Putin’s Surprise Defense Shakeup: Civilian Economist to Lead Russia’s War Machine


Putin’s Surprising Move: Replacing Shoigu with Civilian Economist

Following his recent swearing-in for a fifth term, Russian President Vladimir Putin has initiated a series of significant government reshuffles. One of the most unexpected changes came in the form of replacing Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu with Andrey Belousov, an economist with no prior military experience.

A Civilian in Charge of Defense

Belousov’s appointment has raised eyebrows within military circles. However, analysts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) suggest that the move is a strategic one, designed to synchronize Russia’s defense needs with its booming war-oriented economy.

Belousov’s decade-long experience as an economic minister and his involvement in defense industrial projects prepare him well to lead the Defense Ministry apparatus. He also has a reputation for being an effective technocrat and is believed to have a positive relationship with Putin.

Push for ‘Innovation’

Russia’s war in Ukraine has entered a critical phase, with the potential for renewed territorial gains or a broader confrontation with NATO. This timing has prompted Putin to seek a leadership change in the defense sector, prioritizing innovation and development.

According to Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, Belousov’s appointment stems from the need for “innovation” on the battlefield, where the key to victory lies in technological advancement. While Belousov will oversee arms production and ensure the military’s needs are met, military tactics and strategy will remain under the purview of General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff.

Shoigu’s Departure: Unraveling the Reasons

Shoigu, who had no military background prior to his appointment in 2012, has faced criticism for Russia’s military strategy in Ukraine. Prominent figures like Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group, have publicly denounced Shoigu’s leadership.

Furthermore, Shoigu’s growing unpopularity with Russia’s military-industrial complex, including the state-owned Rostec, may have also influenced Putin’s decision. Rostec supplies a significant portion of Russia’s military equipment, and Shoigu’s public rebukes of the company’s production rates may have soured their relationship.

Strategic Appointments in Time of War

With the war in Ukraine raging and geopolitical tensions rising, Putin’s government reshuffles are a clear indication of his determination to mobilize Russia’s economy and defense apparatus. The appointment of Andrey Belousov, a civilian economist, as Defense Minister underscores the evolving nature of modern warfare and the growing importance of technological innovation.

Data sourced from: cnbc.com