pravo.gov.ru/laws/acts/40/505154.html), a grant of power
That suggests that the Russian Guard is above all about domestic security; and “it is instructive that in the defense ministry [which bears primary responsibility for defending the country in the international arena] there has not been able demonstrative reaction to the presidential decree.”
According to military expert Aleksandr Golts, the powers that me plan to respond to any protests with “military force” (ej.ru/?a=note&id=31143), a plan that makes shifting military units to the command of the Russian Guard understandable, especially given the reluctance of officers and soldiers to shoot at fellow Russians, something the Guard may be required to do.
But there may be more to this Putin order than just that, Gorevoy suggests. It may be a way to take defense minister Sergey Shoygu down a peg given recent polls that show him ranking second to Putin in the estimations of the country’s population. That would be analogous to how Stalin used Lavrenty Beria at one point.
Indeed, as Gorevoy has said before, it could be that Putin is insuring himself against a military coup, such as may have been under discussion last year among Baltic Fleet officers who were suddenly and inexplicably removed from office in ways “not in the style of Putin or Shoygu” (versia.ru/kak-voennye-gotovili-perevorot-v-rossii and fontanka.ru/2016/06/29/192/).
There is yet another possibility, although even Gorevoy says it is improbable, one that has its roots in Ivan the Terrible’s decision to cede power for a time and then return. Historian Ruslan Skrynnikov argues that this move reflected a crisis in the state and uncertainty how to “preserve the appearance of legality in the state” while rebuilding oprichnik power (bibliotekar.ru/polk-10/30.htm).
Could Putin be planning something similar by using the Russian Guard and its commander as his apparent successor? Gorevoy reminds that he earlier predicted that the Guard could be “a super-ministry headed by a super-president.” And he cites Sergey Parkhomenko as saying the head of the Russian Guard could play exactly this kind of role, at least for a time.