Can Russia afford the war in Ukraine?
Short answer: Yes, it can afford the war — but cannot afford peace at the same time. Putin cannot prop up both the military and civilian economies together.
The cost to Russia of the support for the military can be understood if we compare this war with a known baseline. The current Russian effort is its largest war-time mobilization since the Soviet struggle with the Nazis in WW2. How did Russia afford that war?
Russia had no civilian economy during that war, and even the military economy used America as its foundation.
Yes, the Russians did sacrifice the lives of millions of their soldiers to beat Hitler; there is no question that it bore the brunt of the fight. On the other hand, it was Stalin’s pact with Hitler that enabled Hitler to start the Second World War, so we have to be a reserved in our tears.
To supply the war effort, Russian historian Boris Vadimovich Sokolov said that American lend-lease provided one-quarter of Russia’s tanks. The US, Britain and Canada supplied the USSR with 2.586 million tonnes of aviation fuel and light-fraction gasoline, 1.4 times greater than the Soviet production during the war. They supplied more than half of Russia’s explosives for their ammunition, and more than 40% of their rubber tires.
Russia received 400,000 cars, almost 19,000 planes, around 20,000 tanks, self-propelled and armored vehicles, 90 cargo ships, 105 antisubmarine warfare ships, 1,900 locomotives and 11,000 train cars.
Lend-lease totalled $11.3-billion (equivalent to $180-billion today).
Stalin toasted Churchill once with the line: “Without the machines we received through Lend-Lease, we would have lost the war.”
With this baseline case in hand, we can say that in this current iteration of war, the massive Ukrainian campaign, the morphed child called Putin’s Russia is not able to afford the war — not without lend-lease sized help.
Their only option is to abandon all other activities and to focus on the war.
The reality is, today Russia cannot afford both the war and the peace.
The regular peacetime economy of Russia is dissolving.