It was not clear from Thursday’s decree how Moscow planned to increase its troop numbers or whether it would involve hiring more contractors, increasing the number of conscripts, or both. The Kremlin has urged to call the war its “special military operation,” with Putin refraining from calling for full mobilization domestically.
Putin is reluctant to do so because he has tried to isolate the Russian population from the costs of the war by using mercenaries from the private security organization Wagner, recruiting in the country’s non-Russian ethnic republics, from the prison population and with using press gangs in occupied parts of Ukraine,” Neil Melvin, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think tank, told NBC News.
“But now the Russian army is exhausted and the ad hoc recruitment techniques are not bringing in enough new troops. That is why the Russian authorities have announced an expansion of the army to fill the gaps of war losses,” he added. “This is a dangerous moment for the Russian president, as the announcement is an acknowledgment that the ‘special military operation’ has been seriously misguided, and now the wider Russian population will have to pay the price with the lives of their sons. “
Other experts doubted whether the decree would actually lead to a substantial boost in troop numbers, certainly in the short term.
“This is easier to determine than to do,” said Mark Galeotti, a senior associate fellow at RUSI, on Twitter.
Michael Clarke, professor of war studies at King’s College London, said the order is “a clear indication that Russia now knows it has a long campaign ahead of it”.
“Nothing in this decree will make a difference until next spring,” he added. “That’s when we can expect a second major Russian offensive, after they’ve effectively dug in for the winter and prepared for it in the spring — hoping to be more efficient than when they started this operation.”
All Russian men aged 18-27 are required to serve in the military for one year.
The Russian army gathers conscripts twice a year, starting on April 1 and October 1. Putin ordered the drafting of 134,500 conscripts during the last spring draft earlier this year and 127,500 last fall.
In recent years, the Kremlin has emphasized increasing the proportion of voluntary contract soldiers to modernize the military and improve its preparedness.
The Associated Press contributed.