Russia’s War in Syria Costing Millions Daily

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin / AP

Russia’s air campaign is costing the Russian government as much as $4 million a day, according to an analysis by a leading defense think tank.

One month into Russia’s intervention, the financial costs of that operation have been assessed by the London-based IHS Jane’s.

Jane’s estimate is the first comprehensive assessment of Russia’s daily financial costs in the war, taking into account major expenses such as the cost of using the aircraft, the cost of munitions, support operations, logistics, and intelligence operations. Jane’s estimates that daily expenditures are $710,000 for flight operations, $750,000 for munitions, $440,000 for support personnel, and $250,000 on logistics and intelligence.

Those figures are further broken down into such categories as the hourly cost of operating a fixed-wing aircraft—about $12,000—and a helicopter—about $3,000.

Jane’s estimate comes with the caveat that there are inherent difficulties in developing accurate figures for the cost of transferring equipment from Russia to Syria, the cost of an early October large cruise missile strike launched from the Caspian Sea—estimated at $36 million—and the cost of salaries and supplies for the 1500 to 2000 Russian personnel in Syria.

Those uncertainties lead Jane’s to its overall estimate of $4 million daily, and between $85 million to over $100 million since the Sept. 30 start of Russia’s military involvement.

Senior Russian defense officials claim the military’s annual defense budget of about $50 billion is covering those expenses without issue. Those claims, even if accurate, do not reflect the larger financial issues that could confront Russian President Vladimir Putin if his country’s military involvement becomes protracted, a distinct possibility. Russia’s economy is sagging under high inflation while revenue from oil sales, Russia’s financial mainstay, has been at depressed levels given global supply and demand conditions.

Putin’s decision to conduct military operations in Syria to this point is costing him little domestically. His personal popularity continues at high levels and there is no significant organized domestic opposition to his Syrian policies.

On the contrary, Russian citizens seem to be drawing satisfaction from the perception that their country has become a major force in Middle East politics.

Military operations in Syria are being conducted with a mix of older aircraft, but Russian commanders also are learning valuable lessons about the reliability and capabilities of such new generation aircraft as the four SU-34 Fullback fighter bomber aircraft reportedly deployed there.