame entirely on his lap.

Shoigu isn’t a military man, but a technocrat who was appointed by President Putin over a decade ago in 2012 to oversee the implementation of his planned reforms at the time. He’s obviously learned a lot on the job, but he always had to rely on more experienced professionals like Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and other permanent members of Russia’s military bureaucracy when making major decisions. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s important for observers to keep in mind.

After all, a lot of folks have probably heard the phrase “If you don’t want to talk to Lavrov, you will talk to Shoigu”, which Russia’s top diplomat himself was recently asked about during an interview last month. It’s at least several years old but implied that those who don’t comply with Russia’s diplomatic requests risk having to confront its military forces. The gist behind it is sound, but it unwittingly served to exaggerate Shoigu’s military expertise, thus creating false perceptions about his experience and role.

Unlike Shoigu, Sergey Lavrov is a trained professional in his field, not a technocrat. His celebrity status among many is therefore based on merit, not myth. This clarification isn’t intended to demean Shoigu in any way, but solely to highlight the inadvertent inaccuracy of the abovementioned phrase. Understanding the man behind the myth helps observers understand why some of the special operation’s supporters feel so strongly about him in positive and negative ways.

In reality, he’s neither a hero nor a villain like each respective camp believes, but simply a loyal technocrat whom President Putin trusts in spite of the special operation’s twists and turns. As Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained, the latest stage of the campaign requires an economic expert like Andrey Belousov to inject innovation into the armed forces, ergo why Shoigu was removed from his post only to then be promoted to Secretary of the Security Council with even more influence than before.

Some of the special operation’s supporters will of course be displeased with this development, especially if they supported Prigozhin over Shoigu during last year’s drama, but President Putin’s judgement over the past nearly quarter-century has been pretty sound and should thus be respected by well-wishers. It’s premature to conclude what the consequences his promotion will be, not least because Patrushev’s next post hasn’t yet been confirmed, so everyone should wait a bit before rushing to judgement.

Source: the author’s blog

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