Andrei Belousov, Russia’s New Minister of Defence: Why Matters?

Andrei Belousov
Russia’s new Defence Minister, Andrei Belousov (Credits:, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 42 Issue 9
SpecialEurasia OSINT Unit

Strategic Assessment

This assessment delves into the recent reshuffle within the Russian government, focusing on the replacement of long-serving Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu with economist Andrei Belousov. Through a comprehensive analysis of historical, political, economic, and social factors, this report aims to provide insights into the implications of these changes for Russia’s strategic landscape.

Contextual Analysis

A strong centralisation of power around President Vladimir Putin characterises the Russian political system. While cabinet reshuffles are not uncommon, they often raise questions about the underlying dynamics of power within the Kremlin. President Putin’s authority remains paramount, and decisions within the government are ultimately driven by his preferences.

Key Factors

  1. Putin’s Unquestionable Authority. President Putin’s dominance in Russian politics is unquestionable. He has cultivated a system where loyalty to him is paramount, and he holds the ultimate decision-making power. The recent replacement of Sergei Shoigu underscores this, highlighting Putin’s ability to make significant changes within his inner circle at his discretion.
  2. Rare Reshuffles and Political Stability. The longevity of key figures in the Russian government, such as Sergei Lavrov, underscores the stability of Putin’s regime. However, the unexpected nature of Shoigu’s replacement with an economist suggests a departure from traditional appointments within the military and security apparatus. This departure may signal a strategic shift or a response to specific challenges faced by the Kremlin.
  3. Economic Considerations in Defence Strategy. The appointment of Andrei Belousov, a Putin loyalist with a background in economics, reflects a shift towards prioritising economic expertise in defence decision-making. This move aligns with Russia’s increased military spending, which now accounts for a significant portion of the country’s budget. With defence spending estimated at approximately 7% of GDP, there is a growing recognition of the need for efficient allocation of resources and management of the defence budget.
  4. Preparation for Prolonged Conflict. Belousov’s nomination shows President Putin’s strategic preparations for an extended conflict, particularly considering Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. His role will involve managing the economic demands of sustained military operations and navigating the challenges posed by Western sanctions. The Kremlin’s decision to appoint an economist with a focus on state interests reflects a pragmatic approach to sustaining Russia’s military capabilities amidst international pressure.
  5. Leadership Dynamics and Personal Alliances. The reshuffle sheds light on the intricate dynamics of leadership and personal alliances within the Kremlin. Despite Shoigu’s long-standing loyalty and close relationship with Putin, his replacement suggests that personal connections alone may not guarantee political survival. The arrest of one of Shoigu’s deputies on corruption charges and his public spat with Yevgeny Prigozhin likely contributed to his departure, illustrating the vulnerability of even high-ranking officials in Putin’s circle.

Andrei Belusov: A Brief Biography

The recent appointment of Andrei Belousov as Russia’s Minister of Defence has marked a significant shift, as he becomes the first civilian to hold the position in 12 years. President Putin’s nomination of Belousov came as a surprise to many, especially given his lack of background in either the military or security services.

Born into an academic and economic background, Belousov got his degree from Moscow State University and has since held various governmental positions, including Minister for Economic Development and First Deputy Prime Minister.

Belousov’s reputation as a Putin loyalist and his advocacy for state intervention in the economy align with the Kremlin’s preference for a state-centric approach to governance. By supporting policies like the VAT hike and suggesting the appropriation of extra profits from big businesses, he shows his conviction in the significance of government participation in propelling economic growth and fostering innovation.

As Defence Minister, Belousov faces the daunting task of managing Russia’s significant military spending, which accounts for about 30% of the country’s budget. With ongoing conflict in Ukraine and Western sanctions, Belousov’s economic expertise will be crucial to ensuring the sustainability of Russia’s military capabilities.

His interest in advanced weapons and plans for drone production align strategically with Putin’s priorities, as the Kremlin prepares for a possibly lengthy and costly war.

Belousov’s reputation for integrity and his close ties to the Russian Orthodox Church further solidify his position within Putin’s inner circle and underscore his role as a key figure in Russia’s strategic decision-making processes.


The recent reshuffle in the Russian government, particularly the replacement of Sergei Shoigu with Andrei Belousov as Defence Minister, reflects President Putin’s strategic priorities and the developing dynamics within his inner circle.

While Putin’s authority remains unchallenged, the appointment of a civilian with economic expertise suggests a growing emphasis on efficiency and economic sustainability in Moscow’ defence strategy.

This move also indicates the Kremlin’s readiness for prolonged conflict and the importance of managing military expenditures amidst ongoing geopolitical tensions.

Belousov’s nomination highlights the significance of economic considerations in shaping defence policy and underscores the Kremlin’s efforts to strengthen Russia’s military capabilities while mitigating the impact of international sanctions.

As Russia continues to navigate complex international dynamics, the implications of these changes will be closely watched by observers worldwide.

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