May 28, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11358

Russian Experts React To Reshuffling Of Top Russian Military Posts, Including New Defense Minister, Security Council Secretary

May 28, 2024
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 11358

On May 12, 2024, by a decree from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had headed the ministry for almost 12 years,[1] was relieved of his post and appointed as the secretary of Russia's Security Council. Andrey Belousov, who had been First Deputy Prime Minister was appointed defense minister. Nikolay Patrushev, who had been secretary of the Security Council for 16 years, became an assistant to the president.[2] Against the background of the war in Ukraine and corruption scandals at the Defense Ministry, Russians speculated on the cause of the reshuffling of the powerful officials.

The photo depicts (from left to right): Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces, Army General Oleg Salyukov, Russian President Vladimir Putin, former Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu after the Victory Parade in Moscow on 5/9. (Source: RIA Novosti)

Following are some of the reactions to the new appointments in the Russian government:

Peskov: "The Winner Is The One Who Is More Open To Innovation"

The changes in the ministerial cabinet baffled the country. Sergei Shoigu has had a long career; from 1991 to 2012, he was the minister of emergency situations and, since 2012, he has been serving as the defense minister. Belousov seems to be a civilian person, quite remote from the military sphere, who has previously dealt mainly with economic issues. Three days before Shoigu's dismissal, he was welcoming the Victory Day parade on Red Square in Moscow along with President Putin, which is a major event in Russian politics and holds an important place in the state ideology.

Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for the Russian president, commented on Putin's decision to replace Shoigu as follows: "On the battlefield today, the winner is the one who is more open to innovation... Therefore, at this stage, the president has made a decision for a civilian to head the Defense Ministry."[3]

Afterwards, Peskov added that Belousov's appointment has to do with the need to "make the economy of the security bloc part of the country's economy" as the country's expenses on defense are nearing the levels of the 1980s, "which is not critical but... extremely important."[4]

Putin himself made a similar comment: "Andrei Belousov has been appointed as the new minister of defence. This is due, not least, to the fact that the costs of the military component are growing."[5]

Russian Expert Grashchenkov: Corruption Scandals "Undermined Confidence" In Shoigu

Russian experts give different explanations for the causes of Shoigu's being replaced by Belousov as well as different forecasts of its effects. Political analyst Ilya Grashchenkov, who is president of the Center for the Development of Regional Policy and a member of the Union of Journalists of Russia, notes that recent corruption scandals within the Defensee Ministry[6] that "undermined confidence in the general military policy" of Russia might be the reason for the dissmissal of the minister.

In turn, regarding Nikolay Patrushev's dissmissal, the expert recalls the important role of the Security Council and its secretary in forming the state ideology for the confrontation with the West (however, noting the lack of administrative powers of the body). Hence, according to Grashchenkov, Patrushev's dismissal may result in changes in state policy: "A constant escalation of relations with the West has led to the only possible outcome – constant threats of a nuclear conflict, threats that Russia will finally turn into a 'closed fortress'... I do not think that this is a comfortable environment for Putin."[7]

Russian Expert Kolesnikov: Russia's "Strategic Plan Is To Move Towards Technocratization Of The Economy"; "Putin Is Ready For A Very Long Confrontation" With The West

Senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center Andrey Kolesnikov argued that Andrey Belousov's appointment as minister of defense unambiguously reflects Russia's general course toward an increase of the role of the state in the economy, for Belousov has always been an staunch adherent of such policies.

"The military economy is now a driver of the entire economy. The current economic growth is unhealthy, it is unproductive. It is due to the military-industrial complex, which produces pieces of metal and gives nothing to human capital – it is not education, not health care. But it is exactly what is typical for the adherents of state interference in economy – spending money on that as well turns such industries into drivers for economy," Kolesnikov stated.[8]

Kolesnikov then added that Russia's "strategic plan is to move toward technocratization of the economy and of managing it alongside its militarization, with the increase of the role of the state's money and its interference in economy, with more control over the distribution of state's funds and more isolation and souverenization of the very economy... Indirectly, it also shows that Putin is ready for a very long confrontation, including military one, with the countries and the part of the world that are considered unfriendly."[9]

Russian Expert Shiryaev: The Defense Ministry's Policy Of Distorting Infromation And Reports On The Course Of Hostilities Had Serious Consequences

Russian military expert Valery Shiryaev focused on the sentiments in the army, commenting on the low popularity of the former defense minister. Shiryaev claimed that Shoigu's dismissal caused a celebration among many servicemen and media figures, as Belousov's appointment to the office may evidence changes in the country's military policy.

Shiryaev stated: "I would like to pay attention to the fact that a fantastic thing happened, I cannot remember anything like it! In the evening of the very day when it was reported that Shoigu would take a new position in the Security Council, the Internet, social media, blogs of turbopatriots, ultranationalists, and absolutely normal respectable servicemen, who are blogging directly from the frontline, exploded. I have never thought that I would ever see such comments. Those comments in huge numbers are an epitaph to the whole period when Sergei Kuzhugetovich Shoigu held the position of the minister of defense... They are opening champagne in battalions' headquarters, figuratively speaking, you know. I have not expected such a joy, such a fierce enthusiasm, really! How must one have managed the Defense Ministry, dealing with the command of the army, so that your subordinates would be so furiously happy [when you leave]? Forgive the expression, but they literally began boozing!"[10]

Shiryaev pointed out that the main source of discontent about Shoigu was a policy of total disinformation in the army. Supporting his claim, Shiryaev quoted the commander of the Russian "Vostok" Battalion, Alexander Khodakovsky, who wrote from the Ukrainian front: "The most important thing now is not to fall into euphoria... If even the most successful reshuffle could lead to a quick result, it would have happened long ago. What was the worst part? A system of total disinformation of everyone and everything. This is the first thing to be fought, if there is the will to do so."[11]

Telegram post by the commander of the Russian "Vostok" Battalion Alexander Khodakovsky commenting on the system of disinformation within the Russian Army existing under the former minister Sergei Shoigu.[12]

Shiryaev elaborated that the defense ministry's policy of distorting information and reports on the course of hostilities had serious consequences at the frontline and poor decision-making: "It is about distortion of the records upon their transfer from the level of brigade, battalion, and so on, up to the General Staff, on the all stages. These distortions were so serious that the picture [of the war in Ukraine] at the high level barely corresponded with what the case really was."[13]

Shiryaev added that it may well happen that the new minister will curb the "bureaucratic disinformation." Thus, according to the military expert, it would be strange if Belousov would not initiate major reshuffles in the army as well. Particularly, Shiryaev stated that one may expect the dismissal of Valery Gerasimov, currently serving as the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.


[1], May 12, 2024.

[2], May 12, 2024.

[3], May 13, 2024.

[4], May 12, 2024.

[5], May 15, 2024.

[6] In particular, on April 23, 2024, Deputy Minister of Defense Timur Ivanov was detained by the Russian Investigative Committee under the charges of receiving a bribe. Several media argue that the true reason for Ivanov's arrest was treason. (See further:





[11], May 12, 2024.

[12], May 12, 2024.


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