Opinion: Russia strengthens military forces to send message to Baltic States

During the meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that three new divisions and five regiments with strategic missiles with nuclear heads will be formed.

However, Tomas Jermalavičius, analyst at International Centre for Defence and Security in Estonia, said “I have seen dozens of their declarations about this or that. They will create that on paper, but in reality it will be the same capacity as it is now due to financial and other reasons. I suspect the military finds it increasingly harder to defend its budget, they need new initiatives.”

Russia is consistently strengthening its military power close to the Baltic countries with about 400,000 rapidly deployable soldiers which is about 40% of the whole Russian armed forces. The war in Georgia in 2008 showed the Russians that importance of these mobile units.

Russia has claimed that the NATO Alliance has broken a promise not to deploy significant military capabilities near Russia’s borders. And although there has never been a formal commitment from NATO, back in 2007 Russia withdrew from the Treaty of Conventional Forces in Europe which sets a ceiling for the conventional weapons.

However, many European countries have limited their quantity of armoured equipment or abandoned tanks altogether (like The Netherlands). The Kremlin is finding it hard to prove the emergence of significant military capacities near Russia’s borders with the deployment of only a few hundred US soldiers and a couple of dozens armoured vehicles.

Analysts say the message that Russia is arming to defend itself from NATO is directed at an internal audience – for many years Russians have listed the Baltic countries, Ukraine and the United States as the biggest Russia‘s enemies. In turn, by deploying military power Russia is seeking to intimidate its neighbours and is looking for weak spots, hoping to divide the Alliance.

On the other hand, Putin’s strategic game can be beneficial for Lithuania in that it is pushing NATO to enhance its military capabilities in Lithuania and other Baltic countries.

DELFI

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