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from Robert Lansing Institute.
Russia is showing signs of a military coup. They lie in practically monopolized access and full influence on President Putin by Defense Minister Shoigu, with top defense officials trying to cope with competing centers of power in Kremlin, as Putin is still a formal leader.
Shoigu succeeded in convincing Putin that the FSB (Federal Security Service) and the SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service) are responsible for failed military operation in Ukraine. With unlimited influence on Putin now, Shoigu got him to see that Bortnikov’s agency (FSB) should be held responsible for the impact by operation in Ukraine. The latter, in turn, has launched demonstrative reprisals in his agency, to save his own neck, indirectly confirming the arguments by Defense Minister. Unverified reports suggest the 5th FSB Service head, General Sergey Beseda, and his deputies, responsible for work in Ukraine, were interrogated.
Aside from that, unconfirmed reports suggest an investigation has been launched to find out whether the money allocated for pro-Russian organizations and political movements in Ukraine were stolen or misused. Some FSB and SVR officials, by estimates, have spent more than $5 billion, mostly divided between intelligence handlers and those leading Russia-backed political organizations in Ukraine. That resulted in fierce resistance by Ukrainian people the Russian troops met, which was excluded in reports by Russian intelligence to Russia’s political leaders.
Roughly estimated, the Opposition Platform for Life political party leader, Viktor Medvedchuk alone stole nearly $ 1 billion, having escaped from home arrest in Ukraine on the eve of Russia’s military invasion. Shoigu is also trying to persuade Putin to sack the intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin, who initially advocated dialogue with the West, having moderate voice in Kremlin team. Shoigu wants Russia’s SVR (political intelligence) reassigned to defense agency and merged with military intelligence.
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An order to pass all SVR’s facilities and agents to the GRU has been drafted, by some estimates. With high presidential aspirations, Shoigu is seeking to exploit the current situation to maximize the concentration of power and gain full control of all ‘siloviki’. He also plans to dominate the FSB to achieve his goal. Some personal bodyguards of the President have been replaced by military intelligence special agents, according to the reports.
Shoigu takes advantage of Putin’s health problems to create an information vacuum around him, adding to his isolation. Russian Defense Ministry played a key role in developing a coronavirus vaccine, and may have managed to set up anti-epidemiology regime in the Kremlin.
There is a high likelihood that quarantine restrictions and social distance when meeting Putin are due to the risks he might be infected, as he’s undergoing chemo or other medical treatment, with low immunity.
With health problems and painkillers that affect his mental state, Putin is sane, reasonable, but prone to irrational, emotional decisions that correspond to his worldview and beliefs, with no logical arguments, disregarding the risks.
Putin is keen on ‘restoring the greatness to Russia’. This task, with symbolic goals to achieve, makes him neglect economic and social problems in Russia. It is unlikely, therefore, the risks of economic crisis under the sanctions imposed on Russia will succeed in affecting Russian President, even if he receives fair information.
President’s health and fear of death, as a result, make him concentrate on the goals to change the course of history, disregarding the methods and ways to achieve them. That approach elevates risk for dangerous decisions. Putin lost most of contacts with his former entourage, with Shoigu free to manipulate him.
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From 2008, Putin believes the West is weak, which explains why he took radical decisions (Salisbury case, Khangoshvili, Crimea’s annexation), not fearing serious impact on himself.
Putin has built a system of collective responsibility, excluding open dissent to the decision of the leader. But Shoigu is the only one who is good with that system, with the rest of the Kremlin regime agreeing to it just for fear of punishment. The palace coup is unlikely, therefore, as the Defense Minister has concentrated the power probably to complete the delegation of authorities, with Putin, remaining the head of state, actually losing independence and real authority in the country.We believe Shoigu is also seeking to gain control of Putin’s business circle, to control extrabudgetary finance. Moreover, Shoigu controls Defense Ministry financing, which looks like a state corporation.