As we enter the sixth month of the Ukraine-Russia war, it seems like Ukraine is gaining an edge with their strategic defenses and long-range attacks. Many hope the war will end before 2022 closes, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has something else in mind.

Russian forces are experiencing a thinning in their troops. Last month, SOFREP reported Russians were hiring mercenary group Wagner just to fill in the front lines. Wagner usually hires ex-convicts and “strays” who are extremely aggressive and have limited-to-no military training. Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin owns the Wagner group, and even though there were multiple times Moscow denied allegations of direct relationship with the group, it is known in the community that Wagner doesn’t move without approval from Putin.

Nonetheless, Putin is looking to increase the numbers of the Russian Armed forces to nearly 2.04 million. The increase will focus on adding new soldiers (not civilian employees) to their numbers, which means they will need to recruit about 1.15 million troops in a short period of time. According to Putin’s latest decree, the Russian military will be operating with a new level of manpower starting next year.

Russian special forces
Russian special forces. (Source: SpetsnazAlpha/Wikimedia)

This was a reversal of Moscow’s previous plan to thin out their military forces because they were getting obsolete. But now, with the Ukraine-Russia war, it seems like they’re looking to the future. The last time Putin increased the Russian army was back in November 2017, when he moved the allocation of combat personnel from 1.01 million to 1.9 million.

The details of the decree were very limited. They didn’t state how they would hire new soldiers nor where the money would be coming from to feed, pay and house the new troops. Even with their new lowered standard for military entry, most Russians are reportedly hesitant to join the forces after seeing the beating the Russian army is taking at the hands of Ukrainian Ground Forces for six months.

Russia also refrained from publishing any information about the casualties they had during the past six months, but Western intelligence estimates dead and injured around 75,000 since the war started.

“They have a serious manpower issue,” retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, whose last position before retiring included command of all U.S. Army operations in Europe beginning the year Russia first invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014, tells U.S. News. “Candidly, it doesn’t look to me like there are many people who want to be in the Russian army right now.”

Beyond a shortage in manpower, there is also a chronic material shortage as well.  Endemic corruption may be siphoning off as much as 40% of Russia’s military budget before it ever reaches the troops. The result is that Russian troops are badly equipped, trained, and poorly housed and fed.  Russia may be able to hustle up 800 more troops, but whether they can actually sustain them in the field is another matter entirely.

Russian soldiers
Russian soldiers with the 13th Tactical Group and American soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery (1-41), take a short break at checkpoint 75 in the east sector of Kosovo, during Operation JOINT GUARDIAN II. (Source: The U.S. National Archives/getarchive)

On the other hand, US-based RANK think tank senior research and former senior analyst at Pentagon Dara Massicot said it’s hard to say whether this would mean Russia would open a larger draft.

“…it would be a major walk back for the last 15-20 years of personnel policy.”

Massicot added that there are two possibilities with Putin’s announcement. First, this could just be them saving face after numerous failed attempts to hold ground inside Ukrainian borders in the south and west. The other possibility is Putin’s long-term thinking and expecting to hold the war for at least a year or two.

“Expansion like this is a move you make when strategic forecasts for the future inside the General Staff are gloomy, or you have a longer term conflict or project in mind.”

There are multiple sources saying the war could stretch until the next winter “and beyond.” Though the Russian offensive has slowed in the eastern and southern region in the past weeks, there are no signs that either side is open to negotiation (at least not from Russia). Ukraine’s top official Oleksiy Danilov warns that they could see worse days ahead.

“It’s going to be very difficult; it’s not going to be easy,” the official, Oleksiy Danilov, who heads the National Security and Defense Council, said in an interview with Radio Liberty, a U.S.-funded independent news organization. “And if someone thinks that we have already passed some kind of Rubicon and that the rest will be like clockwork, unfortunately, it will not be.”