Russia failing to recruit for war, won't meet new manpower goals - US

Russia has historically been unable to meet military manpower goals, and has suffered between 60,000-80,000 casualties, says the Pentagon.

 Russian paratroopers board an Ilyushin Il-76 transport plane as they take part in the military exercises "Zapad-2021" staged by the armed forces of Russia and Belarus at an aerodrome in Kaliningrad Region, Russia (photo credit: REUTERS)
Russian paratroopers board an Ilyushin Il-76 transport plane as they take part in the military exercises "Zapad-2021" staged by the armed forces of Russia and Belarus at an aerodrome in Kaliningrad Region, Russia
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Russia will not meet the manpower goals for its new military expansion, and is failing to replenish ranks in units fighting in the Russia-Ukraine War, a senior US defense official said in a Monday Pentagon briefing.

Remarking on Vladimir Putin's August 25 decree to increase the Russian armed forces by almost 137,000 soldiers, the official said that "this effort is unlikely to succeed, as Russia has historically not met personnel end strength targets. And in fact, if you look at the Russian Armed Forces prior to the invasion, they may have already been 150,000 personnel short of their million-personnel goal."

"Any additional personnel that Russia actually can muster by the end of the year, in fact, may not increase overall Russian combat power."

Senior US defense official

Lowered Russian recruitment standards

The Pentagon said Russia had already been working to increase recruitment prior to the decree, and had eliminated the age limit for recruits and was recruiting prisoners.

"Many of these new recruits have been observed as older, unfit and ill-trained," said the defense official. "This suggests that any additional personnel that Russia actually can muster by the end of the year, in fact, may not increase overall Russian combat power." 

Conscripts and mercenaries in the Russian army

The Pentagon said that it estimated prior to the war about a quarter of Russia's military personnel were conscripts and that so far it was largely attempting to recruit professional contract soldiers for the ongoing war effort. 

Russian soldiers march in Almaty, Kazakhstan, January 13, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/PAVEL MIKHEYEV)Russian soldiers march in Almaty, Kazakhstan, January 13, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/PAVEL MIKHEYEV)

The UK Defense Ministry said in a Sunday intelligence assessment that it was unclear how Russia would be meeting the manpower goal, by "recruiting more volunteer ‘contract’ soldiers, or from increasing the annual targets for the conscription draft." The report added that "very few new contract servicemen are being recruited; and conscripts are technically not obliged to serve outside of Russian territory.

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian military said that Russia was increasing the number of mercenaries in its service since its normal mobilization efforts were failing. Ukraine estimated that 4500-5000 Wagner mercenaries were active in Ukraine. 

Russian war casualties

The manpower expansion decree would not substantively increase Russia's combat power in Ukraine, according to the UK, because Russia had already lost tens of thousands of troops since the war began in February. On Tuesday, the Ukrainian military estimated that Russia had lost 47,550 military personnel, however, according to Defense Department News, Russia has so far lost between 60,000 and 80,000 troops. It is unclear if these were all personnel killed in action, or if the figures included injuries that removed fighters from the battlefront.

As a Ukrainian southern offensive commenced, a senior US military official also said on Monday that manpower "ratios between the Ukrainians and the Russians are in much better number, in terms of equality or parity in the south, than they were initially up along the eastern portion of the battlespace."

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, claimed on Tuesday that "Ukraine’s mobilization potential is constantly increasing, while Russia's is running out. General mobilization for the Kremlin is a path to internal destabilization. The Ukrainian army is constantly increasing its quality, while Russia is gradually losing its superiority in quantity."