Sadly, there’s little reason to expect they will.
Over the past decade, Mr. Putin and his government have prioritized initiatives that project the image of Russia as a global power. This has led to a certain set of spending priorities. The Kremlin has invested heavily in military procurement, the development of new strategic capabilities, and foreign adventurism in places like Ukraine and Syria.
According to a 2015 survey by Bloomberg, military expenditures have increased by a factor of twenty since Mr. Putin became president a decade-and-a-half earlier. Defense and security now account for some 34 percent of Russia’s budget.
Meanwhile, social programs and infrastructure, which collectively make up the lifeblood of a healthy society, have received markedly short shrift. This year, Russia is estimated to spend less than 11 percent of its total federal budget on health care and only slightly more (11.5 percent) on education. By way of comparison, the United States spends some 19.1 percent of its budget on military expenses, roughly the same amount on health care, and nearly as much [17.1 percent] on education.
This imbalance could have ruinous consequences. Misplaced priorities have helped perpetuate—and even accelerate—the adverse demographic trends that have historically plagued Russian society, with long-term effects on the country’s vitality and perhaps even its viability as a nation.
In the process, Putin and company have become serial violators of an age-old tenet of governance: that prosperity and stability must begin at home.
Ilan Berman is Senior Vice President at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC