Behind Shoigu's Dismissal: Putin's Strategic Shift, A New Phase of War Is Coming

He served as Minister of Defense since 2012, and he came to that position from the position of Minister of Civil Protection, a position he held since 1994, so for 30 years this man was an irreplaceable factor in Russian politics

by Sededin Dedovic
Behind Shoigu's Dismissal: Putin's Strategic Shift, A New Phase of War Is Coming
© Handout / Getty Images

In recent weeks, there has been increasing speculation about the dismissal of the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who indeed was relieved of his duties on May 13th. He had been serving as the Minister of Defense since 2012, having come to that position from the Ministry of Civil Defense, a role he held since 1994.

Corruption is a significant issue within the governing structures of the Russian Federation. Many leading figures within the "Putin system" face allegations of monetizing their loyalty to the state leader, enriching themselves in their positions.

Shoigu is not alone in this regard. But why did he have to face the consequences? "Corruption greases the system and is not uncommon even in the military sector. Corruption is tolerated, even encouraged, as long as it does not have negative effects on achieving the overall, larger goal.

With the increase in military spending, the opportunities for enrichment of the actors have also increased, while at the same time, war has revealed the costs of corruption in the military," explains a German expert. She notes that Russia allocates as much as 29 percent of its budget to the defense sector: "That is a huge sum, which is why Russia wants to win, and that is why corruption in that sector is now being scrutinized more intensively, more so than in other areas."

President of Russia and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Vladimir Putin (C) and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (L)© Handout / Getty Images

What signal does Putin send?

So, recently, one of Shoigu's deputies, in Russian military uniform, was arrested in front of the cameras.

According to Margarete Klein's opinion, this is evidence that the removal of Shoigu himself has long been in progress. She believes that the Kremlin leadership no longer believed that Sergei Shoigu, as the Minister of Defense, was indeed the right person for the "transformation" of the war in Ukraine into a new phase.

But what does the appointment of Belousov, a civilian, or a man coming from economic backgrounds, mean in that context? What signal does Putin send with that move? "Russian leadership obviously believes that this war cannot be decided in a short period, and not just thanks to numerical superiority, i.e., the number of soldiers, but is preparing for a prolonged war, in which those who most effectively produce modern weaponry will win," notes a German expert on Russia.

For Margarete Klein, this is precisely the explanation for Belousov's appointment as the head of the Ministry of Defense, as a person coming from the economic sector, who has no "military background," a person who is "loyal and who is a so-called technocrat," without a strong position in the new environment.

"So, a person is chosen who does not have to serve the interests of any structures within the Ministry of Defense, a person whom the Kremlin can more easily control," says Klein. At the same time, this appointment is associated with the hope that the huge funds from the defense budget could be used efficiently in the future, as the Kremlin desires.

And also, to push forward the process of modernization in that sector, adds Klein. Russia is thus preparing for a prolonged war in Eastern Europe. What does this mean for the West? What lessons should Western countries draw from this, countries that assist Ukraine by providing financial aid and weapons?

Lessons for the West

"As for Ukraine, Russia is counting on the fact that Ukraine will not receive so much modern military equipment from the West, that it will not receive what it needs, meaning that Russia can produce more materials in the future.

The West must adapt to that," says Klein. She adds that the West should also take into account the quantity and quality of the weapon systems that the Russian industry will provide to the army of that country in the future: "...for example, in the field of artificial intelligence in automatic or semi-automatic combat systems.

This could lead to an increase in the level of threat from Russia to us, not just Ukraine," reports DW. After the Kremlin dealt with one wing of the army, it was clear that the other, led by Shoigu, would also be targeted.

The Kremlin did not forget how the army reacted when Prigozhin declared a rebellion and how it refused to participate in the country's then-largest security problem. It was clear that the Kremlin would also deal with the leadership of the regular army, i.e., the Ministry of Defense.

It was clear to everyone that President Putin would smoothly win a new term, but it was important to establish a government with new people whom the Kremlin trusts more. Now that it has a secure, firm government and the situation in Ukraine is under control, the Kremlin can carry out the replacement of unsuitable personnel in the military and political leadership.