The defense budget has very different priorities than it does in peacetime. For Russia, this is a major problem in Ukraine, where their faltering invasion effort turned out to be a lot more expensive than expected. While the salaries of the troops and operating costs of the military came to $85 billion, the additional wartime expenses included $34 billion for lost weapons and equipment as well as $21 billion for medical care of those wounded and $26 billion for compensating the families of those killed in combat. The latter is also a good way for foreign intelligence agencies to estimate Russian casualties. Those families, especially if they consist of a wife and children, need continued support. Without this compensation you cannot obtain volunteers who join to be career officers and NCOs. For these men the military is a job that they will normally hold for about twenty years before they are eligible to retire with lifetime monthly pay. This compensation is usually a percentage of your active duty pay.
Since the 1990s Russia has been attempting to recruit an all-volunteer force for the army. That is still a work-in-progress because the cost was more than Russia could afford. To supplement the career personnel, conscripts were used. Because of popular opposition to conscripts, the term of service was reduced to one year. After that the former conscripts were assigned to an inactive and unpaid reserve force that would only be called on in the event of a national emergency, like an invasion of Russia. The current problem is that the government is trying to portray their invasion of Ukraine as a national emergency. It certainly is for Ukraine and most Ukrainians have supported the fight against the invaders.
In Russia there is little enthusiasm for the war in Ukraine. This time Russia is the invader and the Russian government's effort to portray that invasion as a national emergency is not popular with most Russians. Few will voluntarily fight in Ukraine. According to the Russian conscript law, conscripts are not allowed to fight outside Russia unless Russia is being invaded. The conscripts and their parents are angry that their government has violated this provision and sent conscripts into Ukraine to fight. The government justifies this by declaring the Ukraine operation as an effort to annex Ukraine and make it part of Ukraine. The Ukrainians and their NATO supporters are resisting the Russian invasion and many Russians believe the Russian invasion was unnecessary, illegal and harmful to Russia. Not only are a lot of Russian soldiers, including conscripts, getting killed in Ukraine, but the invasion has failed, the Ukrainians are counterattacking and most Western nations have imposed economic sanctions on Russia.
The large Russian losses in Ukraine were openly and very accurately reported to the world. In Russia those losses were declared a state secret. That did not prevent Russians from finding out, it just took a little longer. Russia could not keep the bad news out and shutting down Russians access to the Internet did not work either. These casualty reports confirmed to many Russians what was really going on in Ukraine. Russia was losing the war and the Russian government was forcing their population to pay for it. The government originally believed the war would be over quickly with Russia in control of Ukraine and at little cost to Russia. When that didn’t happen, the government of Vladimir Putin kept the war going because Putin believed withdrawing from Ukraine would be a defeat that would cause an upheaval in Russia threatening Putin’s control of the government. He keeps the war going in the hope that NATO nations would eventually tire of supporting the Ukrainians. This Putin plan has little support from Russians and few Russians, Ukrainians or NATO nations expect the Putin plan to succeed.
The economic sanctions on Russia are continuing to damage the Russian economy and more Russians are suffering from the sanctions. Russian forces have lost over 200,000 dead, which is far more than they lost during their failed 1980s war in Afghanistan. Russian troops withdrew from Afghanistan after eight years of fighting. The Russians concluded that they couldn’t win and withdrew. The damage was already done because within a few years the Soviet Union collapsed, along with Russian control of eastern Germany and most of Eastern Europe.
Vladimir Putin was a KGB officer when the Soviet Union collapsed and he was out of a job. Putin considered the collapse of the Soviet Union as a great tragedy that must be rectified. His first move was to gain control of the Russian government. His attack on Ukraine is the first part of his plan to rebuild the Russian empire and it isn’t working.