The Russian army is increasing the manpower reserve. What for?

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The number of reservists in the Russian army will increase, the Russian Defense Ministry promises.

True, the website through which Russian citizens are campaigning to join the ranks of the reservists is not located on the server of the Ministry of Defense.

We are talking about reservists who will conclude a contract with the Ministry of Defense, receive certain money for being in the reserve and regularly participate in military training and exercises.

Such reservists have been participating in military exercises since 2016, as an experiment.

The message from the Ministry of Defense on the increase in the number of reservists also refers to the exercises in the Kaliningrad region, to which they were transferred in early September.

How many reservists the Russian army needs, the Defense Ministry does not say.

Unknown project

Who and by what decision created a new structure in the Ministry of Defense in Russia is unknown.

Messages about the recruitment of reservists in the framework of the BARS-2021 project (the country's Combat Army Reserve) have begun to appear on the websites of local administrations in Russia in the past few weeks.

Stylistically and informationally, these messages are very different from each other. For example, the prefecture of the Northern District of Moscow posted on its website a detailed informational material about “citizens in the most mobilized state” (as they call reservists in the prefecture), and in Veliky Novgorod they shot a small video about young people who came to enroll in a reserve to the military commissar.

Some pages refer to the website dedicated to the “New Project of the Ministry of Defense – BARS-2021”. This page is not located on the official website of the Russian Ministry of Defense, but in the free domain zone ws. It was created using the open source site building tool Tilda.

The site itself, in the legal information section, mainly mentions legal documents issued in 2015 and earlier. In particular, presidential decree No. 370 “On the creation of a mobilization human reserve of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”, which Vladimir Putin signed in 2015. In military expert circles, it is called an experiment, which on a national scale was not so large that it was possible to draw any conclusions about the benefits of such an approach.

No separate decrees on the creation of a military army reserve of the country, that is, BARS, to replace the mobilization human reserve or in addition to it, were not published in the press.

On the official website of the Ministry of Defense, information about the new project could not be found.

Nevertheless, the website says that a “team of polite people” and the Ministry of Defense are recruiting the mobilization manpower reserve.

The site is entirely dedicated to advertising the new army reserve. It contains detailed information about the terms of the contract, monetary payments and requirements for contract soldiers-reservists.

The “contacts” section lists the working phone numbers of the Russian military registration and enlistment offices.

No outside information was found on the website about structures unrelated to the official Russian authorities.

The BBC Russian service has sent a request to the Russian Ministry of Defense with a request to tell who is involved in this project, and whether he is associated with the Ministry of Defense, and is awaiting a response.

What is a mobilization manpower reserve?

The BARS 2021 website states that “the mobilization manpower is the part of the citizens in the reserve who are kept in the most mobile-ready state.”

In other words, a person enrolled in the mobilization reserve will continue to live “in civilian life”, but at the same time regularly undergo military training.

This differs from the system that has existed since Soviet times, when in the country everyone who has completed military service in the armed forces, studied at the military department of a university, or served as an officer and went into the reserve are listed as liable for military service, that is, in fact, reservists. Removal from military registration occurs upon reaching a certain age – it varies from 35 to 70 years, depending on the rank and category of the conscript.

In the event of the outbreak of war, these reservists must replenish the formations staffed according to peacetime states, that is, those units in which at normal times a minimum of military personnel, mainly officers, remained.

The advantage of this system is that formally in the USSR and Russia there were quite a few reservists who served in the army and were considered prepared for war. This made it possible to obtain a large army in a relatively short time.

The disadvantage of such a system is the low military qualifications of reservists. After serving compulsory military service or going through training after college, after a few years they sometimes forget the skills acquired in the army, and no longer differ much from those who did not serve.

The idea with a mobilization manpower reserve is for civilian specialists who have served in the army to maintain their military skills and gain new ones, regularly and often attending training sessions and exercises.

For this, they are provided with various benefits and financial support. They are entitled to a one-time payment at the conclusion of a contract, an increase in salary, which in 20 years of being in the reserve will grow from 10 to 50 percent.

The site promises contractual reservist officers an average salary increase of four to nine thousand, depending on duty station, and for soldiers and sergeants, from two to six thousand. They will receive a separate salary for exercises and training camps.

Why does Russia need so many reservists?

The number of contract reservists the Ministry of Defense wants to involve is unknown.

In early August, the head of the organizational and mobilization department of the Southern Military District, Konstantin Zapatotsky, said that by September it was planned to create a combat army reserve of 38 thousand people in the Southern Military District. Earlier in the Southern Military District, the mobilization manpower reserve was about 400 people.

So far, this is the only figure that a Defense Ministry official has named. However, according to the BARS website, enrollment in contract reservists takes place in three dozen subjects of the federation.

Russian military expert Alexander Golts in his column on the Republic website writes that such a sharp increase in the number of reservists can be explained by two goals – preparation for a big war and the transition to a contract army.

“The worst option for creating a BARS is the possibility that a mob-reserve is hastily created, with the expectation of starting large-scale hostilities in a year and a half or two. With all the ensuing consequences for the Russians,” Golts writes.

“The most optimistic is, of course, the assumption that the Russian government is preparing to make a gift to the people in 2-3 years (just before the presidential elections) and cancel the compulsory conscription into the Armed Forces. , which promised considerable relief of the army tax for at least some of our citizens, “says his column.

Meanwhile, another military expert from Russia, Viktor Murakhovsky, told the BBC that the project to increase the number of contract reservists is due to the fact that the Ministry of Defense was able to find funds for it.

In addition, according to him, the experiment with the mobilization manpower reserve, which has been carried out since 2015, also provided some experience.

According to Murakhovsky, the Russian military in creating a contract reserve used the principle that underlies a similar American system.

“There is also an army reserve on the contract, and if necessary, they become the core of the deployment of units of the new formation, which should participate [in hostilities], in addition to the army that exists in the event of a large-scale conflict,” he said.

According to Murakhovsky, in Russia such a reserve does not exclude general mobilization, it will be its component, the core around which the mobilized units will be created.

At the same time, such a reserve, according to him, also does not mean that Russia is switching to a contract army, since problems may arise during deployment during military conflicts, Murakhovsky said.

According to the expert, it would be optimal to keep about 150 thousand reservist contract soldiers in Russia.

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