The Cipher Brief asked me to write a short piece on the impact of Russia’s economic downturn on prospects for the Russian military, as part of a series on Russian military modernization.
The drop in Russian state revenues has affected Russian military modernization to some extent, though the Russian government has made an effort to insulate the military from budget cuts. Although the 2015 military budget was cut by five percent mid-year, the total allocation was still 25 percent higher than the previous year’s budget. This allowed the military to continue its modernization process, conduct operations in Syria, and fulfill its training and exercise programs.
With oil prices remaining low, the military is facing a more difficult financial picture in 2016. In November, the Finance Ministry announced that the total 2016 defense budget would be largely the same as in 2015. However, last month, an additional five percent cut was announced, which will result in the first annual net decline in Russian defense spending since Vladimir Putin became president in 2000.
As a result of the deteriorating financial outlook, the fulfillment of the 2011-2020 State Armament Program is now in question.
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