Last week Russian General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov addressed a variety of topics in his annual briefing for the Moscow foreign military attaché community. According to KZ’s coverage, he said Russia continues to work at manning Russia’s military forces at 95-100 percent of their authorized level.
On contract service — the Russian military’s longstanding attempt to recruit, train, and retain large numbers of enlisted soldiers to serve alongside one-year conscripts — Army General Gerasimov said:
“The number of servicemen serving on contract has reached 384 thousand. This has led to a noticeable qualitative growth in the combat capabilities of sub-units.”
“The transition to the new system of manning combined arms formations, and also naval infantry and VDV formations, with contract servicemen has enabled them to have in their composition the necessary quantity of battalion tactical groups ready immediately to fulfill their designated missions. A further increase in the number of contract servicemen is planned.”
Anyone studiously following the process of Russian military professionalization would notice that 384,000 is the very same number given by Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu almost exactly two years ago.
Just over a year ago, the head of the MOD’s NTsUO — charged with day-to-day monitoring of the status of Russia’s armed forces — said the number was 354,000.
The MOD’s announced goals were / are 425,000 contractees by the end of 2017, and 499,000 by 2020.
So we’re safe in concluding that Russia’s contract service program is treading water. It has stalled with just enough new recruits to replace those who don’t renew their contracts.
The lack of civilian employment for young men and the attraction of joining the military’s mortgage program are not enough to encourage the number of enlistees the MOD seeks.
It’s also clear (and not surprising) the MOD is emphasizing filling the ranks of its frontline combat forces — combined arms, naval infantry, and VDV units — with contractees.
Perhaps most interesting, virtually no Russian media outlet is calling the MOD out on contract service. Just this from Denis Mokrushin:
“If the media checked what was said, they would quickly find out that the officially declared number of contract servicemen has not changed since 2016, Shoygu and Gerasimov always give the same number. But every time they talk about it as if over the past year there has been an increase in the number . . . .”