In total, the United States has committed more than $18.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since January, and approximately $17.9 billion since Russia launched its unprovoked and brutal invasion on February 24. The war has now become the largest and costliest in Europe since 1945, and Russia could be spending an estimated $900 million to $1 billion a day. Moreover, the war could cost the global economy $2.8 trillion!
Russia has attempted to obscure the costs of the war, even as some analysts have suggested Moscow could afford at least two more years of conflict before the country is simply drained of resources. A draft of Russia’s planned spending for 2023 shows that about a quarter of its budget would be marketed for “unknown use,” which according to a Bloomberg report could be an attempt to obscure the costs of the war.
About $112 billion, or roughly 6.5 trillion rubles of the total budget of 29 trillion rubles, were classified or for unspecified allocations. The Kremlin has simply stopped publicizing any economic details about where it is spending much of its money.
In With the Old
Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin may have the financial resources to carry on the war for another two years thanks to the oil price boom in the 2000s. That revenue windfall allowed Putin to strengthen his position domestically, and dramatically increase military expenditures.
Yet, Putin has also failed to invest in domestic infrastructure – and Russia’s highways, bridges, railroads, and airports are in a sorry state of disrepair. Moreover, according to a recent Wilson Center report, Putin has made “national defense’ the only major item in Russia’s budget – until 2016, it was never reduced in nominal terms. Education, health care, infrastructure, and social payments have all been cut at one point or another.
The strategy isn’t paying off.
Even as Russia may be able to pay for the war – at the cost of its infrastructure and education – for two more years, the question is whether the Kremlin will have the men and material to do so. Russia’s losses of tanks have been so great; it has been forced to call up vast numbers of T-62 main battle tanks (MBTs). The tanks are hardly up to the fight, as dozens have already been destroyed.
In addition, Ukraine has now captured enough of the Cold War MBTs, it could create its own T-62 tank battalion!
An even worse portent of how the war is going is the appearance of the AKM rifle on the battlefield. The improved version of the AK-47, which was introduced in 1959, was once the staple small arm of the Soviet Army.
In the late 1970s, the AKM was replaced by the AK-74. In addition to being an even more accurate and lighter weapon, the new rifle was chambered for 5.45mm ammunition, whereas the AKM fired the older 7.62mm. Though both calibers are still used by the Russian military, this will still mean that infantry will need to be issued with two different types of rounds – causing logistics headaches for the ordnance personnel.
According to other reports, several thousand newly mobilized soldiers have been deployed to the front lines with equipment that has been described as antiquated or past its usefulness, while many had little to no training. There are stories that are evocative of the opening scenes of the film Barbarians at the Gate, where Red Army soldiers weren’t issued rifles and instead told to pick up the weapons of their comrades, or the newly released All Quiet on the Western Front, where fresh recruits can be seen sent to the front with no training whatsoever – only to be quickly slaughtered.
It is also reminiscent of what Imperial Russia faced in the First World War when its soldiers also were sent into combat ill-prepared for the fight. It was the failure of the army, and the suffering the people at home faced, which led to the downfall of the centuries-old monarchy.
Putin may have the money to keep up the fight, but Russia is running increasingly low on modern equipment. Worst of all, it has to worry about morale. Even with the best military hardware, an army is only a fighting force if its soldiers are willing to keep up the fight. Increasingly it looks like Russia is facing a military collapse, and there is likely little Putin can do to address that issue.
The question is whether Ukraine can hold out until Putin’s collapse begins.
A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.