This Sam Vaknin article analyzes the economic costs to Russia of the war in Chechnya, which cannot be measured just in terms of money. However, even leaving aside the tens of thousands who have died over the last decade, the bottom line is that it has cost Russia far too much already:
No one knows how much the war has cost Russia hitherto. It is mostly financed from off-budget clandestine bank accounts owned and managed by the Kremlin, the military, and the security services. Miriam Lanskoy, Program Manager at the Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology and Policy at Boston University, estimated for "NIS Observed" and "The Analyst" that Russia has spent, by November 2001, c. $8 billion on the war, money sorely needed to modernize its army and maintain its presence overseas.
Russia was forced to close, post haste, bases in Vietnam and Cuba, two erstwhile pillars of its geopolitical and geostrategic presence. It was too feeble to capitalize on its massive, multi-annual assistance to the Afghan Northern Alliance in both arms and manpower. The USA effortlessly reaped the fruits of this continuous Russian support and established a presence in central Asia which Russia will find impossible to dislodge.
If the war were purely a result of Chechen aggression, and Russia were the innocent victim, we could sympathise. But Russia isn’t purely a victim. Russia is involved in this war because some very important people in Russia profit from it. Not least those who cream off around 10% of the military budget, and and an even higher percentage of the reconstruction budget, for their own purposes. Even some legitimate businesses profit – particularly the arms industry which can use the Chechen battleground to test and demonstrate their latest weapons. For a small group of people, war in Chechnya means profit.
Praktike (via whom I found Vaknin’s article) wishes there were a way to make Putin see how terribly he is handling the conflict without making him seem threatened. The problem is that while Putin’s position as President relies on the backing of small groups of men who have no interest in seeing an end to conflict in Chechnya, he will never be able to push for a peace deal without feeling threatened.