Defense minister announces major expansion of Russian army
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has announced the need to make a number of structural changes to the country’s armed forces in light of NATO’s attempts to bolster its presence on Russia’s border and expand its membership to Finland and Sweden.
During a Russian Defense Ministry meeting on Wednesday, Shoigu proposed a number of measures to strengthen the security of the Russian Federation, including creating a special grouping of troops on the country’s northwestern border and expanding Russia’s armed forces to amount to 1.5 million servicemen in total, with some 695,000 of them being contract soldiers.
Shoigu’s comments come as Helsinki and Stockholm have submitted bids to join NATO, citing a perceived threat from Russia in light of its ongoing military operation in Ukraine. Their accession to the US-led bloc is currently stalled by Türkiye and Hungary, but all other members have already welcomed their membership.
The minister also offered to “gradually” change the minimum draft age in Russia from 18 to 21 and raise the maximum age to 30, while also offering all draftees the opportunity to sign a contract with the army from the first day of service.
Shoigu went on to suggest creating a number of new military groupings, including five new artillery divisions, eight bomber aviation regiments, and one fighter regiment, as well as six army aviation brigades.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who also attended the meeting, approved the proposals for improving the country’s armed forces and instructed Shoigu to report back once these measures are deliberated with the ministerial board. Putin promised to address these proposals in detail later.
During his address to senior defense officials, Putin also emphasized the need to continue to modernize Russia’s nuclear arsenal, describing it as the key to guaranteeing the country’s sovereignty.