Putin’s New War Weapon: An Economist Managing the Military

To President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, appointing a new defense minister provides a new building block toward fighting a long war.

That was evident in Moscow on Monday when Andrei R. Belousov, the economist who was Mr. Putin’s surprise pick to lead Russia’s sprawling defense ministry, made his first public appearance in his new role and spoke about bureaucracy rather than the battlefield.

It reflects an acknowledgment that the military production that is supplying Russia’s war, and heating its economy, must be carefully managed to sustain a war of attrition with Ukraine.

At the same time, Russia is playing the long game on the battlefield. In northeastern Ukraine, Russian forces mounting a new offensive are pushing forward slowly rather than attempting major breakthroughs to big cities, as they did at the beginning of the war — with disastrous results.

In televised remarks at Russia’s upper house of Parliament on Monday, which is expected to rubber-stamp his nomination, Mr. Belousov emphasized the bureaucratic details of the fast-growing military effort, and made no reference to the situation at the front. He described his priorities as improving standards of care and living for soldiers, veterans and their families.

The excessive paperwork that fighters faced in obtaining benefits, he said, ought to be addressed “in the framework of interagency electronic coordination.”

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