4

This is a bit superseded by the recent partial mobilization in Russia, but I am still a bit confused by Russian federal subjects (regions) being asked to fund recruitment.

(July 30th) Russia is recruiting thousands of volunteers to replenish its ranks in Ukraine. Prior experience isn't always required - Egypt Independent

Stepanenko says the process is being driven from Moscow. “The Kremlin reportedly ordered all 85 Russian federal subjects (regions of the Russian Federation plus occupied Crimea and Sevastopol) to recruit volunteer battalions to avoid declaring partial or full mobilization in Russia.”

But the regions are expected to help fund the recruitment, which she says “places a heavy strain on regional budgets.” Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, for example, had to set aside about $2 million for the project, Stepanenko said.

ISW has also frequently talked about local regions offering widely differing bonuses and pay rates.

However, to get to my question, we know 2 things about Russia's current economic situation: it's not great in general, but it does very well from the oil price. So, aside from oil, I'd expect the cupboards to be looking a bit bare.

I assume that oil money goes to Russian federal coffers, rather than regional ones. And, even if it doesn't, it would go to the regions that have oil, leaving the other ones without much benefit from current oil prices.

How has the Kremlin justified its funding model for recruitments and equipment? Why doesn't it just get paid out of Federal budget, where there is that oil surplus?

This would allow a more equal level of personal equipment being issued and pay rates to volunteers.

For comparison US National Guards are funded out of the US Federal budget.

And even though the mobilization is changing things a bit, there are still reports of different level of equipment provisioning being made available to the troops, depending on the region.


Switching to a mobilization may not have fixed all of this either:


ISW RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE CAMPAIGN ASSESSMENT, OCTOBER 4

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin decreed on October 3 that all Russian administrative districts, including federal subjects and local governments, are authorized to use their local budgets to purchase military and dual-use equipment on behalf of the Russian Ministry of Defense.[60] That equipment includes drones, night vision and thermal imaging devices, communications devices, vehicles, uniforms, camping equipment, medicines, food, and hygiene products. Mishustin decreed that local governments can purchase only the equipment asked for by the MoD or other authorized bodies, including local military commissariats, and must transfer that equipment to the federal government free of charge. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on October 4 that the Kazan Higher Tank Command School is funding the formation of three motorized rifle and two artillery regiments for newly mobilized forces.[61] The burden of supporting the war effort is also falling on individual men and their communities—a Russian milblogger reported that a community in Krasnodar raised 19 million rubles to purchase basic equipment like sleeping bags and body armor for mobilized men in their community and to support the families of those mobilized men while their men are away.[62]

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, October 6

The Ministry of Defense is demonstrably not providing even basic military equipment to mobilized personnel. It appears to be leaving wealthy oblasts to fill that gap, while mobilized men from poorer oblasts may be going without non-crowdsourced equipment entirely.

(Moscow Times, Oct 5) Crowdfunding Spotlights Russian Military’s Supply Problems in Ukraine

Though crowdfunding has long played a role in warfare, it has traditionally been limited to providing soldiers with non-essentials, according to Ben Hodges, a former general who led U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Russia’s crowdfunding efforts reach way beyond that.

“The fighters have asked for a weather station and barometer, a drone, a diesel generator, body armor, 10 [pieces of] camouflage netting, a camp bed, 15 lots of winter clothing, and 200 polypropylene bags,” another crowdfunding group — We Don’t Give Up On Our Own – Help our Soldiers — posted last week on their VKontakte page.

In broad terms I am asking why regions are being asked to fund the war and how that is justified by Putin's government when it sits on the cash reserves. Even now.

Edit: this seems like a relevant addition to the context.

(Reuters Sept 28)Russian oil and gas sector braces for tax hikes of over $60 bln in 2023-2025

(roughy 100 rubles - $1)

Total additional oil and gas tax revenues are seen at 1.28 trillion roubles next year, 1.13 trillion roubles in 2024 and 1.19 trillion roubles in 2025. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said last week Russia's budget deficit would come in at 2% of gross domestic product in 2023 before narrowing to 0.7% in 2025.

