Staunton, August 12 – For the third time in recent days, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has spoken out about issues beyond those normally viewed as the province of an official in his position. And while he is the ultimate Putin loyalist, such actions raise the question: is he positioning himself to become president, likely with the current Kremlin leader’s blessing?
Shoygu first addressed the problem of developing Siberia and sparked talk about a possible move of the Russian capital (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/08/does-russia-need-to-move-its-capital-to.html) and warned that Russia is now threatened with dissolution from within (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/08/shoygu-warns-russia-threatened-within.html).
Now, the defense minister is arguing that Russia must avoid any repetition of the economic problems of the 1990s because of their likely impact on the country and its power (iz.ru/1206219/2021-08-12/shoigu-prizval-izbezhat-v-rossii-povtoreniia-ekonomicheskoi-situatcii-90-kh).
None of these positions is at serious odds with Putin’s, of course. Indeed, Shoygu has shown himself to be the ultimate Putin loyalist not only vacationing with him but rushing to make Putin’s essay on Russia and Ukraine required reading for everyone in the Russian military (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/07/shoygus-making-putin-essay-required.html).
Russian ministers and especially defense ministers are seldom given to such expansive commentaries on things far from their own last. Why is Shoygu doing so? There are many possible answers. It may be that this is simply a product of the dearth of news during August which increases attention to anything that is said.
It may be a signal orchestrated by Putin that he has someone who could easily be moved into the position of prime minister given the collapse of Mikhail Mishustin’s ratings. Or it could be a testing out of Shoygu for the role of Putin’s successor, someone with the kind of creativity and penchant for big thinking that would make him attractive to many.
The only things one can be sure of is that Shoygu is not doing this on his own and that Putin and not the defense minister will be the one who decides what his future in fact will be like.