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12 May, 2024 20:09

Kremlin explains decision to change defense minister

Conflicts are won by those who are “open to innovation,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said
Kremlin explains decision to change defense minister

A proposal by Russian President Vladimir Putin to replace Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu is aimed at more deeply integrating the defense industrial base with the national economy, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said.

Amid the cabinet reshuffle, the Federation Council announced on Sunday evening that Shoigu would be removed as defense minister, a post he had held since 2012, and that Putin had proposed replacing him with acting First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov.

Speaking to reporters, Peskov said Belousov would be the best person to deal with the financial issues now facing the military. 

Belousov, a trained economist, has worked for the government in various capacities, but until now dealt with civilian matters only.

He served as economic development minister in 2012-2013 and as the president’s economic aide from 2013 to 2020, before taking the position of first deputy prime minister, which he held until May 7.

When asked about the seemingly unconventional choice to lead the Defense Ministry, Peskov explained that the “battlefield is now dominated by those who are more open to innovation and are ready to introduce them in the fastest way possible.”

The Kremlin spokesman noted that, with the Russian military budget rapidly growing, “it is very important to integrate the economy of the military into the national economy.”

According to Peskov, Russian military spending has grown from 3% to 6.7% of GDP since the start of the Ukraine conflict.

The current level is not “critical” for the Russian economy, but the situation has started to resemble the late Soviet era, when USSR military expenditure amounted to 7.4% of GDP, the Kremlin spokesman said.

Dealing with such a situation is “extremely important” and demands an appropriate response from the authorities, he added.

Belousov is not just a “civilian person” and proved “quite successful at leading the Economic Development Ministry” before working as an economic aide to the president “for a long time,” Peskov noted.  

“The Defense Ministry should be absolutely open to innovations, to the introduction of the most advanced ideas and the creation of conditions favorable to economic competitiveness."

Russian senators are scheduled to consider the cabinet nominees put forward by the president on May 13 and 14.

Sergey Shoigu was appointed Secretary of the Russian Security Council by presidential decree on Sunday. 

Commenting on the appointment, Peskov said that the former defense minister would act as deputy head of the defense industry committee.

Shoigu has a good knowledge of the field since he has already been “deeply involved” in the work of the Russian defense industry and “is well aware of the production rates” required of each specific enterprise, he added.