3
  • I'm not sure why we are discussing the "crypto-mobilization" (which seemed like a failure, given that nobody has ever seen any of these regional units on the front lines) when there is actual state-wide mobilization now. The question now belongs to the History.SE mostly, or should be amended.
    – alamar
    Oct 13, 2022 at 21:57
  • @alamar updated post: this didn't end with the crypto mobilization phase. Oct 14, 2022 at 2:41
  • "sits on the cash reserves" The old economic wisdom comes to mind that one cannot eat money.
    – Trilarion
    Oct 14, 2022 at 18:38

3 Answers 3

5

I've been actively learning Russian since years ago, know a lot about Russia (see, e.g., this answer of mine), and regularly visit Russian news outlets, so I'll try to answer your question.

First of all, you are right in that regional military units are funded from the regional budgets. In particular, the governor of Saint Petersburg, Alexander Beglov, has explicitly stated that the Saint Petersburg regional units are funded from the reserve funds of the city. The statement was made in response to an official request by a Russian politician, who says it took him three months of correspondence to finally get a clear answer.

Second, here's a news article explaining the official stance of the Kremlin:

МОСКВА, 12 июля 2022, 14:32 — REGNUM Пресс-секретарь президента России Дмитрий Песков заявил, что в ситуации с региональными добровольческими отрядами речь идет исключительно об инициативе самих людей. ... Он добавил, что в Кремле относятся «с уважением и очень положительно» к данной инициативе. (Source)

Here's my translation:

(Moscow, July 12, 2022) The press secretary of Russia's president, Dmitry Peskov, has stated that the matter of regional volunteer units is all about the initiative of people themselves. ... He has added that the Kremlin views this initiative "very positively and with respect."

Basically, that's the answer to your question, since your question is about the official explanation by the Kremlin. As you see, the regional military units are officially called региональные добровольческие отряды (regional volunteer units). So, the official explanation by the Kremlin is like, "Hey, it's all about volunteers, come on. They badly want to fight in Ukraine and get funded by their regions, which voluntarily support their volunteers. We have nothing to do with it."

That's the official explanation, while the real reasons are something we can only hypothesize about. Unlike in Western countries, real politics in Russia is basically hidden from people - that is, is done behind closed doors.

Remember, we are talking about a time period prior to the mobilization announced on September 21, 2022. In that period, the Kremlin tried to create an impression that it had no difficulties in Ukraine. Federal funding of regional military units would have contradicted that picture.

Also, it takes very different amounts of money to motivate people in different parts of Russia, so payments to recruits greatly vary with regions. Federal funding of regional military units would have necessitated uniform pay rates.

Finally, it's simply easier to tell the regions to find the means themselves.

5
  • 2
    Yes, some of this is already what I was thinking. Like not taking responsibility centrally - "we have nothing to do with it", as you say. But I am still surprised that no one's questioning it in the regions. Or in the military: it really is no way to run a war. Oct 14, 2022 at 2:32
  • 3
    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica, there is plenty of grumbling. Openly questioning it would mean stepping into a very dangerous public debate.
    – o.m.
    Oct 14, 2022 at 4:14
  • @o.m. Yes, but they have all that surplus oil money. What better use to put it to then to fund their war? They do want to win it, right? Or am I just missing better uses? Oct 14, 2022 at 4:19
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica, I fully agree that what Russia does "really is no way to run a way." But I wanted to point out that questioning this from within Russia, from within the Russian military, would be bad for the career or even personal freedom and survival.
    – o.m.
    Oct 14, 2022 at 4:26
  • And also good point about the regionally different levels of remuneration necessary to motivate people. Still, doing so will not do much good to unit cohesion. Oct 14, 2022 at 17:13
3

After the mobilization has started in September, a number of regions, including but not limited to Moscow and St. Petersburg, has voiced plans to pay the soldiers-to-be some money upfront so they could equip themselves.

And of course, there's a lot of crowdfunding efforts between various groups in Russia to supply the fighters. The most popular item so far is small battery-powered drones. This war has shown these are crucial not unlike the binoculars were a century ago.

