Russia tries to recruit to recruit more soldiers

Are you a young Russian man? Are you looking for paid employment and travel? Have the last few months of economic sanctions, political isolation and the loss of McDonald’s got you down? Joining the Army!

The Kremlin is avoiding a general mobilization for war in Ukraine (after all, it still calls the war a “special military operation”, trying to downplay its scale), so that’s attractive for Russian wallets. Stable salary, national service, some benefits such as unspecified bonuses for “heroic deeds” like taking out a tank or plane, according to Radio Free Europe. It also carries a huge risk for oneself, as the person who signs the contract would join a bloody war with many casualties.

There have been sightings in recent weeks of various efforts to increase the number of contract soldiers in the Russian military. Job vacancies are posted on the Russian Army website as well as other websites across Russia. The Russian military consists of a mix of national conscripts and contract soldiers, and by law only contractors can be sent to fight in wars. The Washington Post has reported that some Russians are being cold called with offers to join the military. These are not army reservists (many of them were activated to join the fight in Luhansk, and even then recruiters are trying to bolster the reserve force, according to El Pais), but ordinary people are suddenly asked to use grenade launchers or join a tank crew.

There are advantages. The payout on the listings can be 150,000 rubles a month, or $2,500, according to a listing identified by RFE/RL or up to $4,000 a month on those found by The Washington Post. Combat can earn $55 more every day. This is much higher than the monthly salary of 80,000 rubles ($1,200) per month reported by the Moscow Times in 2016. Of course, inflation can be taken into account, but the salary is also probably higher as incentive. Other highlights include housing – rent is high all over the world – and if an entrepreneur stays for 20 years, a pension. And there are those aforementioned bonuses (the US military, for comparison, offers up to $50,000 in enlistment bonuses for six-year terms). And veterans are entitled to their own special benefits in Russia. Surely that’s appealing to the average Russian who’s been hiding news of the war’s bad run in Ukraine.

It’s bad. Along with its own conventional army, Russia has also relied on allied fighters in the eastern regions of Donbass and Luhask, as well as mercenaries from the Wagner Group, whose leaders are closely linked to the Kremlin. And so far, all these groups have suffered heavy losses. Estimates put Russian casualties in the tens of thousands (Russia’s official count, not updated since late March, is around 1,300). Nearly 1,000 tanks were destroyed. There was also a disproportionate number of generals who were killed in the fighting.

Russia still has the overall advantage in terms of armaments and the size of its army, but Ukraine has drawn blood. Recent arms shipments boost Ukraine’s capabilities, even as fighting in the east of the country destroys much of its industrial centers. It’s unclear whether Russia’s military job fair will pay off, or how quickly it can dispatch these new contract soldiers.

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