In a surprise shakeup with some potentially significant implications for US-Russian relations, Russian President Vladimir Putin has replaced his Ministers of Defense and Atomic Energy. The moves, coming as part of a broader government shake-up, is seen as a move by Putin to further consolidate his power by replacing holdovers from the previous Yeltsin administration with people directly loyal to him.

The new Minister of Defense is Sergei Ivanov, former head of the President's Security Council and of the FSB, the KGBs successor. The move was touted by Putin as a step towards "demilitarizing" the nation, stressing the need to have a civilian in charge of the military at a time when the military is increasingly undergoing conversion and downsizing. It was not immediately clear how Ivanov might move to address simmering issues within the military, such as reorganization of the conventional military forces or the development of nuclear weapons policy.

The new Minister of Atomic Energy is Alexander Yurievich Rumyantsev. The pick is a surprise in that Rumyantsev was previously the director of the independent Kurchatov Institute, which is not part of the Minatom organization. Previous heads of the ministry had all emerged from within the Minatom structure. The Kurchatov Institute has been at vocal supporter of nonproliferation cooperation with the United States and has clashed with Minatom over numerous issues in the past. Moreover, Rumyantsev is a solid state engineer, not a reactor designer or former weaponeer. It is not yet known how the appointment of Rumyantsev might affect ongoing cooperation between Russia and Iran, or programs with the United States.