Putin’s New Defense Chief Vows to Boost Army’s Efficiency

(Bloomberg) -- Andrey Belousov, Russia’s new defense minister, said he plans to improve military efficiency and reduce battlefield casualties to win the war in Ukraine that’s now in its third year with no end in sight.

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“Every ruble in the state budget that, in the end, our citizens pay should have the greatest impact,” Belousov told lawmakers in Russia’s upper house of parliament on Tuesday as they confirmed his appointment. Russia must resort to “everything efficient and innovative” to secure victory, he said.

Belousov, an economist with no military background, said President Vladimir Putin appointed him to the post “to ensure the full integration of the economy of the armed forces into the general economy of the country.” Spiraling defense spending now exceeds 6.7% of Russia’s gross domestic product, he said.

Putin ousted Sergei Shoigu, who’d held the post since 2012, to appoint 65-year-old Belousov late Sunday in a surprise shuffle of his defense and security team following his inauguration last week for a fifth term as president. Shoigu was moved to a new role as secretary of Russia’s Security Council.

READ MORE: New Russian Defense Minister Is Devoted to Putin and State Power

Belousov said he has no plans for another mobilization and will focus on recruiting more people as contract soldiers for the army. Putin announced a September 2022 draft of 300,000 reservists that triggered a spike in public anxiety over the war and prompted an exodus of hundreds of thousands of people from the country.

With Russian forces now on the offensive in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, Belousov told lawmakers he aimed to improve supplies of weapons, ammunition and other equipment to frontline troops.

That would require tighter control over spending and costs to provide resources for new weapons and clear planning for production, he said.

Belousov will go with Putin to China and accompany him to an informal meeting with President Xi Jinping on Thursday together with Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the Interfax news service reported, citing Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov, who’ll also be present.

(Updates with details of China visit in the final paragraph.)

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