by Zaki Shaikh and Andrew Jay Rosenbaum
The cost of the Russian campaign in Syria has risen to about $8 million per day, up from about $4 million per day earlier in the operations, according to experts' calculations.
The cost of the Russian intervention has risen sharply, since a Russian fighter jet violated Turkish airspace and was shot down after repeated warnings on Nov. 24, according to estimates by the U.K.’s Royal United Services Institute released on Friday.
Russia had been spending about $4 million a day on the Syrian campaign until then, the institute said, but after the incident in Turkey, the daily costs have risen to $ 8 million,
According to analysts, each hour of flight costs about $12,000 for a military aircraft and $3,000 for helicopters. Russian military aviation is estimated to be spending $710,000 daily, assuming that each combat aircraft flies on average 90 minutes, and each helicopter an hour, according to the institute.
About $750,000 is spent daily on ammunition. Other military spending is calculated at $440 thousand per day. Operations by warships in the Mediterranean Sea cost $200,000 per day. Adding logistics, communications, and intelligence expenses to the list requires spending of another $250,000 per day, the institute said.
Given that the Russian government has estimated that operations are to last about a year, the cost of the total intervention becomes formidable, especially for a country whose reserves are being depleted. Russian Finance Minister told the press on Oct. 28 that about half of the country’s $80 billion in reserves had already been spent to cover the government’s budget deficit, and, if the price of oil did not rise, he expected a large part of the remaining reserves to be drained.
For how long will the Russian forces actually have to remain in Syria?
Moscow’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta noted Dec 18 that Russia had expected to see the formation of a broad international coalition to end the fighting. But Russia’s insistence on the survival of the Assad regime has caused most potential partners, including the U.S., not to join.
Since the beginning of October, the Russian authorities have claimed that a military operation in Syria will not require additional budget expenditures. "We got it all covered within the budget of the Ministry of Defense and will not incur any additional costs in the current year," Nezavisimay Gazeta cited Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov on Oct. 16.
But the Gazeta report noted that the budget did not account for the costs of the Syrian expeditionwhich involved triple payment in salaries and travel allowances for hundreds of military personnel and defense personnel as well as that of using modern fighter aircraft. Moreover, the additional consumption of ammunition, particularly the costly ones such as cruise missiles, both sea-and air-borne were not envisaged in the earlier military expenditures, according to the report.
To this must be added the unforeseen expenses for supply ships, support vessels, aircraft and helicopters, particularly the Tu-95MS strategic missile and Tu-160 long-range bombers.
Estimates for 2016 Federal budget have earmarked an amount of 145 billion rubles ($2.03 billion) to finance costs of the military campaign in Syria. This amount does not seem overwhelming within the defense budget, especially considering the high geopolitical stakes.
But it does not seem sufficient, unless the fighting ends without excessive delay. There are currently no signs that the fighting is slowing down.
Russia wanted a quick win, but it seems more likely to be mired in a long-term conflict.