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Who Is Andrei Belousov? Putin loyalist economist to take charge of military


Andrei Belousov—a respected economist and former deputy prime minister—will now lead the country’s defense ministry and its prolonged campaign in Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin having chosen him to replace longtime incumbent and loyalist Sergei Shoigu.

Shoigu will move on to head Russia’s powerful security council, replacing FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev, who has long been considered one of Putin’s most powerful and hawkish officials. It is not yet clear what post Patrushev will be moved to, though his son—Dmitry Patrushev, who has been touted as a possible Putin successor—has been promoted to deputy prime minister.

Russia’s upper house in parliament, the Federation Council, will now need to approve Belousov’s candidacy. His proposed appointment appears to suggest the Kremlin sees victory in Ukraine—and perhaps beyond—as a matter of economics.

“Today on the battlefield, the winner is the one who is more open to innovation,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said of the reshuffle, as quoted by the state-run Tass news agency.

Andrei Belousov in Thailand in 2022

Incoming Russian Defense Minister Andrei Belousov in Bangkok, Thailand, on November 19, 2022. The economist has long been considered close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Incoming Russian Defense Minister Andrei Belousov in Bangkok, Thailand, on November 19, 2022. The economist has long been considered close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
JACK TAYLOR/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

“Therefore, it is natural that at the current stage, the president decided that the Russian Ministry of Defense should be headed by a civilian.” He added: “It’s very important to put the security economy in line with the economy of the country so that it meets the dynamics of the current moment.”

Belousov, 65, graduated from the Faculty of Economics of the Moscow State University in 1981 with distinction, Reuters reported. Born in Moscow, Belousov is reported to have practiced samba and karate in his youth and did not serve in the armed forces. He has long been considered close to Putin.

By 2000, Belousov had been appointed as a nonstaff adviser to the Russian prime minister. In 2006, he joined the economy ministry as a deputy minister.

Between 2008 and 2012, when Putin was serving one term as prime minister to adhere to constitutional term limits, Belousov served as the director of the government’s department for economics and finance.

Belousov was made the minister for economic development in 2012, before transitioning in 2013 to serve as Putin’s economic adviser. He held that role until 2020, when he became first deputy prime minister. Belousov stepped in as acting prime minister when incumbent Mikhail Mishustin contracted COVID-19 in 2020.

“He’s very professional, he’s a technocrat, and he’s very blunt, very straightforward,” Oleg Ignatov—the nongovernmental organization Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Russia—told Newsweek. “He doesn’t like to hide the truth. He can fix problems.” He added: “From Putin’s point of view, it’s a very good appointment.”

“He has his own vision,” Ignatov said, describing Belousov as “very anti-Western” and believing strongly “that the state should play a crucial role in the Russian economy.” Considered “very hawkish” and not corrupt, Ignatov said, the new minister can be expected to launch a major anti-corruption drive.

“Of course, some people will be upset about this, because the military has been very corrupt in Shoigu’s time,” Ignatov said. Many of Shoigu’s allies can be expected to follow him out of the ministry, likely to be replaced by technocrats more of the Belousov mold.

Unlike Shoigu and other top figures, Belousov does not have his own power base or “clan” of allies and dependents. “Belousov is alone,” Ignatov said. “He’s independent and loyal exclusively to Putin.”

And where Shoigu sought to influence battlefield planning, Beluosov is expected to be more restrained. “He will trust the military and military will do their work,” Ignatov said. “Belousov will care about the defense ministry as a big enterprise, and he will manage it as such.”

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote that Belousov’s appointment “is a significant development in Putin’s efforts to set full economic conditions for a protracted war,” noting that the economist is known as an advocate for more government involvement in the economy.

Sergei Shoigu during Victory Day parade 2024

Outgoing Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on May 9, 2024, in Moscow. The long-serving minister will be moved to head Russia’s powerful national security council.
Outgoing Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on May 9, 2024, in Moscow. The long-serving minister will be moved to head Russia’s powerful national security council.
Contributor/Getty Images

Shoigu’s removal comes after two difficult years for the Putin loyalist, who reportedly enjoyed close access to the president and saw his political stock rise significantly after Moscow’s seizure of Crimea in 2014.

But the full-scale invasion of Ukraine quickly revealed that Shoigu had failed to stamp out systemic incompetence and corruption within the military. Russia’s military casualties have ballooned over more than two years of war, with battlefield success limited. Behind the front, the Wagner Group rebellion was a humiliating demonstration of brewing instability within the Russian military elite.

The arrest of Shoigu’s deputy Timur Ivanov on corruption charges last month appeared to be an effort to undermine the outgoing defense minister and lay the groundwork for a reshuffle.

Russia analyst and economics professor at the University of Chicago, Konstantin Sonin, wrote on Twitter—formerly known as X—that the reshuffle shows the war is “not going according to Putin’s plan, but he will endlessly rotate the same small group of loyalists.”

Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the Financial Times the shake-up showed it was “clear that Russian economic elites performed far better than military elites in this war.”

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.