Russia cuts military budget

It became clear after the end of the Cold War that the then USSR was finding that the cost of maintaining parity with the US military was crippling them economically. There have been suggestions that the US deliberately ramped up their defense spending in order to achieve the goal of straining the USSR’s finances. While Russia now seems to have ceded dominance to the US, they have clearly shifted to a mode where they accept second-tier status while still maintaining enough strength to serve their own needs.

Now comes news that the Russian military budget is being cut drastically this year.

Figures from the Russian Federal Treasury show that the defense budget has been cut by 25.5 percent for 2017, falling from 3.8 trillion rubles to 2.8 trillion rubles. IHS Jane’s, one of the most authoritative sources on defense news, said the move represents “the largest cut to military expenditure in the country since the early 1990s.”

Let’s put this in context before we move on: The cuts come after significant military budget increases in recent years (averaging about 19.8 percent a year since 2011) as Putin sought to revamp the Russian military and replace a massive chunk of Soviet-era hardware by 2020.

There’s also some quibbling going on over the figures used by Jane’s. Some experts believe the cut is more like 7 percent when the impact of debt repayment to defense industry firms is taken into account.

Either way, the Russian defense budget is being cut — and not insignificantly — at a time when we’re being told Moscow is a grave threat to peace-loving people everywhere. There are a number of reasons for the cuts, the most obvious being that the Russian economy has been put under pressure due to Western sanctions and reduced oil and gas prices. So no, the cuts don’t come from the goodness of Putin’s heart — but it’s clear that he doesn’t see Russia as being on course for major military conflict with the West in the immediate future.

This move comes at the same time that Donald Trump is seeking to massively increase the already bloated US military budget by 10% while cutting back on pretty much all programs that actually help people.

So maybe the Russians are waiting to see if it is turn of the US to bankrupt itself by spending money on useless weaponry, creating an economy that is rotten at the core while shielded by a shiny military shell.


  1. says

    The story is that Reagan helped collapse the USSR by getting them to spend themselves into collapse.

    That may be true, but the US hasn’t reduced its spending since then, and now is increasing it. Maybe Putin is actually the mighty chessmaster the US establishment thinks he is: he’s helping finalize the military/industrial/congressional complex’ take-over of the country, because he knows they’ll parasitize it to death.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    If I knew more about judo, I could draw some deep analogies about how one pulls back to get one’s opponent off-balance and get him to use his own strength and mass to defeat himself.

    But I don’t, while Putin does*, so I guess we’ll have to wait for his memoirs, or those of a close strategic aide.

    * The linked search has some stories claiming VP has a black belt in judo; others say he has one in kyokushin-kan karate, and a couple mention taekwando (though one describes that last as honorary). Now … how to get Steve Bannon to convince his meatpuppet to take a swing at Vlad next time they’re in the same room?

  3. jrkrideau says

    Maybe Putin is actually the mighty chessmaster the US establishment thinks he is

    I doubt it. From a few things I have read about him and his moves in the Crimea and in assisting Syria I think he is more inclined to have a very general game-plan and make sudden decisions when it seems urgent. I don’t think he’s a Metternich or Bismark.

    On the other hand, he has had first hand experience of a declining power collapsing and he may just be planning on sitting back and watching the fun—with a pious prayer the USA does not do something totally stupid

    There seem to be some parallels in the CCCP in the 1980’s and the USA at the moment in terms of bloated military, stupid military entanglements, decaying infrastructure, poor health care and an inefficient industrial sector though in the case of the USA it is not inefficient but fleeing. However despite the American oligarchs best efforts the USA still as a much larger and much, much more efficient industrial sector than the USSR had sp it is bound to have a lot more resiliance.

    I’d guess that there are several reasons for Russia’s reduction in defence spending. First it is likely to be putting a considerable strain on the economy that Putin is unlikely to want. The last I heard his approval ratings are in the 80 percent range and much of that must rest on the improved standards of living the Russian people are enjoying.

    Second, with the exception of the USA, Russia has no real enemies of consequence—heck, US policies have helped engender a rapprochement with China even—and there is not point in trying to outbid the USA in an arms race.

