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15 May, 2024 17:27

Putin reveals why he replaced Russia’s defense minister

Moscow needs to mind both “guns and butter,” the president has said
Putin reveals why he replaced Russia’s defense minister

New Defense Minister Andrey Belousov will be able to properly steward the country's substantial defense spending and ensure it helps the civilian economy, rather than detracts from it, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

The president’s long-time economic adviser and former minister for economic development was tapped on May 12 to succeed Sergey Shoigu at the Defense Ministry, to the surprise of many. 

“He understands perfectly well what needs to be done in order for the economy of the entire security complex – and the Ministry of Defense as its key component – to fit into the overall economy of the country,” Putin told the heads of Russian military districts at a meeting in Moscow. “This is extremely important and relates to the innovative development of industry and taking into account the capabilities of the economy and the budget.”

“This relationship between ‘guns’ and ‘butter’, so to speak, must be organically integrated into the overall development strategy of the Russian state,” Putin said. “I hope that Andrey Removich [Belousov] will handle this task in the best possible way.”

Putin noted that Russia’s military spending has grown to approximately 8.7% of GDP in 2024. While not quite the 13% that the Soviet Union was spending in the 1980s at the height of the Cold War, “these are significant resources, and we have to use them very efficiently and effectively,” the president explained. 

Belousov’s most recent job involved the development of ‘dual-use’ technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles and other drones. Following his nomination as defense minister, he gave an interview in which he explained that the technology landscape of the conflict is changing almost on a weekly basis.

“It is essential to ensure the full integration of the Armed Forces’ economy into the broader national economy,” he said at the time, describing the task as “complex and multifaceted, primarily involving the optimization of military expenditures.” 

“Everything effective and advanced in our country must contribute to achieving victory,” he added.

Prior to Belousov, Russian defense ministers had at least some kind of military experience. Shoigu held the rank of army general and had run the Ministry of Emergency Situations for 21 years before taking over the defense portfolio in 2012. Both Shoigu – now assigned to the Russian Security Council – and Belousov are scheduled to accompany Putin on a trip to China later this week.

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