What do Russia’s security services cost to run? (ENG explainer)

According to the Russian ministry of finance, $250 million could be saved annually if the interior ministry reduced its staff by 10%. The finance ministry also proposed to cut the army by 10%, or around 100,000 people. How many security services does Russia have, and what do they cost to maintain?

How many security services does Russia have?

Almost 3.3 million people are employed by security services in Russia. One in twenty working Russians wears epaulettes. The country has 14 services whose employees are licensed to use weapons. The army is the largest, with up to 900,000 soldiers protecting Russia from external enemies. But there are twice as many people defending the country against internal enemies.

Let’s count them up: 900,000 ministry of internal affairs employees, 340,000 Russian guardsmen, another 300,000 prison guards (of which there are more than rescue workers). To that we should add FSB officers (including border guards), not to mention customs officers, investigators, bailiffs, and intelligence officers.

Putin forms reserve force of law enforcement officers ‘to help’ Belarus

In terms of its number of military personnel per capita, Russia is ahead of almost all major countries in the world. It has 622 military personnel per 100,000 citizens, which is one-and-a-half times more than in France, and 10% more than in the United States.

But the biggest discrepancy is in the number of police officers and national guards – Russia has two to three times more per capita than in neighbouring or Western countries.

To those three million in uniform, we can add 700,000 security guards. There are also 200,000 unofficial guards (such as administrators, concierges, and bouncers). In addition, 45,000 Cossack guards keep the peace in the country. Therefore, one in ten Russian men work for the security services or as guards.

“The security services duplicate one another, and their functions conflict with each other. Consequently their main responsibilities have to be taken over by non-governmental organisations,” sociologist Ella Paneyakh believes.

What do the security services cost?

According to estimates from the newspaper Proekt, since 2014 the number of security services has risen by 10%, and their state budgetary allocation has increased by a third. 28% of the Russian budget is now spent on funding people in uniform. Last year, over five-and-a-half trillion roubles were expended, or $69 billion. That’s three-and-a-half times more than was spent on health and education combined.

According to the World Bank, Russia spends 3.9 out of every $100 it earns on the military – more than in large Western countries or neighbouring Ukraine.

Last year, the Kremlin expended a sum equivalent to 2% of GDP on the police and state security. This is slightly higher than in America (1.9%), much higher than in France (1.3%), but lower than in Ukraine. There, a record 3.1% of GDP was spent on law enforcement last year.

Is Europe at risk from nuclear arms race? (ENG video)

Although the Russian police only deal with half the number of citizens their Western colleagues do, more serious crimes are committed in Russia. There are still one-and-a-half times more murders in Russia than in America, or twice as many as in Ukraine, and seven times more than in France. Every police officer is entitled to an early pension, state benefits, and free healthcare, but not all of them are out catching criminals.

“First and foremost, that implies human resources, financial, technical, and material-support personnel. The largest group consists of teaching staff at specialised universities,” Kirill Titaev, Sociology of Law professor at EUSPB, said.

Just 36% of citizens trust the rather ineffective Russian police, while other security services have earned the people’s trust. In August, Russians listed the army, Vladimir Putin, and the FSB as their most-respected public institutions.

“These are services that ordinary people hardly come across in daily life. Not the police or the penitentiary agencies; no one you’re likely to run into. So these figures don’t reflect trust in real-life agencies, only trust in a media image,” Titaev added.

The bottom line

Russia has enough security services to populate three entire million-plus cities like Rostov, Ufa, or Krasnoyarsk. Since 2014, one in three budgetary roubles has gone on the uniformed services. It’s unsurprising that in times of crisis the ministry of finance suggests reducing the security apparatus, but former KGB operative Putin is not in support of the idea.

Can dictators be put on trial? (ENG explainer)

Alyaksandr Papko, Vot Tak/Belsat TV