    Russia has been rearming fairly quickly and IIRC they have brought a number of new land weapons and aircraft into commission all ready. Putin may feel that enough of the new generation of weapons are in commission to discourage US aggression and that Russia can afford a slower rearming pace from now on.

    And lastly, I doubt that he or his cabinet and advisers are owned by the Russian military-industrial complex. He has proven perfectly able to knock off the occasional obstreperous oligarch or do a quick purge of a fleet to keep people in line. So if he and his government feel a reduction in defence spending is necessary, it is necessary.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    he is more inclined to have a very general game-plan and make sudden decisions when it seems urgent

    Sounds like the perfect strategy. Have a goal in mind but be flexible in the moment about how you get there.

    how to get Steve Bannon to convince his meatpuppet to take a swing at Vlad next time they’re in the same room?

    I think the bigger challenge would be stopping Drumpf from dropping to his knees and unzipping Vlad’s flies. He’s not exactly critical of the man.

  5. naturalcynic says

    Could it be the simple strategy to make the Donald look like a good great guy by revamping his disastrous wonderful budget to make it even more excellenter.
    Trump declares victory by saying that he scared Putin into arms reduction with just a threat of an expanded military budget and now he can reduce offensive Defense spending back to Obama level and have enough money left over to afford to return Meals on Wheels, the Arts AND pay for his real sooper dooper health care plan.

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    Maybe Russia is cutting their military budget because they don’t need it any more. With Trump successfully placed in office, Russia doesn’t need more tanks and bombs, it just needs to sit back and wait for the inevitable implosion of their major opponent.

  7. jrkrideau says

    #5 naturalcynic

    I think the bigger challenge would be stopping Drumpf from dropping to his knees and unzipping Vlad’s flies.

    I am not worried about Trump, himself, and Russia and believe it or not, good relations between the USA and Russia makes perfectly good sense to any one who is not looking for a convenient scapegoat. To any one but an American, Trump’s statements sound quite reasonable.

    One really is not required to spit after each mention of Putin’s name. He is not necessarily the nicest person around but the USA has supported worse in its day.

    I am worried about a lot of the soi-disant “foreign policy analysts” who are still living in the 1970s. Too many of them see Russia as the bogyman or the monster under the bed.

    Hilary Clinton is/was the epitome of this dangerous idiocy and John McCain is another. Then there are all those irresponsible idiots claiming the Russians rigged the last presidential election by supporting Trump. And who knows what those fools like Kagan and associates from the Project for the New American Century may come up with.

    Most of these “foreign policy analysts” seem to be living in some kind of fantasy world, just as they were before the Iraq invasion. The real worry is if they manage to sell their delusions to a delusional President of the USA.

    #6 Reginald Selkirk
    Russia …t just needs to sit back and wait for the inevitable implosion of their major opponent.
    Well, as I mentioned earlier, there is no way Russia can out-build the USA so why not sit back and watch (and pray the fools in Washington don’t do anything totally stupid on the world stage).

    At the moment I worry that the USA is starting to look like Spain in the middle or late 17th C.

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    Apparently someone is still stuck in a Cold War mentality.

    Why Many Young Russians See a Hero in Putin
    by Julia Ioffe
    How did they come to be this way? Vladimir Putin is a big part of the answer. He came to power in 2000 as an anti-Nineties candidate just as this generation was becoming aware of the world around them. He promised to bring prosperity and security. Coasting on historically high oil prices and economic reforms implemented in the Nineties, Putin was able to fulfill much of that promise but at the expense of democratic freedoms.

    Stability and economic well-being became the ideology of the day, peppered with a heavy dose of nostalgia for the U.S.S.R. and a whitewashing of its sins. Putin called the disintegration of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. Whoever didn’t feel that, he said, “doesn’t have a heart.” Joseph Stalin became, in the business-friendly lingo of the day, an “effective manager” who went a bit too far. Textbooks and television came to reflect this new, state-sanctioned nostalgia. Today 58 percent of Russians would still like to see a return of the Soviet order, and some 40 percent see Stalin favorably…
    Since the beginning of his third presidential term, in 2012, Putin has promoted an even more aggressive neo-Soviet ideology, both at home and abroad. He fought to keep former Soviet republics, like Ukraine and Kazakhstan, in Moscow’s sphere of influence and flexed Russia’s military power in distant Syria…

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