As far as I can see, Russia's Ministry of Defence has plenty of money but is quite inflexible and inefficient in how it allocates that money. In that it can only order approved gear (produced by a supplier within Russia, etc) in advance and in large batches, and the quality of that gear is often mediocre.

MoD has no problem footing Caliber missiles' cost, but it cannot buy DJI drones (likely 100x to 1000x cheaper each) because at present they need to be bought on open market and distributed between end-users on as-needed basis. Therefore, volunteers step in, buy these drones and distribute them to detachments they know personally.

Other than that, it is often possible to find better military gear on open market than one produced by MoD, such as diesel electricity generators, winter clothing, medicine kits, etc. So at some point it became commonplace that the soldiers bring their own gear.

In addition, in recent decade or two, Russian Army mostly got rid of the extensive Soviet structure which was able to mobilize a large number of people in event of a big war, supplying them with gear at once. And that's what it is trying to do right now with having to reinvent the previously-discarded wheel.

4
  • +1 for pointing something both credible and that I hadn't thought of about procurement efficiency. However your answer does not address the source of funding bit: the feds could grant the money to the regions to make all the wonderful things you talk about happen and let the locals self-organize. They do not. The opposite in fact: and must transfer that equipment to the federal government free of charge. Why is the Russian federal government being so cheap with their most important mission? right now is the Q, not so much procurement challenges and MoD incompetence. Oct 14, 2022 at 17:01
  • I'm not sure which specific thing we are talking about. Are we still discussing the June thing?
    – alamar
    Oct 14, 2022 at 17:28
  • In broad terms I am asking why regions are being asked to fund the war and how that is justified by Putin's government when it sits on the cash reserves. Even now. Oct 14, 2022 at 17:34
  • Don't ask what Motherland did for you - ask yourself what you did for Motherland. Regionalism is rarely popular in Russian politics and the regions choose what they can contribute. In the news they redirect funds from New Year celebrations towards funding the army. Why would you need a loud celebration during a war? Especially if you start losing it at that point?
    – alamar
    Oct 14, 2022 at 20:25
0

Just from an economic perspective, the current situation of Russia is less one of cash shortage but of supply shortage. Imports have nearly stopped and the economy is shrinking. Lots of cash will chase few available produced goods resulting in inflation and supply shortages. The mobilization exacerbates the problem twofold. Mobilized persons cannot work lowering production output and need combat equipment, increasing demand.

My guess is that besides of some bureaucratic quirks where the Russian President and the Ministry of Defense are unable to adequately pay for the mobilization effort and leave it to the federal regions this is mostly an expression of the economic dire situation in Russia. Maybe there simply isn't sufficient combat gear being produced in Russia and also cannot be imported. Leaving it to the regions and to the personnel themselves sounds slightly better than admitting that there isn't enough for everyone.

Anyway as a consequence some newly mobilized Russian men will be poorly equipped and these will be more often from poor Russian regions. Maybe they are seen as more expendable in comparison to those from more well-off regions. Or it's simply a bureaucratic mistake (the Russian ministry of Defense would probably more like to have well equipped soldiers everywhere). It's not like mobilized men really have a choice.

And it should also be added that paying for mobilized personnel is one thing, but training is another thing that is required. However, thousands of mobilized people from this month are already present in the combat zones meaning that they will have got only minimal preparation. That reduces their value as well as increases the risk to their lives.

9
  • "these will be more often from poor Russian regions" - in particular, why?
    – alamar
    Oct 14, 2022 at 20:10
  • @alamar Because poor region cannot afford to pay for the mobilization the same way as rich regions.
    – Trilarion
    Oct 15, 2022 at 6:10
  • "It's better to be healthy and wealthy than poor and ill"
    – alamar
    Oct 15, 2022 at 18:31
  • @alamar There seems to be a decidedly capitalistic element in the Russian approach to war. I'm not judging it, just observing.
    – Trilarion
    Oct 15, 2022 at 21:07
  • Reality has a known liberal (in this case, capitalistic) bias. If you come from a more affluent region, or from a better social tier, you will be more successful just about everywhere, including when fighting a war.
    – alamar
    Oct 15, 2022 at 21:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .