MOSCOW—Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered the Russian army to increase the number of its troops by 137,000, bringing the total to 1.15 million, amid Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.
Putin’s order, which will take effect on January 1, will allow the military to strengthen its position by recruiting more conscripts, increasing the number of volunteers, or using a combination of both. I haven’t specified which.
By presidential decree, the total number of Russian armed forces will increase to 2,039,758, including 1,150,628 troops. According to previous orders, the number of troops at the beginning of 2018 was 1,902,758 and 1,013,628 respectively.
The Kremlin has rejected claims that it is considering mobilization, saying only volunteer contract soldiers will participate in what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
All Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 are required to serve in the military for a year, but many avoid it for health reasons or because of the deferment granted to university students. The percentage of men who avoid conscription is particularly high in Moscow and other major cities.
The Russian army conscripts twice a year, on April 1st and October 1st. Putin said that this spring he ordered 134,500 conscripts, and last fall he ordered 127,500 conscripts.
In recent years, the Kremlin has emphasized increasing the proportion of volunteers, aiming to modernize and improve the capabilities of its armed forces. Before the Kremlin sent troops to Ukraine on his February 24th, the Russian army had more than 400,000 of his contract soldiers, including about 147,000 of the ground forces. The number of conscripts is estimated at about 270,000, with officers and non-commissioned officers making up the remainder.
Military analysts say those numbers could clearly be insufficient to sustain operations in Ukraine if operations there are prolonged.
Russian military expert Alexei Leonkov said the authorities will not expand conscription and will increase the number of troops by hiring more contract soldiers.
“New military equipment is becoming more complex, requiring at least three years of training for those operating it,” Leonkov said, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency. “Drafts don’t help that, so the number of drafts doesn’t go up.”