‘Preparing for a long confrontation’: Why Putin has appointed an economist as defence minister

In a significant reshuffle within the Russian government, President Vladimir Putin has appointed Andrey Belousov, a civilian economist and former first deputy prime minister, as the new head of the ministry of defense, replacing longtime minister Sergei Shoigu. This move indicates a shift towards integrating economic strategies with military operations, particularly as the conflict in Ukraine persists.
As per a CNN report, Belousov, noted for his economic acumen, is expected to focus on bolstering Russia’s military capabilities through enhanced economic measures.Alexandra Prokopenko, a former adviser at Russia’s Central Bank, explained the rationale behind this appointment, saying, “Putin’s priority is war; war of attrition is won by economics. Belousov is in favor of stimulating demand from the budget, which means that military spending will at least not decrease but rather increase.”
This strategic appointment comes at a time when the US and Nato acknowledge that Russia significantly outproduces the West in terms of artillery ammunition production, a crucial factor as the war in Ukraine intensifies. The US Congress has also recently increased military aid to Ukraine, adding further complexities to the regional dynamics.
Belousov’s role is not merely about managing defense but also navigating through the challenges posed by a burgeoning military budget, which Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov noted is nearing the proportions seen during the peak of the Soviet era. Peskov emphasized the importance of innovation in wartime management, saying, “Today on the battlefield, the winner is the one who is more open to innovation.”
Putin “needs to shift even further to a war economy and efficient military spending — and Andrei Belousov is one of his most trusted economic officials,” Ben Noble, associate professor of Russian politics at University College London, told AFP.
“The main takeaway is that Vladimir Putin is hunkering down for a long confrontation with the West,” said Noble.
“Putin’s goal is to enhance arms production effectiveness and optimally meet military needs,” wrote Tatyana Stanovaya, founder of the R.Politik consultancy. “In this context, Belousov is a logical choice.”
Meanwhile, Shoigu has been reassigned as the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, indicating that while he may be stepping down from the defense ministry, his influence within the Russian military-political landscape remains significant. This reshuffle also led to Nikolai Patrushev, a prominent figure within the security sector, being transferred to another, yet unspecified role.
The changes in key positions reflect Putin’s ongoing strategy to strengthen Russia’s military and economic integration as the conflict with Ukraine continues.
(With inputs from agencies)


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