The speeches of Russian President Putin and Defense Minister Shoigu at the collegium of the Russian Ministry of Defense formulate the Russian war plan for 2023.
I have assembled the key theses from two speeches into a single text for analysis here. So, what is this plan, judging by the statements of Russian military and political leadership, and what are the conclusions?
1. The size of the army will increase to 1.5 million people, and the number of contract soldiers to 695 thousand.
The full-time complement of the Russian Ministry of Defense was 2.1 million people, including 1.1 million military personnel. The increase in numbers does not mean that the Russian Federation plans to carry out additional mobilization, but rather that all 300,000 mobilized Russians will probably be included into the Russian Armed Forces, along, obviously, with about 100,000 mobilized in the occupied territories as part of the 1st and 2nd "LDNR" Army Corps.
The increase in the armed forces by 500,000 people is aimed entirely at increasing the combat strength of the ground forces. Before the beginning of the invasion, the infantry, airborne troops, and marines totaled up to 500 thousand people, which means that the ground forces are set to double in size compared to 2021. The number of professional contract soldiers, which was about 405,000 in 2021, was planned to increase to 521,000 in 2022, and to 695,000 in 2023.
2. Deployment of 20 new divisions of ground forces to maintain the Crimean corridor and for the war against Ukraine.
"Form three motorized rifle divisions, including a combined arms division in the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, as well as an army corps in Karelia; reform seven motorized rifle brigades into motorized rifle divisions; additionally form two amphibious assault divisions; form five artillery divisions of military districts, as well as large-capacity artillery brigades; on the basis of existing marine infantry brigades, and form five marine infantry divisions."
Russia’s priority is to maintain the corridor from Russian territory to Crimea through Zaporizhzhia and Kherson Oblasts, where the creation of new divisions is planned.
The most capable brigades of paratroopers, marines, and motorized rifles will be deployed in that division – that is, where there are combat-ready command personnel. If we set aside those currently at the front, the Russians plan to deploy up to 100 new battalion tactical groups, and their use should be orderly, as part of their divisions. Obviously, part of those people being mobilized in Russia will be directed to equipping these new units.
The Russians plan to improve their artillery offensive and counter-battery combat tactics with the creation of artillery divisions.
3. Struggle for supremacy in the air
"For each combined arms (tank) army, maintain a mixed aviation division and an army aviation brigade, numbering 80-100 combat helicopters;
In addition, form three command aviation divisions, eight bomber aviation regiments, one fighter aviation regiment, and six army aviation brigades."
In order to improve interaction with ground forces, direct support of troops, and the suppression of Ukrainian Armed Forces air defense,, the Russians are assigning each combined army in Ukraine a separate aviation division, and in each of these divisions they are creating an aviation strike regiment, judging by the state of Su-24 and Su-34 bombers.
Judging by the plan to enter three Tu-160 strategic missile carriers into service, the Russians are also planning to increase the production of air-launched cruise missiles for strikes on Ukraine.
4. Sharp saturation of troops with drones to the level of an infantry unit, network-centric war
"The current task is to improve unmanned aerial vehicles, including strategic and reconnaissance-strike ones, as well as methods of their use. The experience of a special military operation has shown that the use of drones has become practically ubiquitous, and an arsenal of these capabilities should be in combat units, platoons, companies, and battalions. Targets must be detected as quickly as possible, and information is to be transmitted for strikes in real time.
Unmanned aerial vehicles must be linked to each other, integrated into a single intelligence network, and have secure communication channels with headquarters and commanders. In the near future, every soldier should have the opportunity to receive information transmitted from drones. The Russian command has realized the key importance of drones for situational awareness and plans to introduce changes in the organizational and staff structure and dramatically increase the number of drones, starting with the smallest unit - the detachment. Currently, full-time UAV units in the Russian Armed Forces have been created exclusively at the brigade-regimental level.
5. Raising the enlistment age to 21 and increasing the combat capacity of conscripts.
The experience of the war has shown the complete inability of 18-year-old young men in the ranks of the Russian Armed Forces. Currently, the Russian Armed Forces have about 270,000 conscripts every year. Thus, the goal is to get more independent and responsible conscripts with work experience and after training, since it is conscripts who are the main source of recruitment of contract soldiers in the Russian Armed Forces.
6. The creation of the Leningrad and Moscow Military Districts on the territory of the Western Military District.
The purpose of the creation of the Leningrad Military District is to increase the threat to the Baltics and Finland. The purpose of creating the Moscow District is to manage Russia’s strategic reserves and parts of central subordination which are concentrated in central Russia.
The Western Military District will thus be fully focused on conducting hostilities against Ukraine and controlling Belarus.
7. Strengthening the combat capability of military equipment. Three new repair plants and additional repair units in the military are being deployed.
In 2023, Russia plans to:
1. Secure a foothold on captured territories, primarily on the corridor to Crimea;
2. To prepare a large-scale offensive operation from all land directions, creating a numerical advantage;
3. Achieve success in the ground war as a result of qualitative changes: changes in organization and management, close interaction of troops on the ground and in the air, achieving better coordination between intelligence assets and destructive capacities, and strengthening situational awareness;
4. Russia is aware of the superiority of the Ukrainians in terms of combat capability, so it is trying to introduce qualitative changes in the composition of the troops in order to ensure a higher quality of mobilization reserves;
5. Russia is preparing for a long-term war, and there are no signs of a political solution and peace.
The Russian Federation will not be able to fulfill the tasks it has set in full, as it has limitations in personnel and industrial capabilities. The enemy will not achieve a significant numerical advantage over the Ukrainian Armed Forces, even with these numbers, but achieving a local advantage is possible.
The enemy has come to some correct conclusions from the experience of hostilities, and defined new priorities for its military policy, to which Ukraine and NATO will have to respond systematically in the new year.
Ukraine and its allies have every opportunity to achieve victory in the war and in new battles, and to do this, it is necessary to objectively assess challenges from the enemy and carry out our own defense planning.