Putin’s War Machine Bulks Up in Offensive Soviet-Era Military Model

The Russian Armed Forces are reverting to the Soviet military model. The Russian military in June 2023 drastically differs from that of March 2022.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

There has been a considerable rise in the total number of people now serving in Russia’s armed services due to recent recruitment efforts. During an interview with the Russian military journal ‘Military Commissariats of Russia,’ Lieutenant General Evgeny Burdinsky, Chief of the Main Mobilisation Directorate of the Russian General Staff, stated that Russia would create two military districts in the years 2023: Moscow and Leningrad. In addition to the existing five divisions and twenty-six brigades, there will be new army aviation, a combined-arms army, an army corps (to be established in Karelia), the Azov military maritime zone, and a new army corps.

According to Burdinsky, in 2022, over 300,000 people enlisted in the armed forces. He drew a parallel between the 31,000 soldiers who responded to the Chernobyl disaster 1986 and the 55,000 who were called up from the reserves to fight in Afghanistan in 1979.

During the Ministry of Defence Collegium, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced a major expansion of the Russian Armed Forces to 1.5 million personnel (from 1.15 million personnel in January 2023) towards the end of 2022. 

“The Minister stated that the large-scale changes in the composition of the Armed Forces, the increase in their numerical strength, and the modification of the military-administrative divisions of the Russian Federation, which will be implemented from 2023 to 2026, will require all Deputy Ministers of Defense, Commanders-in-Chief of all branches, and Commanders of the military districts, the Northern Fleet, and the branches of the Armed Forces, to make appropriate competent decisions,” the Ministry’s press service reported.

Shoigu emphasised that the measures to expand the composition and numerical strength of the Russian Armed Forces should be comprehensive. This includes ensuring the creation of infrastructure for troop placement and the supply of weapons, military and special equipment, and material resources.

Shoygu also ordered to strengthen the combat capabilities of the Navy, the Aerospace Forces, and the Strategic Missile Forces.

During an expanded conference of the Defence Ministry’s board on December 21, he proposed a gradual increase in the conscription age from 18 to 21 and the upper age limit from 27 to 30. According to a decree signed by Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, on August 25, 2022, the strength of the Russian Armed Forces as of January 1, 2023, is 2.04 million individuals, including 1.151 million servicemen.

The “regional-type” army was incapable of completing large-scale missions. The Russian military leadership concluded that the beginning of the Southwest operation was unsuccessful. The Russian army that entered Ukraine in February 2022 lacked experience in undertaking offensive military operations on a large scale. The “polite people” strategy that was successful in Crimea failed, and the army was not given the “keys to Kharkiv.” After the initial offensive successes of battalion tactical groups (BTGs), there was a retreat due to a shortage of personnel for organising and establishing rear positions, including the placement of minefields.

Former Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov’s reforms from 2007 to 2012 formed a “regional-type” army. Under his command, armies, regiments, and divisions were disbanded and liquidated, and the number of tanks, the primary striking force, was decreased and stored. Only about 3,000 of the 13,000 tanks in 2008 were expected to remain operational. The essence of the Soviet army, which relied on the capacity to deliver powerful breakthrough attacks followed by encirclement and destruction of the adversary, was essentially eliminated. Battalion tactical groups do not permit large-scale offensives in the serious theatre of military operations.

After 2014, the Ministry of Defence had to rebuild the army, bring back corps and divisions, fill up military schools and academies with recruits, and turn down offers to buy equipment and weapons from other countries. Nonetheless, the eight years preceding the Southwest operation revealed other significant deficiencies in readiness for a conflict with NATO in Ukraine.

Advanced methods of troop administration, reliable communication, low-altitude drones, and horizontal connections between units were lacking. A belief in “decent Ukrainians” existed. It reached the point where Russian soldiers would not shoot Ukrainian soldiers when they encountered face-to-face because they considered them “fraternal” individuals.

Return to the Soviet military model

The Russian Armed Forces are reverting to the Soviet military model. The Russian military in June 2023 drastically differs from that of March 2022.

The mobilisation has occurred, augmenting the initial forces of approximately 300,000 personnel through conscription to a contracted force of 400,0000 personnel. The layered defence has been established and is currently being maintained. Interactions between units have been enhanced. Advanced company-level units are equipped with drones and electronic warfare capabilities. In the Soviet army, it was undeniable that armoured vehicles were crucial to the success of offensive operations. Tanks retrieved from storage have proved in combat that armoured vehicles are essential to offensive operations. Significant improvements have been made to the precision of long-range fire and air defence. The industrial defence potential has been mobilised, allowing the continuation of military operations against the adversary. The formation of new armies, divisions, and districts within the Russian Armed Forces indicates a return to the Soviet offensive system rather than defensive operations.


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