Putin Increases Number Of Russian Military Personnel To 2.2 Million, Says Number Of Volunteers Is Growing

On December 1, 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin passed a decree raising the number of military personnel in the Russian Armed Forces (RAF) to 2.2 million, including 1.32 million troops.[1] The decree, which takes force immediately, would increase the number of troops by nearly 170,000, bringing the total number of military personnel to two million, including 1.5 million troops. The Kremlin stated that the increase will happen gradually, by recruiting more volunteers. It is the second expansion of the army since 2018.

Even in 2019, Putin promised to cancel general conscription for the RAF and move toward a contract army.[2] Indeed, the number of contract servicemen in Russian army was growing.

It should be also noted that general conscription, held twice a year, is a point of discontent for Russians. Despite the authority’s efforts, the number of respondents aged 18-24 who perceived military service as an appropriate, encouraged activity for a “true man” was decreasing. As of December 2022, only 31% of the respondents agreed with the sentiment.[3]

After the start of the war with Ukraine in February 2022, a “partial mobilization” was launched. The results were rather poor (and even prompted a wave of emigration from Russia). It might have been evidence of the true sentiments of the Russians toward military service, or toward what the Kremlin calls the “special operation” in Ukraine. In addition, military recruitment offices are notoriously corrupt, with many young Russians of recruitment age trying to buy “otkos [the right to evade service, usually via simulation of disease].” The corruption of military recruitment offices and of military-medical commissions accounts for billions of rubles.[5][WL2] The hostilities in Ukraine lead to a skyrocketing growth of the number of people evading the army’s recruitment call.[6]

As of 2016-2017, the trend of decreasing troop numbers has reversed: Vladimir Putin began to increase the number of servicemen. The two most recent changes occurred in August 2022 and, most recently, in December 2023. In 2022, the RAF strength increased by 137,000 men (7.2% – from 1,902,758 to 2,039,758 men, with the number of actual servicemen growing by 12.5% – from 1,013,628 to 1,150,628 men) and in the latter case, by 169,372 men (8.3% – from 2,039,758 to 2,209,130 people, with the number of overall military personnel growing by 14.7% – from 1,150,628 to 1,320,000 men[WL3] ). It could be argued that these two decrees reflect the change in manpower after the partial mobilization, as well as recruitment efforts and losses from the actual hostilities, including not only casualties, but also people who evaded active service by defecting, or other means such as self-harm, deserting the military unit, etc.

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