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vladimir putin with soldiers Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

The Toll of Putin’s Wars

By intervening in Syria, annexing Crimea, and sustaining military presence in Eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to have overextended himself. With an annual growth rate of just 1.5%, Russia is now expending 5.3% of its GDP on its military budget, while losing another 3-4% to legal, civilian, and other costs.

STOCKHOLM – Wars are expensive, as the Russian people are now learning. The Kremlin is pursuing military adventures in Eastern Ukraine and Syria, and though these conflicts are limited in scope, one wonders if the country can really afford them.

As the world’s 11th largest economy, Russia can manage in the short term. But the long term is quite another matter. From 2008 to 2016, Russia increased its military expenditures from 3.3% of GDP – which roughly corresponds to the current US level – to 5.3%, according to the authoritative Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

According to the Russian government’s own fiscal statistics – which remain surprisingly open – its civilian expenditures in occupied Crimea come to around $2 billion per year. And while there are no public data on its presence in Eastern Ukraine, it is safe to assume that the costs there are roughly the same, in which case Russia is spending $4 billion per year – 0.3% of GDP – on these two operations alone.

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