Russian leader Vladimir Putin, beginning his fifth term as the President of Russia, announced changes in key personnel responsible for the Russian security structure that some fear could indicate that a longer, larger war between Russia and the West may be on the horizon.

In a move that surprised Kremlin-watchers, Sergei Shoigu, the longtime Minister of Defense, was removed. Recently, several scandals had swirled around Shoigu, including a bribe of over $10 million that had allegedly been paid to one of his deputies.

Leonid Nezvlin, a strong opponent of Putin’s government, wrote on Telegram that the criminal cases opened against Shoigu’s allies “indicate dissatisfaction with army logistics and the military-industrial complex.”


The corruption scandal, combined with the fact that Shoigu, who does not come from a military background, had failed to adequately prepare the Russian military for its invasion of Ukraine or to prudently reform the military over the past two-and-a-half-years, has led many to find ready justifications for why Putin decided a change of leadership in the military was necessary.

Noteworthy is that Shoigu was not arrested nor sent into retirement, rather he was relegated to a position in the Security Council, indicating that he has not fallen totally out-of-favor with Putin.

However, the replacement for Shoigu as the Minister of Defense, Andrey Belousov, a former Deputy Prime Minister, has alarmed some Kremlinologists. Belousov is known as being a technocrat with a strong economics background which some read as being a sign that Putin is preparing his country for a long-term war by preparing to establish a full “war economy.”

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Garry Kasparov, an outspoken critic of Putin, warned on X, that Beluosov’s appointment was “yet another sign from the Russian terror state that the West must not ignore. Putin sees no way to stay in power other than war. There is no going back. Russia will be defeated in Ukraine or continue into Europe after incorporating Ukrainian resources.”


Among others who were moved about was Nikolay Patrushev, a longtime friend of Putin from their days together at the Soviet KGB, who held the key position as Secretary of the Security Council, having formerly headed the FSB.

The 72-year-old security boss, who had been rumored to have had health problems, was appointed as an “Adviser to the President” which points to re-positioning as being more analogous to a “retirement” than due to disciplinary-based dismissal. Although, according to the Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, Nikolay Patrushev, in his new capacity as an adviser of the president, is set to be responsible for “the strategically important shipbuilding industry,” which hints that he has not been sidelined from the Kremlin hierarchy.

Additional evidence that Patrushev remains in Putin’s good graces is that his son, the then-Minister of Agriculture Dmitry Patrushev, was not fired. In fact, Dmitry Patrushev was promoted to become the Vice Prime Minister for Agriculture and Environmental Protection. There has been ongoing speculation, for some time, that Dmitry Patrushev may one day replace Putin.


Tellingly, no changes were announced among the directors of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), Alexander Bortnikov; the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Sergey Naryshkin; or the Russian National Guard, Viktor Zolotov. Bortnikov and Zolotov play key roles in assuring that no domestic insurrections arise in Russia.

Among other important shifts was “the appointment of Alexei Dyumin as Putin’s assistant,” said Nezvlin as Dyumin, former Governor of Tula Oblast, and Chief of Putin’s close protection unit, will “deal with issues of the military-industrial complex” and could portend to Dyumin’s rise to an even more senior position soon.

A Member of Parliament from a NATO country, speaking to Kyiv Post before the recent cabinet changes were made public and who did not give permission for his name to be used, indicated that Western countries are alarmed by the construction of large factories in Russia, including in the Urals, that would have a capacity to build a military “far larger than what would be needed for the war in Ukraine,” leading him to conclude that Putin may be headed toward a much greater war against the collective West.

Alferd Koch, former Deputy Prime Minister of Russian Federation, in his social media blog expressed the opinion that “nothing is changing” in Putin’s behavior, since for his 25 years rule, this is not the first government reshuffling we have witnessed. According to Mr. Koch, such moves always serve “his [Putin’s] own purpose, adding that “the main guarantor of the consistency of the political course is Putin himself.”


However, Koch says, Putin’s time as a leader of Russia represents a descending curve “from a standing ovation in the Bundestag to an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court,” something that some fear could provoke Putin to feel he has “nothing to lose” by launching an all-out war against the West.


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