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Russia outspends West 2:1 in Ukraine war

Experts estimate Moscow’s military spending on Ukraine hits a staggering $200 billion, doubling the West’s $100 billion support to Kyiv. To secure 🇺🇦 success, Western investment must match Moscow’s commitment.
Poker player going all in. Photo: Depositphotos
Russia outspends West 2:1 in Ukraine war

Russia’s 2024 military budget is set at $112 billion, with an equivalent amount allocated to secret budget items, likely concealing military plans and spending on the war in Ukraine. Additionally, Putin draws on funds from oligarchs close to the Kremlin, expenditures not reflected in the official state budget.

Meanwhile, Western aid to Ukraine, especially from the US, hangs in the balance as Congress has yet to approve further funding for Kyiv. With Zelenskyy lobbying policymakers in Washington, Ukrainian forces already feel the effects of reduced support from partners.

Ukrainian troops on the frontline. Photo: General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine via Facebook

Given Russia’s vast, opaque military spending, for Ukraine to prevail, the West likely needs to invest amounts at least proportionate to Moscow’s. As such, the situation remains critical.

Euromaidan Press analyzed and compared the expenditures of the parties involved in the war in Ukraine.

Russia spent $200 billion on Ukraine war, no end in sight

The Russian federal budget is adopted once every three years. Therefore, at the end of November, Putin signed the law on the federal funding for 2024-2026. According to it, in 2024, under the “national defense” category, Russia will spend $112 billion. This accounts for one-third of the Russian budget, which is $404 billion. This is unprecedented for several reasons:

  1. The Russian military budget for 2024 is 70% larger than in 2023;
  2. For the first time in modern Russian history, defense spending is expected to surpass social spending in 2024;
  3. Russia has spent an equivalent amount on the military only in the last years of the existence of the Soviet Union.

Within the “national defense” category, funding is allocated not only for the Russian military but also for the military-industrial complex and social payments to participants in combat operations. 

“Everything for the front lines, everything for victory,” declared Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, commenting on the document.

Experts say the budget signals Russia’s intent to perpetuate military confrontation with the West and continue fighting in Ukraine indefinitely. 

“This amounts to the wholesale remilitarization of Russian society,” said Richard Connolly, a specialist in Russia’s military and economy at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

Putin declares goal to reshape global order, funds major military surge

Russia’s war expenditure is shrouded in secrecy, as part of the budget remains classified, hinting at potentially higher concealed costs. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that the “national defense” line in Russia’s official budgets covers only about three-quarters of total military spending.

Forbes Ukraine’s calculations indicate an average daily spending of $300 million on the war and a total of $167.3 billion as of 24 August 2023. This suggests total Russian expenses as of date near $200 billion.

“With this money, Moscow could build almost 24,000 kindergartens across Russia, or over 4,500 maternity wards, or around 17,000 schools, or around 1,300 hospitals, or rebuild 20% of all paved roads in Russia. Instead, Russian war criminals have bombed Ukrainian kindergartens, maternity wards, schools, and hospitals, destroying almost 120,000 civilian structures in all,” wrote Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba on Twitter/X. 

West’s military aid to Ukraine: $100 billion — half of Russia’s spending

According to Ukraine’s Finance Minister, Serhiy Marchenko, Russia’s military budget for 2024 surpasses Ukraine’s military budget by more than double. Therefore, support from the West is critically vital for Kyiv.

“Ukraine’s budget for the military campaign in 2024 is $40.7 billion, while Russia’s is $115 billion, more than 2.5 times higher. The share of military expenditures is over 50% of the total budget and about 21% of GDP in 2024. Our financial needs for external assistance in 2024 amount to $41 billion,” stated Marchenko.

Despite the urgency, US aid for Ukraine is entangled in domestic politics. President Biden proposed nearly $106 billion in emergency spending, with around $61 billion allocated for a year of assistance to Ukraine and $13.6 billion for securing the US-Mexico border. However, the military aid package is currently stuck in Congress, facing resistance from Republicans prioritizing domestic border security. 

To address the situation, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy arrived in Washington DC on 11 December, aiming to salvage the jeopardized defense package, with a meeting scheduled with President Biden the next day.

“As Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, the leaders will discuss Ukraine’s urgent needs and the vital importance of the US’ continued support at this critical moment,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Sunday.

During his visit, Zelenskyy will meet with Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson and address the Senate in person. This is a crucial chance for him to persuade senators to approve more Ukraine aid before they go into recess at the end of this week.

A bipartisan group is trying to finalize a border security agreement to allow further Ukraine funding. White House budget chief Shalanda Young warned that failing to approve new funding before year’s end threatens to “kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield.”

“What happens if Putin marches through Ukraine, what’s next? NATO countries, our sons and daughters are at risk of being a part of a larger conflict. And it’s not just Putin — other dictators are watching what Congress is doing,” Young said during an interview on CBS. 

This week is crucial for Ukraine as the European Union decides whether to open formal accession talks. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban opposes this and can block the decision. Orban is also blocking a $53.8 billion EU aid package for Ukraine, which is up for discussion at the Brussels summit on December 14-15.

Orban and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had an apparently intense conversation when they met Sunday at the Argentinian president’s inauguration, though the details remain private.

“We spoke with maximum honesty, clearly, about our European affairs,” Zelenskyy said in his daily address.

US officials claim to have provided Ukraine with $113 billion in assistance since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion. However, the German Kiel Institute reports a lower figure of $77 billion, attributing the discrepancy to additional costs hidden within American initiatives, such as the reinforcement of NATO forces in Eastern Europe, which, linked to Russia’s invasion, may not directly benefit Ukraine.

Government support to Ukraine. Photo: ifw-kiel.de

According to these calculations, Western assistance to Ukraine amounts to €241.5 billion, or approximately $259 billion. However, when excluding macro-financial and humanitarian aid and focusing solely on military aid, the figure drops significantly to 92.54 billion or $100 billion, which is over twice less than Russia’s $200 billion (as of December 2023).

Government support to Ukraine: Military aid. Photo: ifw-kiel.de

What are the West’s goals in the war?

Ukraine is also allocating a substantial sum for the war, with Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko stating a monthly expenditure of $3.5 billion. Over the 21-month full-scale conflict with Russia, Kyiv has spent $74 billion.

While part of this amount likely comes from foreign aid and loans, let’s consider it nonetheless. Adding $100 billion in Western aid and $74 billion from the Ukrainian budget brings the total to $174 billion, almost matching Russia’s reported $200 billion expenditure. This aligns with the situation on the front lines, where there has been little movement in recent months.

Ukrainian troops on the frontline. Photo: General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine via Facebook

Moscow openly plans to continue the war, allocating at least $112 billion more. Meanwhile, Western aid to Ukraine faces uncertainty.

This prompts the question — what are the West’s goals? Western investment must remain substantial and comparable to Russia’s if the aim is an eventual Ukrainian victory. The key questions should focus on how aid money can be spent most effectively, not territorial gains for arbitrary dollar amounts.

Sanctions offer a pathway to reduce Russia’s capacity to wage war, limiting the Western expenditures required for Ukraine’s defense. However, Western sanctions have had a moderate impact thus far.

Strategic investment also matters, allocating funds where Ukraine’s forces can utilize quality solutions over quantity. This aligns with Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi’s recent article — not a prognostication of perpetual stalemate as some may portray it.

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