In recent years, Russia’s Minister of Defence Sergey Shoigu has virtually become part of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, alongside the president’s former colleagues from his days in the St Petersburg mayoralty and his fellow comrades at the KGB. By virtue of his deep involvement in the Russian president’s geopolitical designs, the head of Russia’s armed forces has become one of a select group which is in close and constant contact with the head of the state. This has even prompted speculation about whether Shoigu could become Putin’s anointed successor in future years; after all, he certainly occupies a significant role in the state’s decision making processes. But how close to the president is he really?
“Now more than ever, Putin is seriously considering the famed Tuvan as a potential president of Russia. And for the first time in at least 13 years, Shoigu is signalling that he consents to this ‘relocation;’ that he is ready for this game,” wrote the famous journalist Stanislav Kucher in Kommersant in November 2012, when Shoigu was appointed Russia’s Minster of Defence. Precisely seven years have passed since then: the country has changed, international affairs have changed significantly, and in this context Shoigu has “gone with the flow.” His department eventually came to play a crucial role in realising Putin’s grandiose geopolitical projects.