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Post: Wounded Veterans, Wounded Economy: The Personnel Costs of Russia’s War

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Wounded Veterans, Wounded Economy: The Personnel Costs of Russia’s War

Throughout its history, Russia has rarely cared for its soldiers, on or off the battlefield. The Kremlin’s current attempt to do right by its veterans looks to be simultaneously insufficient and unaffordable, destined to leave behind armies of broken men while draining state coffers. After nearly two and a half years of grinding warfare, both Ukraine and Russia have taken horrendous casualties and spent hundreds of billions of dollars. Despite such a price, the conflict is unlikely to end soon , with both sides believing they have more to gain. This price is not just paid on the battlefield. Even if the fighting were to end today, the economic and demographic impact felt by the Russians would be generation-shaping.

Through open source information on the costs of health care and the state of the Russian medical system, alongside historical scholarship and medical publications, we examine the crushing economic damage of the war on Russia from the lens of military personnel. We conclude that the state is logistically, fiscally, and culturally unprepared for the tremendous burden of supporting veterans and their families, presenting serious questions about state capacity going forward.

Above all else, the Russian state has to financially support the families of fallen soldiers in perpetuity. Many of the wounded (to say nothing of the dead) will permanently be out of the workforce, and even those who return to it will require lifelong mental and physical health care. And the numbers of dead or wounded servicemembers will only worsen the negative demographic trends in Russia. These challenges will grow larger as the war continues and the bodies pile up.

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Holding aside the long-term implications of the personnel costs of the conflict, one has to appreciate how much the Russian state is currently spending to care for casualties. The one-time costs of compensating wounded and dead soldiers plus their families are very high, in no small part due to recent decrees that promise major payouts to incentivize volunteers. A law passed before the war entitles the family of a soldier who has been killed to 3.3 million rubles as […]

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