Putin Commands Military Surge, Adds 170,000 Troops To Forces

Russian President Vladimir Putin has directed the nation’s military to fortify the maximum troop count by almost 170,000 individuals, as Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine extents into into its 22nd month.

The Kremlin released Putin’s decree on Friday which was effective immediately. This move elevates the armed forces’ strength to 1.32 million service members and raises Russian military personnel to approximately 2.2 million.

In response to mounting threats linked to the ongoing special military operation and NATO’s continuous expansion, the Russian Ministry of Defence explained its decision to expand: “The increase in the full-time strength of the armed forces is due to the growing threats to our country associated with the special military operation and the ongoing expansion of NATO.”

The Ministry explained that the directive does not imply a “significant expansion of conscription” and anticipates a gradual increase achieved by recruiting more volunteers. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, now the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, revealed that over 452,000 individuals joined the military under contract from January 1, 2023, to December 1, 2023.

NATO’s “joint armed forces are being built up near Russia’s borders, and additional air defense systems and strike weapons are being deployed. The potential of NATO’s tactical nuclear forces is being increased,” the ministry statement highlighted, justifying the bolstering of Russian troops as a fitting response to “the aggressive activities of the NATO bloc.”

This is the second expansion of the army since 2018, with the prior surge of 137,000 troops ordered by Putin in August 2022. This increase brings the military’s numbers to about two million personnel and approximately 1.15 million soldiers.

Last December, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu asserted that the country required a force of 1.5 million “to guarantee the fulfillment of tasks to ensure Russia’s security.” Shoigu did not specify when the military would actually attain that size.

Previously, the Kremlin deemed the military’s size was indeed adequate. However, a shift occurred after the dashed hopes of a swift victory over Ukraine in February 2022. Russia implemented various actions to fortify its army— such as conscripting individuals, mobilizing reservists, forming volunteer battalions and launching special campaigns to encourage more enlistments.

Reports from various sources suggest that Russian authorities may have offered amnesty to certain prisoners in exchange for military duty assignments. All Russian men aged 18 to 27 (or 18 to 30 from January 1, 2024) are mandated to serve at least one year in the military. However, many secure exemptions for health reasons or deferments are granted to university students.