Sergei Shoigu is arguably the most legendary defense minister in Russian history.
Shoigu never served as a soldier for a day but was awarded the rank of general and promoted the biggest military reform since the founding of Russia.
He, President Putin, and Foreign Minister Lavrov are called the “troika” of Russian politics and are considered the most likely successor to Putin.
Among them, the “new look” military reform promoted by Shoigu is also the most important event in the Russian military in the past 30 years.
Shoigu was born on May 21, 1955, in Chadan, the Tuva Republic of the former Soviet Union. His father is a Tuva (a branch of the Mongolian nationality), and his mother is a Ukrainian.
Shoigu’s family is a well-known big family in the local area. His father, Ruget Shoigu, successively served as the editor of the district newspaper, the secretary of the Tuva State Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and the first vice chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Tuva.
Her mother, Alexandra, also has a lot of background. She is a meritorious agricultural worker of the Republic of Tuva. She once served as the director of the Planning Department of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Tuva and has been a representative of the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Tuva for a long time.
It can be said that Shoigu was born into a “famous family.”
And Shoigu, who is from a wealthy family, is also diligent, studious, and very assertive. When he was in college, despite his parents’ objections, he still chose civil engineering, which he liked.
In 1977, Shoigu graduated from the Krasnoyarsk Polytechnic Institute. For the next 11 years, Shoigu worked in the very hard construction industry. The fixed office has spread all over most of the Soviet Union.
Shoigu started as a senior construction worker and worked his way up to technician, section chief, site director, construction engineer, and finally, manager.
After that, because of Gorbachev’s reforms, he began to absorb outstanding personnel from all walks of life to work in government departments. Shoigu had the opportunity to serve as the deputy secretary of the Abakan Municipal Committee of the Soviet Communist Party in 1988 and later became Krasno Supervisor of the Party Committee of the Yarsk Territory.
In 1990, Shoigu had the opportunity to work in Moscow. Because of his professional expertise, he became the vice chairman of the State Construction Committee of the Russian Federation, in charge of Moscow’s infrastructure work.
A year later, Shoigu served as the chairman of the Emergency Situations Committee. This agency was in charge of firefighting, disaster relief, civil defense, and various other emergencies.
In 1994, the committee was upgraded to the Ministry of Emergency Situations. Shoigu also officially become a minister. Minister Shoigu has been working for 18 years and has become the longest-serving minister in Russia.
Shoigu himself accepted that he had stayed in the same place for so long. He said: “I have no plan to change places. I still have many plans and ideas that have not been realized. I don’t like to give up halfway.”
Shoigu is serious and responsible and dedicated to his work. During the days when he presided over the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Russian rescue team was rated as one of the five best rescue teams in the world. On average, firefighters across Russia dealt with 1,500 emergencies every day, 1.5 million times fire fighting in the past 18 years.
In addition, the Ministry of Emergency Situations has participated in hundreds of international rescue missions. For example, in the Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008, the Russian rescue team miraculously rescued a woman who had been buried for 127 hours.
By the way, it is worth mentioning that Shoigu’s eldest daughter, Yulia, also served as a psychologist in the rescue team at that time.
In addition to his remarkable business work, Shoigu also has a keen sense of smell in politics, which allows him always to make the right choice at critical moments.
In October 1993, because of political struggles, Yeltsin “bombarded the White House” and threatened the dissolution of the Russian Supreme Soviet. This approach is extremely controversial. From a constitutional point of view, it can almost be said that Yeltsin was an “unconstitutional coup.”
However, Shoigu strongly supported Yeltsin at this time. The civil defense forces he had and the support of the army finally allowed Yeltsin to get what he wanted.
After that, Shoigu participated in Yeltsin’s election and joined the “Our Homeland-Russia” campaign organization committee that supported the government. In the 1996 presidential election, Shoigu was Yeltsin’s guardian in various election activities.
In 2000, Shoigu, who also served as deputy prime minister, strongly supported Putin’s election and escorted him along the way. It can be said that he was an important contributor to Putin’s election.
In 2012, Putin began his third term as president. Soon after he came to power, he made a major reorganization of the government, and Shoigu, the veteran of the three dynasties, was also on the list of adjustments.
On May 11, Shoigu stepped down as a minister for 18 years and was appointed governor of the Moscow region.
At that time, the outside world believed that this was an important step for Shoigu to transform from a career civil servant to a politician.
Unexpectedly, in less than half a year, Shoigu was urgently recalled to the central department again, and he was still a minister, but this time, he was going to be the minister of defense.
