How many people are serving in the Russian army?
Ministry of Defense officials, either intentionally or due to carelessness, have maximally muddled the data that is of fundamental importance for understanding the course of the current war – namely, figures regarding the size of the armed forces. Minister Shoigu reported at the Board meeting in December 2023
that “all plans for recruiting for the army and navy this year have been completed in full. Their number has been increased to 1,150,000 servicemen.”
In addition, he promised in 2024 “to increase the number of contract servicemen, taking into account the recruitment of new formations, to 745,000 people by the end of the year.” But back at the end of 2021, he had announced
that the number of contract soldiers was twice as large as the number of conscripts. There were 262,000 conscript soldiers then. Therefore, if you believe that, then back in 2021 there should have been 524,000 contract soldiers. And, according to the defense minister’s latest report, 490,000 people signed contracts in 2023 alone.
Thus, there should already be more than a million contract soldiers in the army. Keep in mind that during war, contracts are automatically renewed and there is no possibility of terminating them. So, Shoigu is assuming that over three years of fighting, the number of contract soldiers will not increase but decrease by approximately 300,000, which could indicate the size of the occurred and expected losses.
There is the same problem with the overall size of the armed forces. From Shoigu’s comments in 2021 it follows that at that time there were over 900,000 servicemen in the army. In 2022, according to official statements, 300,000 were mobilized, while in 2023 490,000 signed contracts. So, the total number should be at least 1,690,000 servicemen.
Yet Shoigu reports that the current number is only 1,150,000. It seems extremely unlikely to me that the minister of defense wanted to hint that in two years of fighting the Russian army lost half a million people. Most likely, whoever wrote these speeches, as usual, took all the figures out of thin air, simply being too lazy to bring them into line with what Shoigu said two years before.Pouring in more and more troops is key
The obvious conclusion reached when sorting through these piles of fiction is that the Russian military command, to put it mildly, is distorting the real state of affairs. However, one should remember the rule well known to those who analyzed Soviet economic statistics: even with the considerable distortions, the data is still indicative of an existing trend.
In this case, it is the Kremlin’s intention to win a victory in Ukraine by increasing the number of troops. During his annual call-in show, Vladimir Putin put
the number of servicemen fighting in the special operation at 617,000. This is more than half the entire armed forces.
I suspect that this figure, as they say, was a slip of the tongue. Later, all pro-Kremlin commentators dutifully avoided it. And that was no accident. At the very least, the figure poorly reflects the effectiveness of the army, which, according to official Ukrainian data, is being opposed by
an armed force of 800,000 servicemen, 600,000 of which are on the battlefield. In other words, it is taking more Russian troops to fight on the defensive than Ukrainian troops to fight on the offensive.