A new law allows Vladimir Putin to force Russian companies to produce for the military. Russia expert Stefan Meister speaks of the “conversion to a war economy”. This is Putin’s reaction to setbacks in the Ukraine war and the sanctions.

Barely five months after the criminal attack on Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has heralded a new phase in his war strategy. This Thursday, the head of the Kremlin signed a law that allows the government “special measures” for military operations abroad.

With this drastic step, Moscow can now oblige individual industries to gear their production to the ongoing war and to supply the Russian armed forces. Employees of companies can be forced to work nights, weekends and public holidays and to forego holidays.

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Putin has thus introduced an intensified form of the planned economy customary in socialism. Stefan Meister, an expert on Russian domestic, foreign and security policy at the German Foreign Policy Association (DGAP), even speaks of the beginning of a “conversion to a war economy”.

Meister to FOCUS Online: “The law is ultimately about the state being able to dictate to Russian companies how much they produce, how long they work, to what extent they have to adjust the prices for their products or services.”

With the Putin law “market rules would be undermined”. Master: “The state can now massively intervene in the Russian economy and direct certain companies to supply the military in the war against Ukraine.”

The Russia expert cites the following as the probable reasons for the measure: “Bottlenecks in supplying the army, high material losses, bottlenecks in the repair and maintenance of military technology, preparation for a longer war that requires more technology and maintenance in the long term. Western sanctions that have created bottlenecks in production.”

Basically, Putin’s step is a sign that “the Russian leadership is preparing for a longer war and is creating the economic conditions for it.” Parts of the Russian economy are geared towards supplying the Russian army and security organs in the war against Ukraine. “This gives the war for the Russian economy priority over civilian products,” said Stefan Meister to FOCUS Online.

When Volodymyr Zelenskyy – by then a popular actor and comedian – surprisingly won Ukraine’s presidential election in 2019, the world assumed he would be a weak leader and easily swayed by the Kremlin with the help of the oligarchs. But the opposite was the case: Selenskyj proved to be a man with backbone, courageous and inflexible. In the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he became a true statesman, commanding respect even from his enemies.

The expert doubts that the Red regent in the Kremlin will achieve his goal of finally bringing Ukraine to its knees. “The lack of Western technology persists due to the sanctions and will continue to hit the Russian economy massively in the production of more modern military technology. Even if you switch to a war economy, certain components will be missing.”

Nevertheless, Putin will leave no stone unturned to “compensate for supply and maintenance bottlenecks and thus permanently better equip the Russian army”. The new law is an admission by Moscow that the war will last longer and that the Russian economy can only compensate for the bottlenecks in a different work regime.

“It remains to be seen whether this really works,” said Meister to FOCUS Online. “Should Ukraine receive modern Western military technology on a larger scale, that will have more of an impact on the further course of the war than this decision by Putin.”