Andrey Belousov, the defense minister newly nominated by Russian President Vladimir Putin with no prior military background, has shared a list of priorities he would work on once he assumes office.

At a plenary meeting of Russia’s Federation Council, Belousov said equipping frontline troops, developing new technology for the war, and ensuring timely payments and housing assistance for military personnel were all equally important priorities for him as the new defense minister.

“The key task, of course, remains achieving victory and ensuring that the military-political goals of the special military operation, set by the president, are achieved. In this respect, I want to especially emphasise: with minimal human losses,” Belousov told a session of Russian lawmakers on Tuesday.

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Belousov, an economist and the former deputy prime minister of Russia, also said Putin had instructed him to integrate the Russian military’s finances into the country’s economy, which would require improving the efficiency of military spending.

“I want to emphasize: optimization does not mean sweeping reductions. Optimization, first of all, means increasing efficiency so that every ruble of budget money that our citizens ultimately pay brings maximum effect.

“This applies to food, production, and the supply of new military equipment and weapons, and staffing,” said Belousov, which cemented outside speculation that his appointment came as Putin grew dissatisfied with the corruption and ineffectiveness under former defense minister Sergei Shoigu’s command.

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Belousov also talked of supplying all Russian troops in Ukraine with modern equipment, including artillery ammunition, missiles, personal protection, special communications, drones, and electronic warfare equipment – all of which require delicate and synchronized planning, he said.

Another priority he mentioned was the development of new technologies to gain an edge over Kyiv, which, ironically, mirrored Ukraine’s former commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny’s belief that technological breakthroughs are key to Ukraine’s victory.

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Belousov’s success in leading Russia’s national drone development project since early 2023 has likely earned him some favors with Putin, as Russian drones have continued to plague Ukrainian troops despite the ongoing Western sanctions and amidst limited Russian battlefield successes.

Belousov also said the staffing issue is a priority for him, though he also emphasized that he was not talking about mobilization, according to RIA Novosti.

He also outlined the shortage of medical facilities for Russian troops.

“There are issues related to the availability of medical services provided by civilian institutions for military personnel,” he said.

Belousov’s appointment came as Russia’s war in Ukraine went from Moscow’s initial goal of capturing Kyiv within weeks to more than two years of slow advances and drastic personnel losses, with Kyiv claiming to have eliminated close to 500,000 Russian troops.

While Russia has managed to achieve some tactical gains in recent months – largely thanks to Kyiv’s munition shortage – its lackluster performance has prevented the Kremlin from even capturing the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, two Ukrainian separatist regions that Russia has used as an excuse for its full-scale invasion in 2022.

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With that in mind, whether the appointment of a career bureaucrat and economist to lead Russia’s defense ministry could remedy the failures and shortcomings of the Russian military over the last two years – some of them systematic – remains to be seen. 

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