The Russian Federation has long tried with little success to develop a functioning operational reserve system, albeit different than those in the U.S. Army and other Western armies. However, a recent effort spearheaded by the Southern Military District Commander, General Aleksandr Dvornikov, may represent the first steps in implementing a successful operational reserve, as described by military news website Yezhenedelnik Zvezda. During the Zapad-2021 exercise, General Dvornikov showcased the Special Army Combat Reserve (BARS) program, which has reportedly enrolled 38,000 soldiers.

The accompanying excerpted article in Russian daily newspaper Svobodnaya Pressa explains some of the reasoning behind Russia’s effort to develop an operational reserve. According to one estimate, in order to defend Russia in its entirety in a large-scale warfare situation, an additional 80 brigades would need to be formed, requiring 350,000-400,000 personnel. The accompanying excerpted article from Rostov Oblast regional newspaper Nashe Vremya describes how these personnel will be paid—the level of financial compensation and other benefits are perceived to be attractive to potential recruits. If this experiment is successful in the Southern Military District, it may be replicated in Russia’s other military districts—especially since General Dvornikov is mentioned often in Russian media as a likely candidate to be the next Chief of the Russian General Staff.

It is important to note that Russia envisions its operational reserve system differently than the reserve system found in the United States and other Western countries. Russian reservists will not man “reserve units.” Rather, these soldiers will either serve in Eastern European style “territorial defense” units that provide rear area security or will backfill active-duty formations. This type of reserve system may be the way that Russia envisions fully manning the new Ground Forces divisions that have been created during the past few years, given that the active-duty Ground Forces personnel strength has only slightly increased.

“The manning of the country’s army combat reserve is a routine activity to increase defense capabilities, and to make this project reality requires the concentration of efforts by all regional regional authorities and also representatives of Cossack communities within the zone of responsibility of constituent parts of the Russian Federation.”
—Southern Military District Commander, Army General Aleksandr Dvornikov

Source: Vladimir Sosnitskiy, “БАРС: военная служба на полставки (BARS: Military Service Part-Time),” Yezhenedelnik Zvezda (military news website), 7 September 2021. https://zvezdaweekly.ru/news/202196111-LmRRi.html

Briefly, the army combat special reserve is tens of thousands of “ fresh” reservists who have voluntarily undergone a rigorous selection procedure and signed contracts with the military authorities. Preference was given to applicants who were recently discharged from active duty and have not yet forgotten their skills in the most in-demand military specialties. As it calls up volunteers to the active reserve, the Defense Ministry is promising them a unique opportunity to gain additional education and benefit from financial incentives and quality healthcare. As the Defense Ministry press service commented, people joining the mobilization personnel reserve are supplied with up-to-date kit, receive pay and all the allowances, and get quality healthcare…

The Southern Military District is the launch pad for implementing the new BARS project. As the Rostovskaya Oblast military commissar, Colonel Igor Yegorov, explained, his region’s commissariat is one of the first to be involved in creating a mobilization personnel reserve for the Russian Federation Armed Forces. Since 2015 it has been taking part in an experiment in running a new way of bringing to the forces recruits who sign up to be part of a mobilization personnel reserve. The first subunit to be manned by reservists was a territorial forces company in the Southern Military District…

An army combat reserve of 38,000 was formed in the Southern Military District by early September. The static field camps and storage for the hardware set aside for training musters with BARS territorial defense subunits are nearly ready at the places where reserve units and subunits will be stationed. Twenty-three sites have been resourced and equipped at nine training grounds and 240 officers and NCOs have been selected to work with reservists…

According to the training plans our reservists will attend training drills for two or three days a month and annual training camps that generally last 20 days. At training sessions and camps the soldiers in the reserve will learn to fire all kinds of weapons and to drive military vehicles, and acquire other practical skills according to their specialties. As regards the specific uses of the territorial forces that the Southern Military District now has experience of forming, in the event of mobilization their primary purpose will most likely be to guard and defend particularly important military and state facilities in the rear, maintain law and order in populated areas, and assist the public during an evacuation. This will avoid diverting regular units and subunits to these tasks.

