US general says Russian army has grown by 15 percent since pre-Ukraine war

Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the head of U.S. European Command, said Thursday that Russia’s army has grown by 15 percent since before the invasion of Ukraine, raising the alarm that Russian forces are reconstituting “far faster” than initial estimates suggested.

Cavoli, also the supreme allied commander of Europe at the Western security alliance NATO, told lawmakers at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that Russia is recruiting 30,000 soldiers per month.

“The size of the Russian military is bigger today than when the war started,” he said.

Cavoli explained that Russia’s military is partly growing because it has initiated an annual spring conscription, but this year Moscow, is offering those recruits the option to sign a contract and get paid in exchange for being sent to Ukraine.

The growing Russian military points to the challenge for Ukraine and its Western allies in fending off a larger army that continues to grow.

It also shows Russia is overcoming its losses in Ukraine, where the Russian military has suffered heavy losses. U.S. officials estimated earlier this year that Russia has suffered 315,000 casualties in the war.

In written statements, Cavoli said Russia has also lost about 10 percent of its air force and more than 2,000 tanks on the battlefield. Moscow has also been beaten back in the Black Sea by Ukraine, but he said the Russian naval activity is at a “worldwide peak.”

Cavoli said Russia is “reconstituting” its lost force “far faster than initial estimates suggested.”

“The army is actually now larger — by 15 percent — than it was when it invaded
Ukraine,” he said in written testimony. “Over the past year, Russia increased its front line troop strength from 360,000 to 470,000.

“Russia’s army increased the upper age limit for conscription from 27 to 30, which increases the pool of available military conscripts by 2 million for years to come,” he added.

Russia is also pushing to restructure seven brigades, which consists of a few thousand soldiers, into divisions and a new army corps, which could be sent to Ukraine and near the border with Finland.

Ukraine is struggling on the battlefield against Russia, which is pressing forward slowly across the eastern front while U.S. aid for Kyiv is on hold.

Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday passed a new mobilization law that will simplify the process for recruiting more soldiers.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this month also signed into law a measure that lowered the age of conscription to 25.

While the Ukrainian military has previously called to draft some 500,000 recruits, Zelensky has not moved on such a large mobilization

Cavoli, who estimated Ukraine has some 900,000 to a million troops available, said Russia’s economy is also growing and that it was on track to spend 6 percent of its economic output on defense.

Cavoli said in his written testimony that Russia is expected to produce more ammunition than all 32 NATO allies combined per year and is on track to “command the largest military on the continent and a defense industrial complex capable of generating substantial amounts of ammunition and materiel in support of large scale combat operations.”

“Perhaps most concerning, the Russian military in the past year has shown an accelerating ability to learn and adapt to battlefield challenges both tactically and technologically,” he said, “and has become a learning organization that little resembles the chaotic force that invaded Ukraine two years ago.”

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