Russia’s demographic abyss is the true price tag for the war in Ukraine

Financial analysts all point out that Russia has been successfully preparing to withstand the sanctions and to bankroll the war. While the sanctions that the war on Ukraine has triggered are much tougher than the worst-case scenario discussed among experts, Russia is still functioning ok financially.

Russia had a budget deficit in the 1990s, in 2009-2010 following the US subprime crisis, during the beginning of the war on Ukraine in 2014-2017, and now in 2022. But Russia won’t need to borrow. Its oil revenues have been filling the National Wealth Fund, a financial cushion, that will cover the 2022 budget deficit of $22 billion, the finance minister announced on April 27, 2022.

Russia did feel economic consequences of invading Crimea and Donbas initially but it regained its strength. Russian GDP started to grow again since 2017.

In May 2018, Putin announced goals for human capital:

  • more than 4 percent of GDP to be spent on healthcare,
  • to launch an anti-cancer initiative,
  • to become the world’s top 10 in education and to establish new academic centers, and
  • to abide to high ecological standards.

All these measures feed into the larger goal of life expectancy over 80 years old and annual productivity growth of 5 percent.

Well, Putin will need to forget about his excessively-advertised May 2018 promises. Russia is at a demographic catastrophe and the mitigating measures described in the four bullets above are gone with the wind.

Russia is expected to keep losing population that peaked in almost 147 million three years after it invaded and unlawfully annexed Crimea.

The Russian Federation demographic pyramid is showing the abyss in a more profound way. It shows the number of males and females by birth year. It does not look like a pyramid at all because there are not enough babies and youths. One can see drops in babies born during the crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and now since 2014 when Russia invaded Ukraine. An easy extrapolation can tell that the demographic crisis that was triggered by the war on Ukraine set a more profound declining trend than WW2 or the collapse of the planned economy.

Here are the statistics that illustrate even further the inadvertence of the demographic abyss and the failed promises of investments in human capital:

  • The smallest platoon of four T-72 tanks costs $12 million. This is equivalent to building a school for 1,000 students.
  • During 2 months of the war on Ukraine, Russia lost 1 050 tank.
  • One SU-35 fighter jet plane costs $82 million. This is equivalent to 7 modern maternity hospitals.
  • During 2 months of the war on Ukraine, Russia lost 200 warplanes.
  • The smallest squadron of three KA-52 helicopters costs $48 million. This is equivalent to 4 modern cancer treatment centers in the Magadan Region.
  • During 2 months of the war on Ukraine, Russia lost 155 helicopters.
  • The flagship cruiser Moskva costs $750 million. This is equivalent to the whole budget of Moscow Mother Capital program.
  • During 2 months of the war on Ukraine, Russia lost Moskva and at least 12 ships though some of these other ships cost much less than Moskva.

And this is instead of a conclusion: Nizhny Novgorod, single anti-war picket on March 19, 2022. It says “give birth yourself!” The protester was guarded by the police and was issued a fine.

Putin became the prime minister of Russia in mid-1999 when president Boris Yeltsin stepped down because of health problems aggravated by alcoholism. Now 22 years later, Russia has wages war in which 20% of Russian military casualties account for servicemen born under Putin’s reign.

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