But from a certain point of view, this time, Shoigu is still the captain of the firefighting team because, at this time, the Russian Ministry of Defense has accumulated many cases of abuse, which can be said to be “imminent.”
First of all, the former minister Serdyukov was dismissed by Putin under extremely disgraceful circumstances because of corruption. And Serdyukov has worked in the Ministry of Defense for more than five years, leaving Shoigu with a huge mess.
In the general impression, despite the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia can still be called the world’s top military power by virtue of its huge heritage.
But in fact, due to the long-term economic downturn and the independence of important military-industrial areas such as Ukraine, Russia’s military development is restricted by many objective conditions, and there is a very big gap from the modern army displayed by the US military.
The weakness of the Russian army was clearly reflected in the Georgian War in 2008.
Facing Georgia, which is far weaker than itself, the Russian army could have easily won step by step, but as a result, a lot of problems were exposed in the War.
For example, the coordination of the army, navy, and air force was chaotic; the chain of command was a mess, and the orders issued to the troops contradicted each other;
Although Russia won in the end, these problems made Putin learn from the pain and determined to start the modernization reform of the Russian military.
This reform was called the “new look” reform, and it was Minister of Defense Serdyukov who undertook the reform task at that time, so how did he change it?
Serdyukov is a civil affairs minister who doesn’t understand military affairs. Randomly change it according to your own meaning.
At that time, the outside world criticized the Russian army for being too redundant, so Serdyukov carried out a “big purge” of senior commanders, cutting the number of officers from 350,000 to 150,000. As a result, the military system was severely understaffed. Command confusion became “no command.”
At the same time, Serdyukov arbitrarily merged military academies, turning 65 military academies into 10, resulting in a sharp drop in enrollment. It turned out that officers graduated from lieutenant officers, but with a wave of his hand, they changed to sergeants. This caused a serious drop in morale, and officers complained constantly.
Serdyukov, who laid off a large number of professional officers, got a lot of fat jobs in the Ministry of Defense.
During his tenure, there were seven deputy ministers and two first deputy ministers, and a large number of his own people were placed in various important positions in the Ministry of Defense. As a result, this group of people shielded each other and played tricks, making the Ministry of Defense corrupt and becoming a Russian corruption case hardest hit area.
Even Serdyukov himself was involved in the case of billions of dollars and eventually ended up in a dismissal investigation.
Shoigu military reform
There are roughly three reasons why Putin asked Shoigu to take over as the Minister of Defense in this emergency situation:
One is that Shoigu has long been known for his integrity, self-discipline, self-denial, and dedication to public service, which was particularly important to the Russian Ministry of Defense at that time.
The second is senior qualifications, which can convince the public and never make enemies. As Shoigu, who has been a minister since the Yeltsin era, he has a very close network of relationships in the Russian political arena, and he also has a deep friendship with the military.
The third is that Shoigu has outstanding abilities. He has proved himself to be a capable manager in his past work.
The first thing to do is a personnel reshuffle.Shoigu is not a professional soldier, so he needs professionals to advise him.
At that time, he picked General Gerasimov, the commander of the Central Military Region, as his chief of staff; Basin, the commander of the Western Military Region, as the first deputy minister; Ostapenko, the commander-in-chief of the Air Force and Boriso, the first vice chairman of the Military Industry Commission. Husband as Deputy Minister. As for those who Serdyukov brought up, they all went out so as not to see them off.
The Russian media praised this replacement as Shoigu’s “team revolution” for the Ministry of Defense so that “the Russian army can become a real army.”
After rectifying the team, it is anti-corruption. As a professional official, Shoigu quickly came up with a package of plans:
He made a big inventory of the assets of the Ministry of Defense to find out what was going on in the family. Then it is to implement various rules and regulations, improve work transparency, and strictly prevent fish in troubled waters and gray transactions.
The other is to learn from the lessons of the predecessors, standardize the principles of personnel appointments, and stipulate that important departments must be in charge of professionals so as to prevent the related households brought about by nepotism from occupying important positions.
At the same time, it also limits the number of defense subcontractors and cracks down on price gouging, corruption, and bribery.
We often say that the reform must “do not break but do not establish, and both break and establish.” Shoigu has made drastic corrections to the past’s various shortcomings; on the other hand, he must also inject new vitality into the Ministry of National Defense.
With the support of Putin, the Ministry of National Defense has promoted a 20 trillion ruble equipment update plan, which involves everything from tanks to rocket launchers, from engineering vehicles to biological and chemical weapons. It is updated to meet the needs of modern warfare.
In addition, to deal with the dilemma of insufficient troops, Shoigu has greatly increased the treatment of soldiers to attract more young people to join the army and serve the country. For example, since 2014, the Ministry of National Defense has allocated affordable housing to soldiers without houses.
