Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 219

A new piece of the Russian arms export puzzle was put in place on November 16 when it was announced in Moscow that Mikhail Dmitriev has been named a deputy minister of defense for industry, science and technology. The appointment is important because it apparently means that Dmitriev will exercise oversight of Russian arms dealings with foreign countries. Earlier this month Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly transferred responsibility for Russian arms exports from the Ministry of Industry, Science and Technology to the Defense Ministry. It was unclear, however, exactly who in the Defense Ministry would wield that authority and how the matter would be arranged administratively.

Dmitriev’s appointment is also important because it marks yet another Putin move to place a career intelligence officer in a key government post. Russian reports indicated that the 53-year-old Dmitriev served for years in the KGB and now carries the rank of lieutenant general in one of that organization’s successor agencies: the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. According to one Russian account Dmitriev once “headed a major foreign intelligence directorate (the information and analysis directorate).”

The Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta noted that naming a foreign intelligence official to a top Defense Ministry post is unusual. Dmitriev, moreover, reportedly has few ties to the military and no experience in arms trading. Although the newspaper Moskovsky komsomolets suggested that Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov pushed Dmitriev’s appointment, the bigger truth appears to be that three key positions in Russia’s restructured arms export hierarchy are now in the hands of former intelligence officials. These include not only Dmitriev, but also Andrei Belyaninov, the new general director of the equally new state arms trading company Rosoboroneksport, and–albeit indirectly–Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov. The appointments of both Dmitriev and Belyaninov (who also lacks experience in the arms trade business) suggest that Russia’s KGB-officer-turned-president is prepared to sacrifice professional expertise in order to place individuals with backgrounds similar to his own atop the lucrative arms export hierarchy (Nezavisimaya gazeta, Moskovsky komsomolets, November 16).

In addition to appointing Dmitriev, Putin also moved last week to create a new government commission which will devote itself to questions related to Russia’s arm export dealings. Putin himself will chair the commission. Kasyanov will serve as his deputy. Others named to the commission include Dmitriev and Sergei Ivanov, presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov (who oversees defense production issues within the cabinet and will serve as secretary of the new commission), Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, presidential adviser Sergei Prikhodko and both Sergei Lebedev and Nikolai Patrushev, the heads of Russia’s two main intelligence agencies–the Foreign Intelligence Service and the Federal Security Service, respectively (, November 18).

It is unclear what the committee’s precise duties will be, or whether it will meet regularly. Under President Boris Yeltsin there were a number of restructurings of the arms export hierarchy as well as a proliferation of state agencies related to the arms trade. It remains to be seen whether Putin’s recent moves are just another and similar reshuffling of the deck, or whether they reflect a real effort to rationalize and improve Russia’s sales efforts in this area.