Putin sacks Shoigu, gets economist Belousov to rule Russia's defence spending

Putin proposes new Defence Minister amid notorious arrest of Shoigu's deputy

Andrei Belousov, who held the position of First Deputy Head of the Cabinet of Ministers, will now become Russia's new Defence Minister. The Federation Council will discuss his candidacy on May 13 and 14.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that it was important to integrate the economy of the power bloc into the country's economy so that it meets the dynamics of the current moment.

"The one who is more open to innovation wins on the battlefield," Peskov said. "The Ministry of Defence must be absolutely open to innovation, to all advanced ideas the purpose of economic competitiveness. Apparently, this is why the president picked the candidacy of Andrei Removich Belousov," he noted.

The budget of the Russian Defence Ministry is approaching the level of the mid-1980s. It currently amounts to 6.7 percent of GDP. This indicator is not yet critical given geopolitical reasons, but it is very important, Peskov noted.

Belousov says what he does not like at Defence Ministry

At a hearing in the Federation Council, Andrei Belousov, whom President Vladimir Putin proposed to appoint as the new Defence Minister, raised issues of social security for participants of the special military operation.

The Russian government should look into issues of medical care in civilian clinics and get rid of unnecessary red tape in the registration of benefits, the official said.

"Indeed, our monetary allowances for military personnel who take part in the special military operation have raised the bar to at least 200,000, and in principle, people receive much more there. But life is not just about cash payments and monetary allowances. We have something to work on here,” Belousov said.

He also touched upon the issue of payments to civilian personnel in military units, especially in the field of medical care.

"I think it's absolutely a mess when participants of the special operation are denied services at civilian medical institutions and sent to military hospitals that are often overcrowded. This is an issue that we must look into. This also goes along with excessive bureaucracy and paperwork associated with confirming the benefits of military personnel. All this should be resolved within the framework of the system of interdepartmental electronic interaction,” Andrei Belousov said.

Putin's decision to remove Shoigu comes as big surprise

In the evening of May 12, President Vladimir Putin submitted candidates for the posts of ministers of the security bloc to the Federation Council for consideration. Putin proposed Andrei Belousov, Acting First Deputy Prime Minister, for the post of the new Defence Minister. That was a surprising decision that raised may eyebrows.

  • Nikolai Patrushev, who held this post since 2008, was dismissed "due to a transfer to another job.”
  • Sergei Shoigu, who headed the Defence Ministry for more than ten years, was appointed to the post of Security Council Secretary.

Andrei Belousov, an academic economist and former First Deputy Prime Minister, will chair the Defence Ministry against the backdrop of growing defence spending, the need to "fit the economy of the security bloc into the country's economy” and the arrest of Sergei Shoigu's deputy.

After amendments to the 2020 Constitution, the president nominates candidates for key ministerial positions. The Federation Council then considers the president's proposals.

In addition to the candidate for the post of Minister of Defense, Putin nominated candidates for the positions of the heads of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

Putin did not consider it necessary to change the heads of those departments and proposed to retain the following officials on their positions:

  • Sergei Lavrov as Minister of Foreign Affairs (Lavrov held this post since 2004);
  • Konstantin Chuichenko as Minister of Justice (headed the department since 2020);
  • Vladimir Kolokoltsev as Minister of Internal Affairs (headed the ministry since 2012);
  • Alexander Kurenkov as the Minister of Emergency Situations and Disaster Relief (first approved on the post in 2022);

Putin also proposed to keep the heads of Russia's key law enforcement agencies in their posts:

  • Sergei Naryshkin as the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service,
  • Viktor Zolotov at the head of the Russian Guard,
  • Alexander Bortnikov at the head of the Federal Security Service,
  • Dmitry Kochnev at the head of the Federal Security Service.

The Federation Council will hold consultations on the candidates proposed by the president on May 13. A general vote is to be held on May 14.

Belousov to become 'large figure' at Defence Ministry

According to military expert Vladislav Shurygin, it is the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, rather than the Defence Minister, who is directly involved in conducting military operations as per the Russian system.

"The task of the Defence Minister is to work with the military-industrial complex, design bureaus, to create facilities that the defence industry will need in 5-10 years. To a certain extent, this is a person who is ahead of his time, so the new minister is expected to build the armed forces that will meet future threats,” Shurygin noted.

The new Defence Minister is expected to adjust the activities of the administrative apparatus of the Defence Ministry. In particular, he will audit its work and carry out serious reshuffles.

Alexey Makarkin, First Vice-President of the Centre for Political Technologies, believes that "Belousov will not have a narrow accounting task at the Defence Ministry, he will be a much larger figure in the department.”

According to Georgy Ostapkovich, Director of the Centre for Market Research at the National Research University of the Higher School of Economics, Belousov combines market and planning skills. Many years of his experience of working at the Ministry of Economic Development, the government apparatus, and the presidential administration will come in handy for him, the expert believes.

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Author`s name Andrey Mihayloff
Editor Dmitry Sudakov