Russian Army announces expansion plan and creation of new units

MOSCOW — Russia announced an ambitious plan on Wednesday to bolster its army from 1 million to 1.5 million and create multiple new units, an attempt to bolster forces that have lost momentum and too many soldiers in the war on Ukraine.

Russia’s military chief cited NATO plans to bring in Finland and Sweden as a factor in the buildup. Here’s a look at Moscow’s military plans.

AN IMPULSE FOR A MAJOR FORCE

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated Wednesday that the country needs a force of 1.5 million “to ensure the fulfillment of tasks to ensure Russia’s security.”

The Russian army currently has around 1 million soldiers, compared to Porcelainthe force of 2 million and the US force of about 1.4 million. India also has more than 1.4 million soldiers.

Previously, the Kremlin considered the size of its army sufficient, but the reckoning changed after fierce Ukrainian resistance dashed hopes of a quick victory over its neighbor.

In the midst of the war, Russia and Ukraine have kept strict secrecy about their military casualties. The Russian military last reported its combat losses in September, when it said 5,937 soldiers were killed, but the West had much higher estimates. Earlier this week, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said 100,000 Russian soldiers had been killed, wounded or deserted since the invasion began.

In August, Putin ordered the size of the Russian army to be increased to 1.15 million as of January 1. And in September he ordered the mobilization of 300,000 reservists to reinforce his forces in the Ukraine.

While Putin said there was no need to muster more, his mobilization decree is indefinite, allowing the armed forces to call up additional reservists when necessary. Putin’s decree also prohibited volunteer soldiers from terminating their contracts.

The mobilization was in addition to the regular conscription, which calls up 120,000 to 140,000 men twice a year for a year-long tour of compulsory service.

EMPHASIS ON VOLUNTEERS

The Defense Ministry has stated that it relies exclusively on volunteers in Ukraine and does not involve conscripts in the fighting. The Russian army had about 400,000 contract soldiers, including about 150,000 in the ground forces, before entering the Ukraine.

Shoigu said the expanded Russian army will include 695,000 volunteer contract soldiers, 521,000 of whom should be conscripted by the end of 2023.

All Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 are required to serve in the military for one year, but many use university deferrals and Health waivers to avoid the draft. Shoigu said the conscription age range will be changed from 21 to 30 years old, and recruits will be offered the choice of serving for one year as conscripts or signing a contract with the army as volunteers.

Human rights activists have reported multiple cases in which recruits were forced to sign contracts to serve as volunteers, and Shoigu’s statement suggests the practice could spread.

While some young recruits have been forced to sign up as volunteers, many Russian men, particularly those living in economically distressed parts of the country, enlist for a decent wage. In addition to the military salary, the authorities also promised them extra pay for participating in combat and bonuses.

Putin has promised that those who mobilize will get a monthly salary of at least 195,000 rubles (about $2,800), about five times the average wage in Russia. Some regional authorities promised to top that with their own bonuses.

Families of soldiers killed in action in Ukraine are entitled to various state-mandated compensation payments that, in total, could exceed 12 million rubles (more than $170,000).

Despite the payments and other benefits, Putin’s mobilization order has sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing abroad to avoid the call, and the military has struggled to get enough supplies for those detained.

But concerns by the authorities that the mobilization could fuel widespread discontent have not materialized, and sporadic protests across Russia have failed to gain momentum. Many military experts say Russia could call up a larger number, with some predicting that a new wave of mobilization could begin early next year.

REMODELING OF THE MILITARY STRUCTURE

Shoigu outlined plans to form new military units and force groups in western Russia, including an army corps to be deployed in northwestern Karelia near Finland.

The plans marked a return to the Soviet-era military structure, which Russia abandoned during recent military reforms that saw the creation of smaller, more mobile units.

Some Russian military experts have argued that such smaller units intended for use in local conflicts were understaffed and under-equipped for mass combat such as the action in Ukraine.

Shoigu stated that existing infantry, airborne and marine brigades will be transformed into divisions, the largest units Russia had in the past and that the United States and some NATO allies still have. He also announced that several new divisions will be formed.

As part of a planned reform, some air force units will be subordinated to groups of ground forces in an apparent attempt to increase coordination between them that many observers say proved insufficient during the fighting in Ukraine.

FILLING THE GAPS

In a speech to senior military commanders on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed the need to use the lessons learned during the fighting to modernize the armed forces.

He specifically stressed the importance of improving communications and improving artillery tactics. Some Russian military bloggers lamented that coordination between units has often been poor and that commanders have taken too long to designate and clear targets for artillery and rocket attacks.

Putin also stressed the need to expand the use of drones, noting that they have played an important role in the conflict.

The Russian president has vowed that military industries will increase weapons production, saying they can do so without depleting the country’s resources or damaging the economy.

PRIORITIZED NUCLEAR FORCES

Putin also vowed on Wednesday to place special emphasis on the modernization of Russia’s nuclear forces, which he described as “the main guarantee of our sovereignty and territorial integrity, strategic parity and global balance of forces.”

He said the new Sarmat ICBM will enter service shortly. The Sarmat is intended to replace aging Soviet-made ballistic missiles and form the core of Russia’s nuclear forces, and Putin has praised its ability to dodge any missile defense.

Putin added that Russia will deploy more hypersonic weapons, noting that the Navy will order the first warship equipped with state-of-the-art Zircon hypersonic missiles next month.

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