Incidentally, the Southern Military District commanding officer, Army General Aleksandr Dvornikov, praised the performance of a reservist company of the district during an exercise held recently at a Baltic Fleet military facility. He ordered that all battalion and regimental tactical exercises should include a role for commanders of Southern Military District territorial defense subunits and units. It is possible that the best trained soldiers in the district’s combat reserve will take part in the Zapad-2021 major maneuvers this year. Training facilities for the reserve units have been prepared and resourced, and their weaponry and hardware make it possible to hold the first training camps with the district’s BARS subunits according to new comprehensive and dynamic plans as early as the second half of September this year. They will mostly be in the format of field drills and tactical exercises…”The manning of the country’s army combat reserve is a routine activity to increase defense capabilities, and to make this project reality requires the concentration of efforts by all regional authorities and also representatives of Cossack communities within the zone of responsibility of constituent parts of the Russian Federation.”

—Southern Military District Commander, General Aleksandr Dvornikov.

…in order to properly defend Russia on all fronts, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, about an extra 80 motorized infantry and tank brigades drawn from mobilization resources would have to be deployed, and fast. To do this, the country needs while still in peacetime to somehow get hold of 350-400,000 trained, fit, and motivated reservists. How did they arrive at this number? Very simple. No regular army has ever won a serious war all by itself. It has generally perished in fighting on the borders, to enable the nation in the rear to arrange solid support for the front.

Source: Sergey Ishchenko, “БАРС готов к прыжку: в Южном военном округе против Украины и НАТО сформирован второй фронт (The BARS [Special Army Combat Reserve] Is Ready to Roll: Second Front Against Ukraine and NATO Opened in Southern Military District),” Svobodnaya Pressa (Russian daily newspaper), 1 September 2021, https://svpressa.ru/war21/article/308612/

1 September 2021 is not only the start of the school year, it is also the date on which the first stage was completed of a General Staff initiative crucial for strengthening Russia’s ability to defend itself — the hasty creation in the Southern Military District of a 38,000-strong Special Army Combat Reserve (BARS)…This is good for the General Staff, because whenever large-scale combat operations have begun in any war, protecting the rear of the front has always been, and still is, a distraction for substantial numbers of troops, of whom there are already not enough in the trenches.

In order to turn these breathtaking, from the generals’ perspective, prospects into reality, every signatory to such a contract commits to leave his wife and children for three days every month, to tear himself way from work or the comfortable sofa at home upon being summoned and rush to the nearby military unit to which he is attached. Where, at the computer, the controls of a tank, or the shooting range, he will rapidly relearn the “science of winning” under the direction of paternal commanding officers…

…in order to properly defend Russia on all fronts, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, about an extra 80 motorized infantry and tank brigades drawn from mobilization resources would have to be deployed, and fast. To do this, the country needs while still in peacetime to somehow get hold of 350-400,000 trained, fit, and motivated reservists. How did they arrive at this number? Very simple. No regular army has ever won a serious war all by itself. It has generally perished in fighting on the borders, to enable the nation in the rear to arrange solid support for the front.

For example, we met the Great Patriotic War on the western front with just 3.5 million regular soldiers and commanders in the Red Army. But in 1945 we entered Berlin with nearly three times as many, 11.3 million, under arms. To achieve that, taking into account the numbers killed, wounded, or taken prisoner, about 30 million were called up during those four years. They were the Soviet Union’s mobilization reserve, and they amounted to 700 percent of the armed forces initial headcount…

Source: Arkady Budnitsky, “Первые резервисты прибыли на полигон Кадамовский (The First Reservists Arrive at Kadamovskiy), Nashe Vremya (regional newspaper covering issues in the Rostov Oblast) 23 September 2021. https://www.nvgazeta.ru/news/12385/596532/

…The army reserve only accepts people after a rigorous selection process and with each recruit it enters into a contract with a guaranteed rate of pay according to rank, position, length of service engagement, and nature of duties. For example, for a three day exercise an officer will receive up to 10,000 rubles [≈ $139] and an NCO up to 5,000 rubles [≈ $69]. For 30 days spent at military training camps an officer is due between 30,000 rubles [≈ $416] and 75,000 rubles [≈ $1041], and an enlisted soldier up to 25,000 rubles [≈ $347]. Under the terms of the contract the reservist has the same protections as regular service personnel.

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