One party that benefits, short term, is Putin and his security state.
Putin’s favorability ratings jumped from 69 percent in January to 83 percent in late March,
Dissidents can now be sent to jail for 15 years if they criticize the war.
Expect more doctoring of the election processes.
Russian balance of trade: highly spiked oil profits (so far), lessened imports.
Longer term, this endeavour is risky for Putin and his regime. Neither a frozen conflict with ongoing low level Russian losses in the occupied areas, a la Afghanistan, nor a settlement restituting the status quo of February 2022 will make them look good. Strangely enough, Putin seems to be getting challenged from the pro-war side, rather than anti-war.
Domestic dissent within Russian military circles, claiming that the Kremlin is not doing enough to win the war, continues to grow. Former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Igor Girkin (also known as Strelkov) condemned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statements about the priority of the “special operation” in Ukraine being the liberation of the Donbas.2 Girkin claimed that the Kremlin has forgone the ideological underpinnings of the conflict by focusing the conflict on the Donbas, rather than the entirety of Ukraine.
Girkin’s dissent is emblematic of continued shifts within circles of Russian military enthusiasts and ex-servicemen. As ISW has previously reported, the Kremlin has repeatedly revised its objectives for the war in Ukraine downwards due to battlefield failures. The Kremlin is increasingly facing discontent not from Russians opposed to the war as a whole, but military and nationalist figures angry at Russian losses and frustrated with shifting Kremlin framing of the war. Russian officials are increasingly unable to employ the same ideological justifications for the invasion in the face of clear setbacks, and a lack of concrete military gains within Ukraine will continue to foment domestic dissatisfaction with the war.
Russia's gas is going to have less European buyers - keeping in mind that fossil fuels are getting phased out, this might be foregoing future sales. Sanctions are impacting the Russia supply chain. Look at what goes into an Orlan drone (I realize that video is Ukrainian propaganda, but does that mean it is untrue?).
Others who benefit:
Western arms companies are seeing their shares climb: their gear seems more useful than usual and is being used up. Unlike the OP, I don't see this as nefarious, though I am very cynical the military industrial complex's impact on budgeting most of the time.
Energy companies. Perhaps counter-intuitively, energy company profits go up when oil price is up.
Alternative energy industrials in Europe. This has intensified the drive to uncouple Europe from Russian oil and gas, which will drive investment in renewables in Europe (and also LNG terminals, as a question asked here inquired about). So public money is being thrown at the problem, which will certainly benefit some.
NATO. See @convert's answer for details.
Groups that do not necessarily benefit all that much:
One could assume that countries that do not participate in sanctions are getting discount on Russian imports. But they will often find that the increased cost of other inputs (fertilizers, food, oil) more than offsets the benefits. India for example is getting some cheap oil, but can't import all that much of it due to logistical bottlenecks (Russian exports are highly pipeline-bound).
Russian ship loadings headed for the subcontinent are expected to have risen to 230,000 bpd in March, up from nothing in the previous three months (this excludes cpc, a blend of mainly Kazakh and Russian crude). Yet India is unlikely to buy much, at least in the short term. Nearly half its imports come from the Middle East, and shipping from the Gulf is much cheaper than shipping from Russia. Payment cannot be settled in dollars, requiring India to experiment with a rouble-rupee mechanism.
And if you get a 30% discount on a product that is now 50% more expensive than 6 months ago, how much are you ahead, compared to 6 months ago?
Likewise, food producers and farmers are also uncertain winners. Sure, their output go up in price, but so do their inputs in fertilizers and fuel. And if people are stretched on their food budget, they will cut back on more expensive foods with higher margins so a food conglomerate may not see all that much upside.
Also the article this question is based on conflates two different issues:
- who benefits from the war?
- who decided to go to war?
It is not wrong to look at public policy decisions and try to untangle who gains and who loses to determine what kind of influence parties brought to bear to achieve their preferred outcome. For example, one might cynically look at ethanol fuel regulations in the US and see little benefit for the environment and lots for corn farmers. Then you can cross-check how climate-skeptics senators from the Midwest vote on ethanol regulations.
This is what the article linked to in the OP's question explicitly does:
The war-promoting hydras are not going to go away any time soon, and they play a far greater role in the Ukraine crisis than is being widely acknowledged. Any understanding of the crisis simply must factor in that as well as everything else, it is a matter of business: the business of war.
This is not a new concern, Eisenhower was already stating the risks back in 1959:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.1
However, this war is different. Regardless of who benefits, and it would be foolish to argue that Western arms manufacturers aren't benefiting, this war was not started by some conspiracy cabal of cigar-chomping arms and oil barons. As far as anyone understands what started it, the choice of going to war seems to have been largely based on the will of one person: Putin himself. With a distant and very debatable runner-up of perhaps NATO having mishandled its expansion intents back in 2007.