Russian society is starting to push back on President Vladimir Putin and his costly campaign in Ukraine.
Ukraine War: Public Pushback and War Budgets
Last week, Russian opposition politician Boris Nadezhdin went on national television and called for the election of another president next year and the rebuilding of foreign relations with the European Union.
“Nadezhdin has been a vocal critic of the war since the invasion, but this is highly likely the first call for Putin to be replaced on Russian state-approved TV since it began,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.
Putin has cracked down on Russian society, restricting freedom of speech and prosecuting anyone who opposes the war in Ukraine.
“However, there is a realistic possibility that recent vitriolic rhetoric by nationalist figures such as Wagner Group owner Yevgeny Prigozhin is emboldening opposition figures to challenge taboo topics,” the British Military Intelligence added.
Criticism comes at a point when the Kremlin has to increase defense spending to support the “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the Russian Ministry of Defense grew its budget by 9.2 percent last year to a total of approximately $86.4 billion. This means that the Kremlin funneled an additional 4 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to the armed forces and spent an astounding 19 percent of its GDP on the military. (These numbers are based on open-source information and don’t include classified funds.)
For comparison, the United States spent about 3 percent of its GDP on defense in the same time period. However, the U.S. still managed to have a defense budget of almost $900 billion. The discrepancies between Russian and U.S. spending underlie the difference in the economic power of the two countries.
What is worst for the Kremlin is that despite the increased military spending, the Russian forces on the ground in Ukraine have nothing to show for it. Indeed, not only the Russian military and its supporting forces have failed to achieve any major objectives, but they have also ceded the strategic initiative to the Ukrainians, who are about to launch a large-scale counteroffensive in the upcoming weeks.
But the Kremlin is also troubled by extremely heavy casualties.
Another day in the war, another batch of Russian troops killed or wounded. On day 462 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian forces lost approximately 400 troops and several heavy weapon systems.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Thursday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 208,370 Russian troops.
Equipment destroyed includes: 313 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 298 attack and transport helicopters, 3,804 tanks, 3,474 artillery pieces, 7,478 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 575 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 6,239 vehicles and fuel tanks, 333 anti-aircraft batteries, 3,131 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 458 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 1,107 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy, Cybersecurity, and Intelligence at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.