Western sanctions won’t stop Russia waging war
LONDON, April 12 (Reuters) – Russia can afford to wage a long war in Ukraine despite being hammered by Western sanctions aimed at crippling its ability to sustain the campaign, defence experts and economists say.
Russia’s invasion has driven up the price of the oil, gas and grain it exports, providing it with a substantial windfall to fund its “special military operation” – now entering a new phase as Moscow focuses on the eastern Donbas region after failing to break Ukraine’s defence of the capital Kyiv.
As the war grinds on, rising casualties and the need to rotate fresh troops into battle may prove more pressing challenges than the financial cost.
“This type of low-tech war can be financed almost entirely in roubles, which means they can continue pouring troops and heavy artillery into Ukraine at least until there’s a more general collapse of the economy,” said Jacob Kirkegaard, economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.
Johan Norberg, senior analyst at the Swedish Defence Research Agency, said: “The sanctions will not affect this war in the short run, because Russia’s military is fighting with tanks it had already built and soldiers it had already trained.”
Sanctions are expected to shrink the economy by more than 11% this year, the World Bank says, but revenues from energy exports are actually increasing. The Russian finance ministry said on April 5 that Moscow expects to earn $9.6 billion in additional revenue from energy sales in April alone thanks to high oil prices, which remain around $100 a barrel.
There is no doubt, however, that Russia’s vaunted military machine has taken a huge and costly hit.
The United States assesses that Russia has lost about 15-20% of its combat power during its invasion of Ukraine, a senior U.S. defence official said.
That includes everything from tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery systems, fighter and bomber aircraft and helicopters to surface-to-air and ballistic missiles, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
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