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15 Feb, 2024 07:59

Russian army stronger than before Ukraine conflict – EU state

Moscow’s military has more soldiers now and can quickly replenish equipment losses, a Lithuanian official believes
Russian army stronger than before Ukraine conflict – EU state

The Russian military appears to be better prepared for a large-scale conflict than it was two years ago as it has gained substantial experience fighting Ukraine, a senior Lithuanian defense official has said.

In an interview with Business Insider on Wednesday, Vaidotas Urbelis, who serves as defense policy director in the Baltic country’s defense ministry, warned that Vilnius should be ready for the “worst case scenario” when it comes to a potential Russian attack.

The official noted that with the Ukraine conflict about to enter its third year, Russia now has “experience in fighting a large-scale war that should be considered as a part of planning.”

“If you look just at sheer numbers, Russia now has more people in the armed forces than it had before the invasion,” he added. According to Urbelis, Moscow would also “be able to recuperate pretty rapidly” from all the equipment losses that it has sustained in the fighting.

In recent months, numerous senior Western officials have warned that Russia could launch an attack on NATO within several years, although many of them, including the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, have acknowledged that there is no immediate threat.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed speculation that Moscow could attack NATO as “complete nonsense,” explaining that it has “no interest… geopolitically, economically or militarily” in doing so.

Still, in December, amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Putin signed a decree increasing the maximum size of the Russian army by 170,000 service members, to reach 1.3 million troops. The Russian Defense Ministry said that the build-up would be based on the recruitment of those citizens who are willing to serve as contract soldiers.

Russia has also significantly ramped up its production of ammunition, military materiel, and battlefield hardware. In late 2023, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu described the country’s army as “the most prepared and battle-ready” force in the world, adding that it has state-of-the-art equipment that has been tested in real-world conditions.

His comments came on the heels of the botched Ukrainian counteroffensive that started in early June 2023 but fizzled out by that fall without making much substantial progress, despite being reinforced with Western equipment. According to Shoigu, Kiev lost more than 215,000 troops and 28,000 pieces of equipment in 2023 alone.

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