Staunton, March 23 — Budget documents may seem dry reading most of the time, but they often provide clearer indications than anything else of what the priorities of rulers are. Vladimir Putin’s new budget numbers show that for him, propaganda is more important than the Russian people and even more important than national defense.
Given the budgetary sleight of hand that the Kremlin has often practiced, one cannot be absolutely certain of the exact numbers, but the amendments the Russian government has submitted certainly indicate what its priorities are and even more aren’t, according to Igor Yakovenko.
The sectors where the government plans to cut spending the most are the environment – minus 16.2 percent, communal services – minus 10 percent, education – 4.9 percent, and culture – 7.3 percent. Even the defense and security structures face cuts, albeit not as large as these, the Moscow commentator points out.
But there is one sector where instead of cuts, the Russian government is calling for increases – and that is propaganda. There, the Kremlin plans to increase funds by 3.1 percent out of the budget and by 400 percent in total spending on Russia Today and by more than 80 percent for TASS.
As Yakovenko puts it, “the most important and necessary people in the country at a time of crisis, sanctions, war, and isolation are Margarita Simonyan and Sergey Mikhaylov,” two leading Moscow television anchors. Apparently, the regime believes that “if they will lie more and better, then all problems will disappear and everything will be well.”