Staunton, June 19 – Vladimir Putin has increased Russia’s defense spending to 7.4 percent of GDP, more than twice the share of such spending by the United States (3.1 percent) and nearly four times the figure for China (1.7 percent), something that has depressed much of the rest of the Russian economy more than sanctions and is now prompting dissent.
Those figures, gathered by Radio Liberty analysts, are now becoming a regular feature in Russian commentaries which point out that it is this enhanced military spending has contributed to Russia’s economic decline and the impoverishment of the population (rusmonitor.com/putin-tratit-na-vojjnu-74-vvp-istoshhaya-ehkonomiku-medicinu-i-obrazovanie-smi.html).
And now ever more Russians are beginning to protest, arguing that Putin’s spending on the war in Syria, for example, is depriving them of much needed infrastructure and social welfare spending at home. Opposition leader Grigory Yavlinsky points to a petition drive to demand a reordering of Moscow’s priorities (yavlinsky.ru/news/mir/domoi).
In commenting upon it, he notes that Moscow has already spent at least 100 billion rubles on its war in Syria, an amount that could build 400 kindergartens, cure 360,000 cancer victims, increase the financing of universities, and boost payments for children’s needs.
“One firing of the Kaliber cruise missile costs 85 million rubles,” an amount equal to the average pay of 2500 teachers or 2000 doctors,” Yavlinsky says, and to many other needs of Russians who today cannot make ends meet or get the health care or education that they and the country requires for a better future.
“Today,” he continues, “the president and the government do not have the desire or political will for changing things in our country.” Therefore, he is calling “as an economist, a politician and a human being to end the war in Syria, to end Russia’s participation in any military adventures and to return the attention of the state and budget to Russia.”
Petitions to that effect which circulated in Omsk, Barnaul, and Pskov in May found enormous support for that idea, Yavlinsky says. Russians overwhelmingly want “the construction of normal roads,” hospitals, schools and libraries to be kept open, and housing to be improved. They are less than completely enthusiastic about sending money abroad.
The opposition leader says that he will make this a centerpiece of his campaign for president. “The time has come to act together,” to bring Russia once again “home.”