Russian government cuts expenditures as it struggles to finance mobilization

The Russian government is facing a budgetary crunch as it struggles to shoulder the cost of the war in Ukraine. Its just-released financial plan for 2023 will reduce federal spending to 17 percent of GDP compared to 20 percent this year. It projects that number will decline to 15 percent by 2025. While nominally expenditures will remain the same, the corrosive impact of an inflation rate that is running at over 13 percent and of the economic sanctions imposed by NATO is constraining Moscow’s pursue.

National defense, national security, and law enforcement will collectively make up the largest share of the 2023 budget, coming in at 9.127 trillion rubles ($147 billion), an increase over this year. However, spending specifically devoted to the armed forces is slated to be axed by nearly 30 percent. News of the cut provoked stunned commentary from lawmakers and others close to the military.

Duma Deputy Mikhail Delyagin stated, “Reading the budget of the Russian Federation for 2023, I feel in a parallel dimension,” and went on to imply that there was disarray within the Kremlin, which had prepared a budget “in new conditions that are little familiar and poorly understood.” “The financial wing of the government does not know what is happening in the country,” stated parliamentary representative Oksana Dmitrieva. “They believe that oil and gas revenues should be stored up, and this is their only idea, and no more have appeared.”

The apparent inability of the government to substantially increase allotments for national defense reflects on the one hand the crisis facing the country’s economy and on the other, the military and political miscalculations of the Kremlin, which appears to have thought that it would be able to force a settlement with NATO over Ukraine much earlier in the conflict. In an indication of the Putin government’s lack of preparation for the present state of affairs, no money is specifically set aside in the 2023 budget to finance the provisioning and payment of the 300,000 reservists just called up.

The “partial mobilization” that began in later September already appears to be in a state of semi-disorder. Responsibility for equipping troops—222,000 have already been draft and 16,000 of them sent to the front—has largely fallen on regional governments, which are scrambling to find everything from uniforms to first-aid packs for soldiers. There are shortages of military supplies and prices are rising.

Families are given list of things their sons are permitted to bring with them that bear little resemblance to what anyone is likely to have sitting around their attic. Newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported, “The ‘Explain.rf’ website, which was created to inform the population about the partial mobilization, has a list of items that conscripts can take with them. Among them: personal hygiene items, thermal underwear, a chemical heating pad, a flashlight, a balaclava, tactical gloves, a camping seat, batteries. Separately, it is noted that as personal belongings, you can also take with you a quadrocopter, binoculars, an optical sight and a night vision device.”


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