Putin appears unstoppable, but even he 'doesn't know where the tolerance of the Russian people lies,' an economic historian said

  • Russia's economy appears resilient amid its war with Ukraine which has entered its third year.

  • But it's uncertain if the Russians themselves can put up with the impact from the war for much longer, an economic historian told The Guardian.

  • Military spending has reached 40% of Russia's budget, overshadowing social spending.

Russia's economy appears resilient after more than two years of war with Ukraine — but even the Russian people themselves may be getting impatient with the situation, an expert says.

Moscow has ramped up military spending this year, devoting around 40% of its budget to defense and security.

So while life in Russia appears to retain its normality, "Putin doesn't know any more than we do where the tolerance of the Russian people lies," Mark Harrison, an economic historian and emeritus professor at Warwick University, told The Guardian in a report on Saturday.

"The process of feeling for those limits is different for an authoritarian leader because he knows the people won't tell him, or at least not until it is too late for his leadership to survive," Harrison added to the media outlet.

Despite sweeping Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine, Russia posted a GDP growth of 3.6% in 2023 after contracting 1.2% in 2022. The International Monetary Fund expects the economy to continue growing and rise 2.6% in 2024.

Experts say Russia's growth is driven primarily by war spending and subsidies. This means few benefits from the growth are trickling down to the regular Russian person.

In January, Alexandra Prokopenko, a former Russian central bank official, wrote in Foreign Affairs that Moscow's current military spending has overshadowed social spending for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union.

"This pivot toward a militarized economy threatens social and developmental needs," wrote Prokopenko, a scholar at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center and a researcher at the Center of Eastern European and International Studies.

Russia has also been facing a labor crunch due to the war and a massive brain drain.

An International Monetary Fund official told CNBC earlier this month that Russia's economy is starting to look like the Soviet Union's.

Putin is seeking a fifth presidential term in Russia's upcoming election in March. The 71-year-old Russian leader is expected to win the race against three opponents.

Read the original article on Business Insider