Putin defence minister shake-up a sign of plans for ‘long confrontation’ with West

President Vladimir Putin's nomination of top economic official Andrei Belousov as defence minister is a sign of the importance the Russian leader places on the war economy in gaining the upper hand in what he expects will be a long conflict against Ukraine, analysts say.

It is unclear if outgoing defence minister Sergei Shoigu's move to head the national security council is a demotion, while the future of its previous chief Nikolai Patrushev, a shadowy but powerful figure and an ardent hawk, is also murky.

The changes, announced just days after Putin was inaugurated for an unprecedented fifth term following March elections denounced as rigged by opponents, come as Russia is seeking to rattle Kyiv with advances into northeastern Ukraine.

Why Belousov?

Andrei Belousov has since 2020 occupied the post of deputy prime minister in charge of the economy. Like his immediate predecessors as defence minister he has no background in the military but also no past in the Russian security services.

His priority at a time when Russia is planning to ramp up the defence budget to account for some 30 percent of total government spending will be to fine tune procurement and boost the domestic defence industry to win success on the battlefield.

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.


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