Fifteen years after Vladimir Putin first walked into the Kremlin, Russia’s army is bigger, stronger, and better equipped than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Able to call on three quarters of a million frontline troops, The Telegraph reports, with more tanks than any other country on the planet, and the world’s third largest air force, Russia retains much of the brute force associated with a former superpower. But it has also rapidly modernised, spending millions on rearmament and retraining programmes aimed at professionalising the lumbering, conscript-reliant force it inherited from the Soviet Union. The latest effort, as Reuters reports, Putin has ordered the creation of a new reserve armed force as part of steps to improve training and military readiness at a time of international tensions with the West over Ukraine.
With an estimated 766,000 troops under arms and another 2.5 million in reserve, Russia’s armed forces have shrunk under Mr Putin to the fourth largest in the world, behind China (2.3 million), India (1.4 million) and the United States (1.3 million).
In the relatively low-tech, high fire-power weapons that have defined the Ukraine conflict, it remains unsurpassed, with more tanks, self propelled artillery, and multiple rocket launch systems than any other country on the planet.
However, Russia still lags far behind the United States in total power and many other Western countries in terms of technology, with much of its vast arsenal still made up of ageing Soviet-designed equipment.
And so, it appears "whatever it takes" is spreading to Russia...(as Reuters reports)
The new reserve force has been discussed for several years and was first ordered by Putin in 2012 shortly after his re-election as President. The latest decree was published late on Friday.
It will be distinct from Russia's existing military reserves because the part-time personnel will be paid a monthly sum and train regularly.
Russia already has several million military reservists consisting of ex-servicemen, but they do little training as there are restrictions on how often they can be called up.
Defence Ministry officials have previously said that the new reserve force was envisaged at around 5,000 men to begin with, a small figure in a country with around 750,000 frontline troops.
The creation of the new reserve force had been delayed by a lack of financing, Russian media reported. Putin's decree ordered the government to find financing for the new force from the existing defense ministry budget.
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Last year Russia spent an estimated 3.247 trillion rubles (£42.6 billion) - equivalent to 4.5 per cent of GDP - on defence, according to the SIPRI, a Swedish think tank. That’s up from 3.6 per cent of GDP since Mr Putin came to power in 2000.
That SIPRI estimate is higher than Russia’s officially published 2014 defence budget of 2.49 trillion rubles - which still makes it the third largest spender in the world behind the United States and China.