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Putin reshuffles Russian defense ahead of protracted Ukraine standoff

Photo: Pavel Bednyakov Agence France-Presse Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 7, 2024

Stuart Williams – Agence France-Presse in Paris

Published yesterday at 11:59 a.m. Updated yesterday at 5:39 p.m.

  • Europe

The appointment in Russia of economist Andrei Beloussov as Defense Minister shows that Vladimir Putin is preparing for a long confrontation in Ukraine and is banking on the war economy to win it, say some analysts.

At this stage, it is unclear whether the appointment of outgoing Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as head of the National Security Council is a demotion, while the future of Nikolai Patrushev, an obscure but powerful figure who occupied this position position since 2008, is also uncertain.

The change, announced just days after Mr. Putin's inauguration for a fifth term, following elections in March deemed rigged by opponents, comes at a time when Russia seeks to shake kyiv with advances in northeastern Ukraine.

Why Beloussov ?

Andreï Belooussov has held the position of Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the Economy since 2020. Like his recent predecessors, he has no experience in the army or in the security services.

But at a time when Russia intends to carry the budget of defense at some 30 percent of total government spending, Vladimir Putin “must move even more toward a war economy and effective military spending — and Andrei Belousov is one of his most trusted economic leaders,” explains to AFP Ben Noble, associate professor of Russian politics at University College London.

“Putin's goal is to improve the effectiveness of arms production and optimally respond to military needs, adds Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the R.Politik consulting firm. In this context, Beloussov is a logical choice. »

Towards a long war

Analysts say the appointment signals that the Kremlin is preparing Russia for a years-long war with Ukraine, where the balance between weapons supply and production could determine who emerges victorious.

“The main takeaway is that Vladimir Putin is preparing for a long confrontation with the West,” summarizes Ben Noble.

Mr. Belousov strongly believes in the doctrine that Russia is surrounded by a “ring of enemies” and is the only one among President Putin's team of economists to support the 2014 annexation of Crimea, which was followed by severe sanctions, notes a source cited by the Russian-language news site The Bell.

Deposed Shoigu ?

Mr. Shoigu, a prominent figure in the Russian government in the 1990s, even before Vladimir Putin came to power, has long been considered close to the president.

But the days when the two men shared saunas and shirtless expeditions in the wilderness of the outgoing Defense Minister's native Siberia are over.

Mr. Shoigu was in fact tainted by the diatribes of the late head of Wagner's mercenaries, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who called him a “garbage bag”, and by the arrest of Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov, suspected of 'having accepted bribes.

However, his appointment as head of the National Security Council shows that he is not completely excluded from the elite, even if “it remains to be seen what political and strategic role it will play in concrete terms,” notes Ben Noble.

Furthermore, doubts remain about the future importance of the Council, whose deputy head is none other than former President Dmitry Medvedev, who himself has lost his political influence.

“This appointment indicates that the real importance of the Security Council in the hierarchy is perhaps not as great as observers generally think,” says Tatiana Stanovaya.

What to think of Patrouchev ?

A personality who rarely speaks in public, Patrouchev has always been considered an important player and one of the biggest proponents of the “circle of enemies” doctrine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov , claimed he was removed from his position because he accepted “a new position” which would be revealed in the “coming days”.

Who leads the war ?

Mr. Since Belousov has no military experience, his appointment further distances the Ministry of Defense from decision-making on the battlefield and strengthens the power of the military staff led by General Valery Gerasimov.

“The army has always been the prerogative of the Chief of Staff, he will continue his activities and no change is currently envisaged in this regard”, assured Mr. Peskov.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116