MOSCOW, December 21. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin backed the Defense Ministry’s initiative to increase the size of the Army and raise the conscription age. Speaking at the Defense Ministry’s end-of-the-year board meeting, the head of state said that the Russian authorities would not repeat mistakes of the past and would not engage in the militarization of the country and the economy.
Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu proposed calling up Russian citizens aged 21-30 for active duty, building up the personnel strength by another 30% and deploying 20 new divisions. He also spoke for re-establishing the Moscow and Leningrad Military Districts and setting up a new combat group in the country’s northwestern regions in response to the potential accession by Finland and Sweden to NATO.
TASS has put together the board meeting’s highlights.
Changing conscription age, boosting army size
The lower limit of the conscription age needs to be raised gradually from the current 18 years to 21 years and the upper limit from 27 years to 30 years, Shoigu said.
The defense chief proposed increasing the size of the Russian Armed Forces to 1.5 million. At the beginning of the year, the Russian Army had about 1 million personnel and its numerical strength was intended to reach 1.15 million from next year.
Contract-enlisted personnel should be increased to 695,000, with their numerical strength reaching 521,000 already by the end of next year, the defense minister said. In the spring of 2021, Shoigu said that 380,000 Russians were serving on contract.
The potential accession by Finland and Sweden to NATO will require creating "the corresponding group of forces" in Russia’s northwestern regions, the defense chief said. In particular, an army corps is expected to be deployed in the Republic of Karelia.
Shoigu also proposed re-establishing the Moscow and Leningrad Military Districts and setting up ten new divisions: five artillery, two air assault and three motorized infantry formations (with two of the latter to be stationed in the Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions). The existing brigades will be used as the basis for deploying another seven motorized infantry and five marine infantry divisions, the defense minister said.
Shoigu also spoke for setting up three operational commands of aviation divisions, one fighter and eight bomber aviation regiments and six army aviation brigades in the Russian Aerospace Forces. Each combined arms army and tank army should have a composite aviation division and an army aviation brigade of 80-100 combat helicopters, he said.
Putin backed the defense chief’s proposals. He assured that the Russian Armed Forces would be developing "calmly, rhythmically, without any haste and persistently" while the country would not repeat mistakes of the past. "We will not engage in militarization of the country and militarization of the economy," he stressed.
Special military operation in Ukraine
The objectives of the special military operation in Ukraine will undoubtedly be achieved and security will be ensured on the entire territory of Russia, including its new regions, Putin said.
The combat operations revealed problems, which need "to be addressed specially," including the issues of communications and automated troop command and control and also counter-battery warfare, the Russian leader said. Putin also pointed to the problems exposed during the partial mobilization and the need to modernize the system of military commissariats.
The head of state instructed the Defense Ministry "to pay attention to all civilian initiatives" and also to respond to criticism "rightly and timely."
The Ukrainian military suffered "heavy losses" and "a considerable part" of the weapons it had at the beginning of the special military operation had already been destroyed, Shoigu said, without giving exact figures.
As a whole, the special military operation has demonstrated "commanders’ high professionalism" and the readiness of the military personnel "for accomplishing the most difficult combat missions," the defense minister said. He also highlighted "the exceptional reliability and efficiency of Russian weapons and materiel."
Confrontation with West
Putin called Western countries Russia’s "strategic enemies," which have been striving for centuries to weaken and disintegrate it: "The country, it seems to them, is too big and menacing for someone, so it needs a bit of splitting up, dividing," he said.
Russia has sought to be part of "the so-called civilized world" but it turned out "we weren’t welcome there" while the standoff with the hostile forces in Ukraine was inevitable, the Russian leader stressed.
Now the military potential of practically all the major NATO countries is engaged against Russia, the head of state emphasized. In Shoigu’s estimate, 27 countries have spent already $97 billion on military aid to the Kiev regime and the alliance’s specialists are present in the zone of combat operations while over 500 Western satellites are operating for the Ukrainian military.
Russia’s nuclear triad
Russia will maintain and raise the combat readiness of its nuclear triad, Putin said. "This is the primary guarantee of preserving our sovereignty and territorial integrity and, as a whole, the balance of power in the world." In particular, the most advanced Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles will be placed on combat alert in Russia shortly, despite some schedule adjustment, the head of state said.
As Shoigu pointed out, the Russian nuclear triad is maintained at the level that ensures "reliable strategic deterrence." The Russian nuclear triad is already 91.3% provided with modern weapons (compared to 89% a year ago) and another 22 missile launchers, including for Sarmat ICBMs, will go on combat alert in the Russian Strategic Missile Force alone next year, the defense chief said.
Army’s provision with weapons
Russia’s defense procurement plan for the basic types of armaments has been 91% fulfilled this year, Shoigu said. The deliveries of the most needed types of military hardware and weapons scheduled for 2024-2025 have been rescheduled for their supplies already in 2023, he said.
The Russian president handed down instructions to provide the troops with all the necessary items - not only weapons but also medical aid kits, rations and footwear "at the most advanced and highest level" because "there can be no trifles on the battlefield."
Putin stressed that the Russian Armed Forces were receiving all the required means: "We have no financing constraints and the country and the government give all that the Army requests. I hope that the response will be formulated accordingly and the corresponding results will be achieved."