Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday a partial mobilization. According to the decree of the president of Russia, the partial conscription will call for 300,000 additional people to serve in Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.
According to Bloomberg, however, Vladimir Putin also wants to spend far more on the military over the next two years than originally planned, as Russia adjusts the budget to meet the needs of a long and increasingly costly war in Ukraine.
The defense budget will increase by at least 43%, while spending on the closely related category of national security and public order will increase by more than 40%, according to the Russian president’s three-year budget plan.
Budget provisions are reallocated in favor of military needs, leaving areas such as environmental protection behind. With almost 5 trillion rubles ($84 billion) or 3.3% of the Gross Domestic Product, “national defense” funds are now second on the list, after social spending.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimates that the term “national defense” in the Russian budget accounts for about three-quarters of total military spending and concerns the financing of operational costs and arms procurement.
In contrast, spending on education and culture increases little in 2023, according to the document. Environmental spending will be about a quarter less than originally forecast, at 0.2% of GDP. The original plan called for defense spending to fall to 2.4 percent in 2023, from an estimated 3.2 percent in 2022 and 2.6 percent in 2021.
The change reflects a greater commitment to a war that has already cost Ukraine and Russia dearly in blood and money. The battlefield setbacks led Vladimir Putin to escalate his efforts, initially announcing a “partial mobilization” of up to 300,000 reservists.
The draft budget sets the cost of conscription at almost 16 billion rubles in 2023 and 16.5 billion rubles each year for the 2024-2025 biennium. Other details of military spending remain classified.
Russia was in the top five countries with the highest defense spending worldwide, according to SIPRI.
This recruitment will have the economic impact of deepening this year’s contraction to -3.75%, mainly due to a reduction in the workforce and brain drain.
The government approved the draft budget on Thursday, which is expected to be voted on by both houses of Parliament.
According to the latest forecasts, the deficit will widen to 2% of GDP, from 0.9% in 2022. Also, annual borrowing of up to 1 billion dollars in foreign currencies is foreseen.
Public finances have held up better than expected in the post-invasion period, thanks in part to gains from higher commodity costs.
However, withdrawals from the sovereign wealth fund mean the budget surplus will shrink by more than $3 trillion. rubles in two years. The government would also have to offset the higher costs with rising taxes.
The budget also includes more money for “patriotic education” and increased spending on outfitting schools with national symbols.
Demonstrations in favor of referendums in Ukraine
Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered this afternoon in Moscow and St Petersburg to show their support for “referendums” on the annexation of four Ukrainian regions to Russia, denounced by Kyiv and its allies.
In Moscow, the demonstration began in the early afternoon very close to Red Square, according to footage broadcast by Russian television.
50,000 people marching in Moscow in support of the referendums. Don’t let western media give you the illusion of division in Russia. pic.twitter.com/rflWVOvGZE— ayden (@squatsons) September 23, 2022
In Manez Square, the crowd gathered in front of the statue of Marshal Zhukov, perhaps the most important military leader of the Soviet Union during World War II. On the platform that had been set up on this occasion, many representatives of political parties went up to defend, one after the other, the “referendums”.
“For freedom”, “The beginning of a new common history” or “a historical moment” were some of the slogans that were heard.
Those gathered held Russian flags with the letter “Z”, the symbol of the military operation in Ukraine, or orange and black St. George ribbons, the symbol of the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany.
Many placards read the slogan “We will not abandon our people”, a message to the Russian-speaking people of Donbas, Kherson and Zaporizhia, whom Moscow says it wants to “save”.
In St. Petersburg, a few hundred protesters also gathered around the Peter and Paul Fortress, the historic center of the city.
A 20-year-old student, Sergei Korzunov, told AFP he supported the referendums because “if these people want to join Russia, we will not argue.” A little further away, 40-year-old Viktor Suvorov said he “wants peace, for people to stop dying, for soldiers to go home.” “These referendums are a step towards peace,” he wants to believe.
“The residents (of the areas Russia wants to incorporate) have been suffering for eight years,” said Anna Glazkova, a 58-year-old woman, to justify her presence at the rally. This argument was invoked by Natalia (she did not want to give her last name) because “the people of Donbass and other regions are waiting for our help” after “they killed them, destroyed them, bombed them”.
About 50,000 people also gathered in Grozny, Chechnya, according to local authorities. Demonstrations in support of Vladimir Putin’s decree were also held in various cities in Siberia and the Russian Far East.