Staunton, September 26 – The draft military budget for 2020-2022 includes significant increases for the purchases of new military equipment, Vladimir Mukhin of Nezavisimaya gazeta says; “but as has been the case before, funds for the solution of the social problems of military personnel are either excluded or extremely limited,” a pattern that won’t please many soldiers.
The commentator says that the draft calls for an increase in military spending of only 6.6 percent, a rise mostly connected with inflation and one that means that defense spending as a percentage of GDP will fall from 3.2 percent now to 2.9 percent next year, given projected increases in the size of the economy (ng.ru/politics/2019-09-26/1_2_7687_army.html).
Defense officials say that this shows that Moscow has no intention of being drawn into an arms race, but the amount of money going for weapons is staggering, Mukhin says. Where there have been cuts or an absence of increases is in programs for the social needs of soldiers and officers.
The only significant exception to that is a 20 percent increase in spending for support of members of families of soldiers killed or made invalids in military activities. The increase, from 5.7 billion rubles to 7 billion (100 million to 120 million US dollars), could mean that those who have already suffered will get a bit more or that the Kremlin is planning for more such losses.
In Mukhin’s view, it means the latter, namely, that “the number of such people is increasing.” Given that Moscow doesn’t provide regular or reliable statistics on combat deaths or woundings, that is potentially very worrisome. That is likely because the government has refused to open to all wounded military hospitals which are free to accept or reject those applying.
A potentially more serious problem for more soldiers and officers is that the draft budget calls for raising salaries by 3.8 percent. This is “very small,” Mukhin says, especially since there has been no increase over the last five years. Now, experts say, he continues, officers and professional solders are being compensated at the same level as in 2012.
As has been true in recent years, officers and noncoms will be required to pay for their own vacations “although earlier this was done by the government.” They and their families will not have the opportunity for better treatment in military sanatoria and read homes,” and “compensation for this in the draft budget is not called over the next three years”