For some time, observers have talked about the Russian military as a force of roughly 1,000,000 soldiers. But its legal ceiling was above one million, while its true personnel number was below that level. Now Moscow has, for the first time, a statutory limit of 1,000,000 uniformed personnel.
This week President Vladimir Putin decreed a manpower limit of 1,885,371 for Russia’s Ministry of Defense. One million will be uniformed service personnel and the balance civilian employees.
In a largely overlooked December 2008 act, former president Dmitriy Medvedev decreed that the limit would be 1,884,829, including one million serving in uniform, from the beginning of 2016.
So Putin has authorized an additional 542 civilian workers for the Defense Ministry.
To round out this picture, Putin decreed a limit of 2,020,500 with 1,134,800 servicemen in 2005.
Putin’s latest decree is the new benchmark. But who is that million?
There are about 300,000 draftees in the armed forces at present. In late 2015, the military reported having 352,000 contractees. It announced it would take only 31,000 volunteer soldiers in 2016, and claimed its formations and units were manned at 92 percent of authorized manpower.
If you take 300,000 + 352,000 and add in 220,000 officers and 50,000 warrants, it looks like armed forces of 922,000 or 92.2 percent of the current one million authorized. Another 31,000 contractees this year would be 95 percent.
In late 2014, the Defense Ministry said 220,000 officers, 50,000 warrants, 425,000 contractees, and 300,000 conscripts was its goal by the end of 2017. That’s 99.5 percent of one million. Some 42,000 contractees will have to be signed up in 2017.
Perhaps, just maybe, the days of undermanning at 766,055 servicemen on January 1, 2013 are behind the MOD. However, there are problems with believing it. Number one is the fact that no one talks about the rate of contractees leaving the armed services. Retention may be as good, but it’s not 100 percent. The addition of new volunteers isn’t a straight line up to 425,000.
Beyond whether contractees stay are more important (and more difficult to evaluate) issues of the quality of recruits, what they learn in training, and what they add to Russia’s combat capability.
P.S. Also notable this week was Putin’s signing of a decree on MVD manning which increases its personnel by 64,000 to 1,067,876 (872,970 police officers). This, and the MOD decree, are part of an apparent rewickering of the “power” ministries that began with the establishment of Putin’s National Guard.