Staunton, January 27 – Since Vladimir Putin became the country’s leader, he has spent a minimum of 609 billion US dollars on foreign actions, an amount that would have allowed Russia to build 15,000 new hospitals or Moscow to give 400,000 rubles (5700 US dollars) to each citizen of Russia, according to an investigation by Novaya gazeta.
Much of this was financed during the period when high oil and gas prices brought the Kremlin additional income, but it hasn’t stopped since prices have fallen, thus imposing an ever greater “tax” on the Russian people for Putin’s pursuit of Russian greatness through “geopolitical special operations” (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/01/27/88901-nalog-na-velichie).
And this amount is in addition to the more than one trillion US dollars that Russian officials and businessmen have parked abroad, another drain on the Russian economy and one that also constitutes a kind of “tax for greatness” that the Kremlin has felt free to impose on the Russian people.
A large fraction of this money – some 271 billion US dollars – has gone to support Russia’s geopolitical allies, including Ukraine in the past, Belarus up to now, the breakaway republics in Ukraine, and the unrecognized states of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transdniestria.
In addition, the journalists at the independent Moscow newspaper say, Moscow has spent 20 billion US dollars in assistance to Venezuela and three to seven billion US dollars on Syria. In many cases, this money has taken the form of price cuts for on Russian oil and gas, but it is still a burden on the Russian economy and the Russian people.
The second biggest component of Russia aid is for the construction of energy projects, some 224 billion US dollars, including 92 billion US dollars for Rosatom’s building of atomic power plants abroad. And the third category of the statistics gathered by Novaya gazeta involves debt forgiveness.
Most of this – some 116 billion US dollars – concerns debts to the old Soviet Union by African countries and Cuba.
At a time when many Russians can’t get adequate healthcare because of Putin’s shuttering of medical facilities across the country and can’t afford many of the things they expected that they would be able to have or at least give their children, such Kremlin spending is beyond question more than an minor irritant.
Indeed, when people start talking about such costs, they are already signaling that they don’t approve what their government has been doing and want those in power to know that spending on others when their own people are suffering is unacceptable and must be changed.