There’s also some quibbling going on over the figures used by Jane’s. Some experts believe the cut is more like 7 percent when the impact of debt repayment to defense industry firms is taken into account.
Either way, the Russian defense budget is being cut — and not insignificantly — at a time when we’re being told Moscow is a grave threat to peace-loving people everywhere. There are a number of reasons for the cuts, the most obvious being that the Russian economy has been put under pressure due to Western sanctions and reduced oil and gas prices. So no, the cuts don’t come from the goodness of Putin’s heart — but it’s clear that he doesn’t see Russia as being on course for major military conflict with the West in the immediate future.
When the cut was announced, it was met with radio silence in the West. A search for “Russian defense budget” on Google News brings up not a single mainstream source that treated this as a significant news story. It’s hard to imagine the same reaction had the news been that Russia had increased rather than decreased its defense spending. Even the most modest increase would very likely have set off a chain reaction of scare-mongering reports about the Russian bear.
The reality is, a decrease just isn’t that interesting because it doesn’t fit with the narrative that the evil Russkies are fully intent on taking over the world, one trembling and defenseless nation at a time.
Military men on both sides of the Atlantic have been using the “Russian threat” to convince governments to throw more money into defense budgets for years. In 2015, the Pentagon used the idea of war with Russia as a public rallying cry to stave off budget cuts. Instead of responding with laughter and the appropriate facts, much of the media advocated on the Pentagon’s behalf, propagating the idea that perhaps the United States really would struggle to match Russian military power in a head-to-head.
In the case of the U.S., the hyping of the Russian threat is particularly ridiculous. Think of it this way: In his first budget proposal, President Donald Trump seeks to increase U.S. defense spending by $54 billion. That 10 percent hike in American military spending would amount to 80 percent of Russia’s entire military budget — and that’s before the recent Russian cuts are taken into account.
The U.S. spends around $600 billion yearly on its military. Russia’s spends one-tenth of that amount, roughly $60 billion. With the new cuts, Russia will go from the fourth-largest military spender in the world to the eighth-largest, falling behind India and France.