Murphy's Law: Russian Paper Soldiers


January 10, 2024: Because Russia is not officially at war, or being invaded, current laws limit how many soldiers they can conscript, and those conscripts only serve for one year. Few agree to stay longer because of the heavy losses in Ukraine. Army commanders are desperate to demonstrate that they have this situation under control and have resorted to manipulating data to double-count troops they do have. The army is also counting a lot of understrength battalions and companies as if they were at full strength. They did this before the war for corruption reasons, stopped the practice for about 18 months after the war started, and have resumed it to protect their careers and graft incomes.

The army claims it will somehow have 745,000 soldiers by the end of 2024. In 2022 the army plan was to have 695,000 troops by the end of 2026. The Defense Ministry is desperate to reach these high numbers of troops to justify larger budgets they have recently received.

Fewer soldiers are choosing to become career or contract soldiers because those careers will be very short if they are sent to Ukraine. The army has resorted to kidnapping foreigners in Russia, generally from former Soviet Central Asian states, and putting them in uniform. The government continues to offer pardons to prisoners who agree to join the military. The army was allowed to nab officers and men from other services to serve in army units. This is not popular with involuntary transferred men who must either agree or be expelled from the military. For career military personnel that means unemployment in an anemic economy where unemployment is very high.

The army claims that these efforts have enabled them to raise half a million troops, with half of them assigned to fight in Ukraine. The real numbers are far smaller and apparently amount to several hundred thousand troops. Most of these troops have little or no army training and are often sent to Ukraine without any training beyond basic abilities to use their assault rifles. They are often led by officers who were transferred from the navy or air force and have received no training on how to lead soldiers in combat. All this accounts for the poor performance of most Russian troops in Ukraine.




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