The decree does not say how the Russian military should increase recruitment at a time its military is suffering from dramatic casualty rates in Ukraine – in part of its own making.
Aug. 25, 2022
President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered the Russian army to increase its total number of active-duty troops, a clear recognition of the devastating realities of the deadly quagmire the Kremlin created for itself in Ukraine six months after it began its invasion.
The order calls on the military to bolster its total force by 137,000 starting next year, which would bring the total authorized strength of the Russian military up to more than 1,500,000 troops. Questions linger about whether Moscow’s forces are currently at full strength other than on paper.
Putin in his decree did not say how authorities would increase recruitment at a time the Russian military and general population as a whole are reeling from the death tolls coming out of the conflict zone, which the president insists on referring to only as a “special military operation.” Though prior Russian estimates appear to have low-balled the casualty rate after six months of fighting, recent Ukrainian and Western estimates place the number of dead and injured in excess of 45,000.
Moscow has reportedly lowered standards across the spectrum and offered lucrative incentives to supplement its forces in Ukraine, even as it has dramatically curtailed training in a rush to push new soldiers into service.
“They have a serious manpower issue,” retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, whose last position before retiring included command of all U.S. Army operations in Europe beginning the year Russia first invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014, tells U.S. News. “Candidly, it doesn’t look to me like there are many people who want to be in the Russian army right now.”
Thursday’s decree did not state that Putin is considering a national draft to support the effort – one of the tactics he appears to be avoiding by not referring to the conflict as a war. However, the Russian military has not ruled out that option, according to state news.
It also remains unclear how quickly the Russian military can train troops to prepare them for fighting or provide them with the vehicles, supplies, rations and other equipment that appear sparse for the currently serving force.
“If Putin were to say, ‘We’re going to do a big mobilization,’ even if he did it would be months before you would have numbers of trained troops and organizations and formations that were prepared to fight. And they don’t have the equipment for new troops,” Hodges says.
U.S. officials note Russia has moved all of its available divisions west of the Ural Mountains in an attempt to bolster its force against the Western-backed Ukrainian military, which has proven remarkably adept at defending against Moscow’s military advances, with 85% of Russia’s land force now engaged in or near the fighting.
Putin’s offensive has also suffered from high-profile embarrassing strategic and logistic failures of its own making, while also exposing endemic rot and corruption within the Russian military itself – to include indications of exaggerated troop numbers. The Russian leader has already purged some top officers from command as a result of these failures.
It also comes at a time the Biden administration is demonstrating its intent to continue supporting Ukraine’s military. It announced Wednesday a $3 billion package of new military support – coinciding with Ukrainian independence day – bringing the total it has provided above $15 billion.
“Vladimir Putin seems to believe that Russia can win the long game — outlasting the Ukrainians in their will to fight and the international community’s will to continue to support Ukraine,” Colin Kahl, effectively the No. 3 civilian at the Pentagon, told reporters on Wednesday. The new package “is a tangible demonstration that this is yet another Russian miscalculation.”