In a bold move, Russian President Vladimir Putin has directed the country’s military to escalate troop numbers by almost 170,000, reaching a staggering total of 1.32 million soldiers. This decision, disclosed through a Kremlin decree, comes as Moscow’s contentious invasion of Ukraine extends into its 22nd month.
Unveiling Putin’s Decree: A Surge in Military Might
Released on a Friday, Putin’s decree took immediate effect, catapulting the overall number of Russian military personnel to approximately 2.2 million, with 1.32 million dedicated troops. This marks the second significant expansion since 2018, with the previous surge of 137,000 troops in August 2022 bringing military numbers to around 2 million personnel and 1.15 million troops.
Defence Ministry’s Clarification and Rationale Behind the Increase
The Russian defence ministry clarified that this troop surge doesn’t imply a substantial expansion of conscription. Instead, it emphasized a gradual increase through volunteer recruitment, citing the “special military operation” in Ukraine and the NATO expansion as driving factors.
The ministry positioned the bolstering of Russian troops as a response to the “aggressive activities of the NATO bloc.”
Shifting Perspectives: A Call for Military Strengthening
In December of the previous year, Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, asserted the need for a force of 1.5 million to “guarantee the fulfilment of tasks to ensure Russia’s security.” The Kremlin’s perspective on its military size changed following intense Ukrainian resistance, altering the initial assessment that deemed the existing military strength sufficient.
Calculating Casualties and Escalating Efforts
Amid the ongoing hostilities, the exact count of Russian and Ukrainian military casualties remains uncertain. While the Russian military officially acknowledges just over 6,000 casualties, Western estimates, including the UK defence ministry’s projection in October, suggest a much higher figure, ranging from 150,000 to 190,000 permanent casualties.
Russian authorities have undertaken various measures to fortify their forces. Putin’s directives in August 2022 included increasing the military’s size and, the subsequent month, mobilizing 300,000 reservists for Ukraine. This ongoing effort is complemented by enticing campaigns across Russia, offering cash bonuses, making cold calls to potential recruits, and providing amnesty to prisoners in exchange for military service.
Draft Dynamics: Enlistment Challenges and Age Adjustments
In addition to regular drafts, which summon 120,000 to 140,000 men twice a year for a year-long compulsory service, Russia has embarked on a nationwide campaign to encourage enlistment. Despite the existing mandatory service for men aged 18 to 27, evasion rates are notable, driven by health reasons or deferments for university students. To counter this, authorities have raised the upper age limit to 30, effective from January 1.
Conclusion: Russia’s Military Landscape Evolving
As Putin takes decisive steps to strengthen the Russian military, the geopolitical repercussions are significant. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine continues to shape Russia’s military policies, prompting expansions, mobilizations, and unconventional recruitment strategies. The evolving landscape raises questions about the broader implications of a bolstered Russian military presence on the international stage.