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Putin’s Shocking Move: Shoigu Out, Belousov In! What’s Next for Russia’s Defense?

The restructuring affords Shoigu a position that is technically esteemed above his role in the defense ministry, ensuring continuity and safeguarding Shoigu’s reputation. Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed an unexpected appointment for defense minister, nominating civilian Andrei Belousov, a former deputy prime minister known for his expertise in economics, more than two years into the conflict in Ukraine, as announced by the Kremlin. Putin intends for Sergei Shoigu, who has served as defense minister since 2012 and is a longstanding ally, to assume the position of Secretary of Russia’s influential Security Council, succeeding Nikolai Patrushev, and to also oversee responsibilities concerning the military-industrial complex, the Kremlin declared on Sunday.

These changes, expected to receive parliamentary approval, mark the most significant adjustments Putin has made to the military leadership since the deployment of tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine in February 2022 under the guise of a special military operation.

The reorganization grants Shoigu a position that is technically deemed superior to his role in the defense ministry, ensuring continuity and preserving Shoigu’s reputation. Valery Gerasimov, the head of Russia’s General Staff and a figure more directly involved in directing the war effort, will continue in his current role.

Sergei Lavrov, the seasoned foreign minister of the country, will also retain his position, according to the Kremlin.

The selection of Belousov, a civilian figure renowned for his economic acumen rather than military expertise, comes as the most surprising development.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, informed reporters that this change was logical given Russia’s trajectory toward a situation akin to that of the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s, when military and law enforcement expenditures constituted 7.4% of state spending.

According to Peskov, it is imperative to ensure that such expenditures align with the nation’s overarching interests, which is why Putin now seeks a civilian with an economic background for the defense ministerial role.

“The victor in the battlefield will be the one who embraces innovation,” remarked Peskov.

This shift is also likely viewed as Putin’s endeavor to subject defense spending to heightened scrutiny, ensuring efficient allocation of funds following accusations by state prosecutors against an ally of Shoigu and deputy defense minister of bribery.

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