Putin Takes Greater Control Of Russia's Defense Sector

3 MINS READSep 8, 2014 | 09:42 GMT
Putin Takes More Control Over Russia's Defense Sector
Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev (L), President Vladimir Putin (2nd L) and World War II veterans watch a military parade in Moscow.

This week, the Kremlin will shift control of the Russian Military Industrial Commission from the government, under the supervision of Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The commission was created in 2006, marrying Russia's Ministry of Defense to the military industrial complex, including state and private contractors as well as foreign partners. With Moscow facing heightened security concerns as instability continues on its borders and as NATO looks to strengthen its position against Russia, Putin is signaling that he will take personal control over the efficiency of Russia's defense groups.

After the shift, current commission chief Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin will continue performing his duties, though his title will change to first deputy chairman as Putin assumes the chairman's post. The rest of the commission's members will continue in their current posts, and Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov will join the commission as executive secretary. Rogozin is known to be extremely hawkish in his defense strategies and has deep connections with and loyalties to the military industrial complex. Conversely, Borisov is less hawkish, and his loyalties lie closer to the military and to current Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Having Rogozin and Borisov in positions of similar power within the commission will help Putin balance the needs of each part of the defense sector.

In recent years, there has been intense infighting between Russia's Defense Ministry and the military industrial complex. The infighting reportedly has contributed to miscommunication between the ministry and the military industrial sector during times when the ministry had high industrial demand.

This is not the first time Putin has pulled an overarching commission directly under his control. In 2013, he created and gave himself authority over of the Commission for the Development of the Fuel and Energy Complex, which oversees all aspects of Russia's energy industry, including ministries and companies. In doing this, Putin attempted to limit the infighting among the personalities in Russia's energy circles while simultaneously streamlining Russia's energy strategy at a time when the energy sector, facing frictions with the West, sought to expand in the east. Despite questions about the effectiveness of giving Putin oversight over so many complex and important groups, it is becoming increasingly evident that the president wishes to have the last say on every major issue in Russia, without relying heavily on his Politburo.

Besides calming the tensions between the Defense Ministry and the military industrial sector, Putin had another reason for moving the Military Industrial Commission out of the government's purview. There is currently a fierce struggle within Medvedev's government over the upcoming budget for 2015 and the draft budget for 2016-2017. Most of those involved in the process, particularly Economic Minister Alexei Ulyukayev and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, are concerned with expanding Russia's defense budget amid growing financial difficulties.

These concerns include Russia's proposed rearmament program that requires $770 billion over the next 10 years, a 25 percent increase in defense spending. This increase was planned to start in 2013, but it was delayed because of financial constraints. The expansion is now planned to begin in 2015, though it again faces criticisms within Medvedev's Cabinet. With Putin pulling the defense portfolio under his direct control, this could indicate that the president will himself make the final decision on this and all other defense spending. Ultimately, with security tensions on the rise, Putin has signaled that he is committed to creating a self-sufficient and robust military industrial sector to protect Russia and its interests.

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