ISSN 2330-717X

Even At Time Of Pandemic, Moscow Has Plenty Of Money For Guns But Not For Butter – OpEd

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Despite the pandemic, Moscow gave Russia’s siloviki ten percent more money in the first half of 2020 than they received during the same period a year earlier, setting a new record in the process, and paid for this buildup of the military and security services in part by cutting spending on healthcare and regional infrastructure.

According to a report by the Finanz.ru portal, the Russian government assigned 1.6 trillion rubles (25 billion US dollars) to the security sector, ten percent more than a year earlier. It did not give much more money to the emergency services ministry but rather to the armed forces and police (finanz.ru/novosti/aktsii/rossiya-uvelichila-raskhody-na-oboronu-do-novogo-rekorda-1029393592).

Citing finance ministry figures, the portal concludes that at least part of the money for this defense buildup came from cuts in programs for the development of the regions and the production of medicines, an indication of the Kremlin’s priorities for guns rather than butter. Indeed, the regime allowed one medicine producer to go bankrupt.

  • The Krizis-Kopilka portal provides details on just where and how deep these cuts were (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/78188):
  • Financing for state programs intended to promote the development of the North Caucasus Federal District fell from 2.5 billion rubles to 500 million (40 million US dollars to 8 million US dollars). Money for a similar program for Kaliningrad was cut by a quarter.
  • Spending on Arctic development, long a Putin priority and source of international concern, fell 94 percent.
  • And money for the development of medical and pharmaceutical branches fell from two billion rubles (30 million US dollars) in 2019 to 978 million rubles (14 million US dollars) the first half of this year.

Since the pandemic began, the negative impact of Vladimir Putin’s healthcare “optimization program,” a euphemism for massive cutbacks, has sparked anger among Russians who are now suffering as a result (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/04/pandemic-shows-putins-healthcare.html).

These new cutbacks and the fact that the Russian government is taking money needed for healthcare and regional development and giving it to the military and the police are likely to generate even more both among the population at large suffering from the coronavirus and regions suffering from Moscow’s increasingly repressive approach. 

Paul Goble

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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