‘Crimea is ours,’ President Putin boasted last May. He was speaking on a documentary viewed by millions of Russians, and it was the culminating moment in the militarisation of Russia. Moscow had attracted criticism for spending unprecedented sums on its armed forces under Putin, despite a weak economy over-dependent on oil. The successful annexation of Crimea seemed a perfect vindication.
Yet the huge expansion of Russia’s armed forces budget was instigated not by Putin but by the defence minister, the mysterious Sergey Shoigu.