At the beginning of his fifth term as president, Vladimir Putin is converting his country even more towards a war economy. An economist with no army experience is now supposed to help him.

Putin nominated Andrei Beloussov, the previous deputy prime minister, for the post of defense minister. Parliament’s approval is considered certain. The previous Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is to become chairman of the National Security Council.

Beloussov didn’t even complete military service. But with his election, Putin wants to better position himself for the war of attrition against Ukraine.

“Nowadays, the one who is more open to innovation wins on the battlefield,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, commenting on the change. “The economy of the power bloc” should also be better integrated “into the country’s economy”.

For this task, Beloussov is “an understandable candidate,” said Nina Khrushcheva, a Russian-American political scientist, to Deutsche Welle. Beloussov appears to have distinguished himself as a calm and professional technocrat.

“On the one hand, it is not rejected by market economists, but on the other hand, it is committed to the primacy of the state in the economy,” she said. So who is the man taking over Russia’s defense portfolio in the middle of a war?

Andrei Beloussov, born in Moscow as the son of an economist, is 65 years old. He followed his father’s example and also studied economics.

He then conducted research on market forecasts at the Russian Academy of Sciences. He has advised the government and served as deputy economics minister between 2006 and 2008.

The year 2008 was crucial for his career. At that time, Putin, who moved from the office of president to prime minister, appointed him head of his economic department. So he had direct contact with Putin. Since then, Beloussov has been associated with the Russian president’s close entourage.

His direct dependence on Putin, as well as the fact that Beloussov does not belong to any of the factions vying for influence in the Kremlin, is also said to make him less vulnerable to corruption. His predecessor Shoigu in particular was often accused of corruption. Most recently, Shoigu’s deputy was even arrested, which many observers rightly interpreted as a sign that he would soon be recalled.

Since being considered Putin’s man, Beloussov has served as Minister of Economy (from 2012 to 2013), Economic Advisor to the President (2013 to 2020), and most recently as First Deputy Prime Minister since 2020. In these positions he has had a significant impact on Russian economic policy in recent years. He is known as a supporter of government investment in the economy.

In 2014, he was one of the few economic experts around Putin to have supported the annexation of Crimea, the Russian portal “The Bell” reported a few years ago. Beloussov is also said to see Russia as “surrounded by enemies,” it said. This worldview may also ensure his closeness to Putin.

“In recent years, Beloussov has been obsessed with the idea of ​​Russia’s technological sovereignty,” writes independent Russian journalist Farida Rustamova, who specializes in Russian elites, on the messaging service Telegram.

So, under the leadership of Beloussov, the concept of technological development until 2030 was written. By then, according to Beloussov’s plan, Russia should learn to produce chips, high-precision machines, medical devices and software, aircraft and drones, writes Rustamova.

Even as deputy prime minister, Beloussov was strongly committed to the development of the domestic drone industry. He repeatedly criticized the fact that important parts of the production chain were located abroad.

“Belousov is interested in innovation in weapons systems, and it is clear that this will be one of his priorities,” Alexandra Prokopenko from the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center in Berlin told DW.

On the other hand, the rest of the Russian economy should also benefit from the enormous defense spending, according to the Kremlin’s plan. According to spokesman Peskov, the security bloc’s budget is already 6.7 percent of Russia’s gross domestic product.

“The Kremlin’s priority right now is war,” says Prokopenko, who formerly worked at the Russian central bank. “And they believe in military Keynesianism, that is, in the fact that with the help of investments in the military-industrial complex you can stimulate economic growth for a long time.” The new man in the Russian Defense Ministry should help make the war more profitable for Russia close.

Collaboration: Alexei Strelnikov

Author: Grzegorz Szymanowski

The original to this post “Who is the new Russian Defense Minister?” comes from Deutsche Welle.