Based on the mixture of compulsory military service and contract military service, gradually increase the proportion of contract soldiers in the army.
At the beginning of 2013, the number of Russian troops was less than 700,000, but in 2021, the number of Russian troops exceeded 1 million, which shows that Shoigu’s reform has achieved remarkable results.
Shoigu also attaches great importance to military technology cooperation with China. He visited China half a month after taking office and signed a series of agreements. The sale of S-400 air defense missiles and Su-35 fighter jets to China was promoted by Shoigu.
The most important part of the Shoigu military reform is establishing the battalion-level battle group (BTG), which is also the main attacker in the current Ukrainian War.
The Russian battalion-level battle group is a special combat organization. Generally, a battle group has 1,200 people and more than ten company-level units. It has more than 30% more troops than the general army battalion organized by NATO.
A battalion-level battle group is based on a mechanized infantry battalion, plus a self-propelled artillery battalion, a rocket launcher company, and a tank company, plus various units such as reconnaissance, air defense, electronics, logistics, and communications.
The firepower of this battalion-level battle group can actually be comparable to that of a brigade-level unit, and now any battalion-level unit in any country in the world is weaker than it.
The Russian army’s emphasis on firepower stems from their unique concept of army building.
In Western military theory, an artillery is only an auxiliary unit, a prelude to an attack by a mobile force. However, the Russian army regards artillery as the main tool to destroy the enemy, and the mobile force is instead an auxiliary force responsible for mopping up the remaining enemy troops.
In addition, the battalion-level battle group can also contact the long-range howitzers, rocket launchers, ballistic missiles, etc., in the rear, which allows the Russian military to use powerful fire support to cause devastating blows to targets tens of kilometers or even 500 kilometers away.
By 2021, when Shoi made relevant reports, he said that 168 battalion-level battle groups had been built, and these battle groups had also become the backbone of Russian military operations.
from Syria to Ukraine
Not long after Shoigu took charge of the Ministry of Defense, it was time to be tested.
In late February 2014, the situation in Ukraine took a turn for the worse. Former President Viktor Yanukovych was dismissed by the parliament and exiled to Russia. At the same time, the pro-Western opposition established a provisional government.
Putin judged that the changes in the situation in Ukraine had posed a serious threat to Russia’s interests, especially causing huge changes in the prospects of Crimea.
Therefore, Russia immediately launched a special military operation against Crimea. The day after Yanukovych began his escape, Russian troops marched into Crimea.
The Russian army has demonstrated very powerful, comprehensive operational capabilities and extremely high operational efficiency during operations.
With the cooperation of naval forces, the well-equipped Russian airborne troops kept radio silent throughout the entire process. At the same time, with the support of powerful electronic warfare, they took control of all important military and transportation facilities in Crimea overnight.
And not only that, but because of the rapid and unexpected action, the 20,000 Ukrainian garrisons had no time to react to the surprise, and they were disarmed by the Russian army and failed to launch any resistance. Russia took Crimea without firing a single shot or firing a single shot.
In addition to Ukraine, the Russian army also gained valuable war experience on the Syrian battlefield. In 2015, the Russian army entered Syria to fight the Islamic State extremist organization, which was the first large-scale high-tech War conducted on an overseas battlefield.
The Air Force can carry out precise strikes around the clock through high-tech reconnaissance methods. Russian pilots carried out 1,760 combat missions in less than a year and eliminated more than 3,100 terrorists. Use warships to launch cruise missiles to conduct tactical strikes in the sea, land, and air trinity.
In the part of land combat, the aforementioned battalion-level battle group shines in Syria because of its quick response and sufficient firepower. It can preempt the enemy and quickly and quickly carry out saturated attacks on terrorists.
Coupled with the cooperation of the air force and special forces, when the Russian army launched an attack, there was no tactical pause, and it could advance continuously and in large numbers, causing the entire depth of long-range fire damage to the terrorists.
All kinds of new weapons have appeared in Syria. By the end of 2016, the Russian army had tested 162 new equipment and technologies on the Syrian battlefield.
This is like Shoigu’s report to the State Duma after the War, “Russia uses Syria as a testing ground for testing new weapons and technical equipment.”
Under the leadership of Shoigu, Russia captured Crimea and won the War against terrorism in Syria, and its army building reached a new level, which also helped him win widespread support in Russia. According to opinion polls, Shoigu is second only to President Vladimir Putin in terms of the trust.
I believe that in the future, Shoigu will still play the role of “Russian firefighting captain” well and appear where the country needs him most.