Russia’s defence rejig: ‘Unfortunately for Ukraine, a very effective move’

Appointing an economist to helm a defence ministry during a war may sound like a recipe for disaster.

Andrei Belousov, who is set to become Russia’s new defence minister after President Vladimir Putin “suggested” his candidacy to his rubber-stamp parliament on Sunday, does not have any military experience under his belt.

The tall, white-haired, 65-year-old did not serve in the Soviet Army, thanks to his studies at Moscow State University in the late 1970s.

Back then, his father Ram Belousov was part of a team of economists that wanted to reform the Soviet economy.

Belousov junior seems to have inherited his father’s belief in the state’s dominant role in the economy.

Serving as Russia’s economics development minister (2012-13), Putin’s adviser (2013-20) and his first deputy prime minister (since 2020), Belousov has become one of the architects of “Putinomics”.

In the past two years, he helped alleviate the consequences of sanctions the West slapped on Moscow after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

After showing unexpected resilience to the sanctions, Russia’s economy is being switched to wartime mode keeping military plants working in shifts and channelling billions of dollars on new weaponry and payments to servicemen and their families.“Putin needs an ‘arsenal of autocracy’ that can outperform Ukraine and Western manufacturing and speed of innovation,” retired United States Army Major General Gordon Skip Davis Jr said, referring to the “arsenal of democracy,” Washington’s military aid to the Allies during World War II.

And while not tasked with tactical direction of Russia’s military, Belousov would “ideally have to inject innovation and quality into defence production and limit corruption where possible”, Davis said.

Therefore, Belousov’s appointment sounds like very bad news for Ukraine.

“This is an unexpected, but, unfortunately for Ukraine, a very effective move,” Kyiv-based analyst Aleksey Kushch told Al Jazeera.

Unlike many top Russian officials, Belousov has not been involved in corruption scandals and has a reputation as a workaholic technocrat and a devout Orthodox Christian.

Putin wants him to clean the Augean stables of the defence ministry so that military spending spearheads the resurgence of Russia’s economy, Kushch said.

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