Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a decree ordering a substantial increase in the country’s military personnel by almost 170,000 troops, bringing the total to 1.32 million.
This move comes as Moscow’s military involvement in Ukraine extends into its 22nd month. The decision, announced by the Kremlin on Friday, represents the second expansion of the Russian army since 2018, and it takes the overall number of military personnel to around 2.2 million, including 1.32 million troops.
Responding to the Ukraine Conflict and NATO Threat
The Defense Ministry emphasized that the increase doesn’t imply a significant expansion of conscription but will occur gradually through recruiting volunteers.
The ministry attributed the decision to the special military operation in Ukraine and the perceived increase of NATO.
The statement asserted that NATO’s joint armed forces near Russia’s borders, along with the deployment of additional air defense systems and strike weapons, necessitate bolstering Russian troops. The ministry views this as a necessary response to the “aggressive activities of the NATO bloc.”
The Kremlin’s previous assessment considered the size of its military sufficient. However, this calculation changed due to the unexpectedly fierce resistance faced in Ukraine, shattering hopes for a swift victory.
In response, Russian authorities have undertaken various efforts to strengthen the military. In August 2022, Putin ordered an increase in the military’s size to 1.15 million, effective January 1, 2023.
The subsequent mobilization of 300,000 reservists further contributed to the military’s strength. Amid continued hostilities, both Russia and Ukraine have maintained secrecy regarding military casualties.
While the Russian military officially confirmed just over 6,000 deaths, the West estimates a much higher figure. In October, the UK Defense Ministry suggested Russia may have suffered “150,000-190,000 permanent casualties.”
Russian authorities have implemented various recruitment efforts to enhance the army’s ranks, including mobilizing reservists and forming volunteer battalions.
Russia’s Military Dynamics
The Russian military regularly conducts drafts, calling up around 120,000-140,000 men twice a year for one-year compulsory service. Authorities insist that conscripts assigned to mandatory service are not being deployed to Ukraine.
To further strengthen recruitment, regional leaders have formed volunteer battalions, offered cash bonuses, and engaged in campaigns to entice more men to enlist. Reports suggest amnesty for prisoners in exchange for military duty as an additional incentive.
Putin’s recent decree to increase Russian troops underscores the evolving dynamics of the Ukraine conflict and the perceived threat from NATO. As geopolitical tensions persist, the international community closely watches these developments and assesses their implications for regional stability.
The ongoing military adjustments reflect Russia’s determination to assert its strategic interests and maintain a robust military presence in changing geopolitical landscapes.