Staunton, June 10 – The growing costs of Putin’s war in Ukraine are hitting two groups of Russians, the people in big cities who were either employed by foreign companies or who benefited from outside investment and the much larger group of impoverished Russians outside the megalopolises, Vladislav Inozemtsev says.
Because the former have savings, more opportunities to find alternative sources of income, and even the ability and willingness to leave the country, they are in a far better position to weather the economic hardships that the war has imposed than are those elsewhere in Russia, the economist says (ridl.io/ru/bednye-protiv-vojny/).
The latter have far fewer or even no savings, cannot count on being able to find new employment if they are laid off, and are less able or interested in leaving the country to live and work abroad; and because they are Putin’s base, the government has done more to cushion their situation with subsidies and adjustments to pensions.
So far, Inozemtev continues, the government has been able to prevent these economic hardships from triggering protests in the regions against the war; but there are two reasons to think that this ability may be limited. On the one hand, unemployment outside of the megalopolises is far more likely to go up than in earlier crises.
And on the other, both groups are likely to be hit by social fatigue the longer the war goes one with those beyond the ring road far more likely to display this sooner because they lack the resources to defend against it. Belt tightening in the regions may be all right if it is brief but not when people recognize that the decline is likely to be permanent.
Because that is so, the potential for social explosions in reaction to the costs of the war is likely to be far greater in the smaller cities and rural areas than in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Inozemtsev argues.
If the Russian opposition wants to take advantage of this, it “must not only denounce Moscow’s obviously criminal actions in Ukraine,” the commentator says, “but it must also consistently explain the connection between current events and the standstill in Russia’s economic growth.”
So far, the opposition has not done this; and the Putin regime has been able to get Russians especially outside of the major cities to believe that anyone except the Kremlin and its imperialistic policies is to blame for the problems the Russian people face. If that changes, social explosions beyond the ring road are almost inevitable if the war goes on for long.