Russia's President Vladimir Putin greets veterans next to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu after the Victory Day parade at Red Square in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2015. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor
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From Damascus to Doha, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has been showing up in unexpected places, a sign of the military's growing influence under President Vladimir Putin.The military is reaping political dividends from what the Kremlin saw as its big successes in Crimea, annexed from Ukraine after Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms seized control of the peninsula in 2014, and Syria, where Russian forces helped turn the tide of war in President Bashar Assad's favor.Foreign policymaking has become more bellicose and more opaque, and this makes new Russian military adventures more likely, some Western officials say.After going to Damascus twice earlier this year for talks with Assad, Shoigu was at Putin's side this week when the president flew in to meet the Syrian leader.A Western official who has direct contact with the Foreign and Defense ministries said the Russian military had real heft in Damascus of a kind the Foreign Ministry did not. Lavrov's own efforts to secure a U.S.-Russia deal on cooperating in Syria have shown how differently the Foreign and Defense ministries sometimes think.The military's other foreign policy interventions include a role in Russia's alleged interference in last year's U.S. presidential election, U.S. intelligence agencies say.
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