Will Russia’s Mid-War Military Restructuring Work?
The manpower may be there. The military hardware is not.
In contrast with Serdyukov’s reforms of 2008, in which Russia sacrificed manpower to invest in weapons development, the new reforms show a significant increase in manpower while at the same time investing in new weapons, backfilling the existing force with new equipment, and also standing new divisions. Serdyukov’s plan created a Russian military posture against internal and external threats and away from large-scale war in the European plain or China. These formations performed well, highlighting their combat potential in 2014 and Syria.
However, the real test had not come until earlier last year, when Russia invaded Ukraine. With this move, Russian signals that the primary threat has shifted from small-scale combat operations, which saw terrorism as its main threat, to a large-scale conflict, in which NATO is once again the main danger. But Russia is not the Soviet Union, and many barriers will prevent the MoD from successfully implementing these reforms, at least in how the Kremlin envisions them. Russia’s ability to use all available methods to man these formations will likely yield enough personnel. The issue is that modernization and procurement of existing and new systems will suffer, creating an army that will be quantitatively inferior to NATO forces.
Jorge L. Rivero is a Foreign Area Specialist concentrating in Europe and Eurasia for the U.S. Marine Corps and is currently stationed in Quantico, Virginia. Jorge focuses on the Russian military and Russian information operations. The views expressed here are his own.