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WAR ECONOMY: Putin Appoints a Civilian Economist as New Russian Defense Minister in a Surprise Move

In the context of Russia’s rapidly expanding successes in the war in Ukraine, and at the onset of President Vladimir Putin’s fifth term, the change of the Defense Minister in a cabinet reshuffle was a surprise both in Russia and abroad.

Putin chose a civilian economist for his new defense minister, in what some see as an attempt to better utilize the defense budget and harness greater innovation.

Andrei Belousov, a former deputy prime minister who specializes in economics, will replace Putin’s long-term ally, Sergei Shoigu, 68, as defense minister.

Reuters reported:

“Putin wants Shoigu, in charge of defense since 2012 and a long-standing friend and ally, to become the secretary of Russia’s powerful Security Council, replacing incumbent Nikolai Patrushev, and to also have responsibilities for the military-industrial complex, the Kremlin said.”

This is by far most significant change made to the military command since the start of the war, and it may be connected to the arrest of deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov, a close ally of Shoigu, for corruption.

“Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the change made sense because Russia was approaching a situation like the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s, when the military and law enforcement authorities accounted for 7.4% of gross domestic product (GDP).

That, said Peskov, meant it was vital to ensure such spending aligned with and was better integrated into the country’s overall economy, which was why Putin now wanted a civilian economist in the defense ministry job.”

Economist Belousov played an important role in overseeing Russia’s drone program.

“Putin’s move, though unexpected, preserves balance at the top of the complex system of personal loyalties that make up the current political system.

The shake-up gives Shoigu a job that is technically regarded as senior to his defense ministry role, ensuring continuity and saving Shoigu’s face. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of Russia’s General Staff and someone with a more hands-on role when it comes to directing the war, will remain in post.”

Putin maintained the chiefs of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), as well as foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, in their posts.

Read more:

‘Together We Will Win’: Vladimir Putin Is Inaugurated for His Fifth Term in Ceremony in Kremlin Palace

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