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The Man Behind Putin’s Military: How Sergey Shoygu Paved the Way for Russia’s Ukraine Assault

Authors: Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan

Affiliation: Both Authors are Russian Investigative Journalists and Co-founders of, a Watchdog of the Russian Secret Services’ Activities. 

Organization /Publisher: Foreign Affairs

Date/Place: February 26, 2022/ Washington DC, USA

Type of Literature: Article 

Word Count: 2186


Keywords: Putin, Russia, Ukraine, and Sergey Shoygu


The article discusses the changing role of the Russian military under Sergey Shoygu, who has not only shaped Russia’s interactions with neighboring countries but also shaped policies. The author argues that Shoygu’s approach to military strategy and transformation has paved the way to Putin’s decision of a hugely risky invasion of Ukraine. Being a longtime Kremlin insider, Shoygu became a powerful Defense Minister in 2012. He brought high-tech innovation, forming a cyber-command and merging the Air Force and the Space Force into the new Russian Aerospace Forces. The salaries of the officers’ corps were increased and compulsory army service for youth was announced. Two early military successes sealed Shoygu’s reputation with the Kremlin and helped give the military new status within the government. Moreover, in contrast to the FSB, which has suffered a series of setbacks and embarrassments in recent years, Shoygu’s military has enjoyed almost unbroken success going back to the capture of Crimea in 2014 and the intervention in Syria a year later. The success story in Crimea and Syria also brought the oligarchs closer to the military because Russian elite were losing contracts due to western sanctions. Therefore, the Russian state has helped them by providing huge military contracts. For example, before the sanctions were imposed, the German company Siemens provided engines for the Russian Navy; today, the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, a Russian firm, holds that contract. The authors are skeptical of the current situation, and that the full implications of the Kremlin’s new military strategy are becoming clear. Not only is the campaign being shaped by an army that has openly embraced war—but the bigger, the better. It is also being led by Shoygu, a man who has so far experienced only successes and who lacks the proper military training to understand that a battlefield victory—no matter how impressive—can sometimes lead to an even larger political defeat.

By: Razia Wadood, CIGA Senior Research Associate 



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