Russia’s defense ministry is now under the command of Andrey Belousov, yet another official with no military background after the former minister Sergei Shoigu was moved to the sidelines in one of the Kremlin’s latest shakeups.

Who is Andrey Belousov?

Belousov is an economist who served as Russia’s first deputy prime minister before his latest nomination from Putin as the defense minister.

He is currently under Western sanctions by multiple states for supporting what many refer to as a “genocidal” war in Ukraine – which, according to American estimates has taken the lives of approximately half a million people.

Born in 1959 in Moscow to Soviet economist Rem Belousov and chemist Alisa Belousova, Belousov came from an academic family where his father took part in the economic reforms of the 1960s.

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After graduating in 1981 with honors in economic cybernetics, a field focusing on facilitating dialogues between microsystems and macrosystems, Belousov spent his early years working in academia.

Prior to the 2000s, Belousov worked as a researcher in various institutions before becoming the general director of the Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Term Forecasting, where he also began work as a freelance adviser to the prime minister, according to official sources.

Between the late 2000s and 2020, Belousov held multiple official positions – including a seven-year stint as Putin’s adviser – before being appointed the first deputy prime minister in 2020.

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The same year, Belousov was also elected as the chairman of the board of directors of Russia’s state-owned railway enterprise.

Belousov’s policies and ideologies

Belousov also oversaw Russia’s “National Unmanned Aircraft” project that was launched in 2023. The project helps develop and procure drones for the Russian military. Under Belousov, the production of drones, which have plagued both Ukrainian troops and civilians, increased drastically.

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Belousov can be perceived as a Soviet-minded economist who believes in the state’s role in boosting the economy, according to some.

“He’s not dumb. He’s got a mathematical mind, but his mentality is pretty Soviet,” an unnamed former Russian official told the Financial Times (FT).

Konstantin Sonin, an economist and professor at the University of Chicago, shared similar views.

“Belousov was among those who considered the state to be the primary driver of everything – and, at the same time, he analyzed the same data as we did, unlike most other pro-state economists who simply juggled abstractions,” said Sonin.

In 2021, Belousov once called for Russia’s metal producers to return part of their profit – whose revenue increased drastically in 2020 – to the state.

“We considered that the metallurgists (the state, the budget) – excuse the word – were forced on us in terms of state capital investments and state defense orders for about 100 billion rubles [about $1 billion],” he told RBC Russia.

“We have a free market, but the state has every opportunity to set taxes in such a way that what they receive is taken from them. This, I think, we will do.”

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As the first deputy prime minister, Belousov oversaw the development of Russia’s socio-economic development, state regulation of financial markets, insurance and auditing activities and infrastructure projects, among other things, as reported by RBC Russia.

Why did Putin choose Belousov?

Many believe that Belousov’s appointment as the new defense minister signifies Putin’s plan to make Russia – which, by many accounts, is already a war economy – yet more focused on war.

Others believe Belousov’s appointment is related to Putin tightening control. Long-standing corruption – as highlighted by the recent arrest of Shoigu’s aide – has plagued the defense ministry.

As a source in Ukrainian intelligence told Kyiv Post, while the autocrat is aware of and allows some level of corruption, he will dismiss officials if the corruption derives too much public attention.

Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said it could be both.

“Belousov was responsible for technological development. The Kremlin believes he will technologize the economy and turn it into a military economy. And the military will pull GDP growth. Star Wars economy,” Kolesnikov wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter).

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“It is now important for Putin to make sure that the enormous sums of money spent on war are not stolen,” he wrote in another post.

Meanwhile, a source reportedly familiar with both Putin and Belousov said things will be “very different” under the new command, as reported by FT.

“He’s absolutely not corrupted. And that’s going to be very different from what we have now in the Ministry of Defense. Shoigu and everyone around him were really commercial guys,” said an unnamed source as quoted by FT.

“Belousov [...] won’t pretend to lead the army like a general with all these medals. He’s a workaholic. He’s a technocrat. He’s very honest, and Putin knows him very well,” the person added.

As for the appointment of another defense minister with no military background, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Belousov’s appointment would bring forward “innovation” and  “the introduction of all advanced ideas.”

“It’s very important to integrate the economy of the security bloc into the country’s economy so that it meets current needs,” said Peskov, as quoted by state media.

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