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Russia intends to double the number of its troops stationed along its border with the Baltic states and Finland, as it prepares for a possible military conflict with NATO over the next decade, according to Estonian foreign intelligence services.
Kaupo Rosin, director general of Estonian Services, whose analysis of Russia is closely followed in Western capitals, is the latest European official to warn of Moscow’s persistent appetite for conflict beyond its invasion on a large scale of Ukraine.
While emphasizing that Russia is currently “not willing to take military action against NATO,” he said, “we see that the Russians, in their own thinking, calculate that a military conflict with NATO is possible in the next decade.
Russian military reforms gradually unveiled since the end of 2022 indicate a “substantial” increase in troops on NATO’s eastern flank, Rosin said before his agency published its annual report on Tuesday.
“The Russians are planning to increase their military forces along the border of the Baltic states but also the Finnish border,” Rosin said. “We will most likely see an increase in numbers, perhaps even a doubling. We will see an increase in the number of armed personnel carriers, tanks and artillery systems in the coming years.”
The intelligence report said the number of Russian troops stationed on its border with Estonia could almost double from the 19,000 there before Ukraine’s 2022 invasion.
Along the 1,340 km border with new NATO member Finland, a new army corps would likely consist of “two or three maneuver units with a dozen fire support units and ‘combat support,’ the report added.
A similar buildup of weapons and soldiers along Russia’s border with Ukraine was seen in the months leading up to February 2022, when Vladimir Putin’s troops began moving toward kyiv.
Troels Lund Poulsen, Denmark’s defense minister, warned last week of the possibility of a Russian attack within three to five years, saying “new information” had been revealed previously unknown to the countries. of NATO.
Rosin said it was up to NATO allies to deter Russia by increasing their military spending. Estonia plans to spend more than 3 percent of its GDP on defense this year, above NATO’s 2 percent target, as major European countries, including France and Germany, are still struggling to achieve.
“We can handle this on our side,” he added. “It’s not just about Russian thinking. It is possible for us to influence the Russian calculation.”
Donald Trump, who is seeking to become US president again in November’s election, said this weekend that Russia could do “whatever it wants” with NATO countries that fail to reach 2% target.
Rosin said of the remarks: “Such statements are never helpful. But the Russians are probably paranoid enough to not only listen to the words spoken, but also to examine the actions.
As European countries struggle to spend more on defense and increase weapons production for Ukraine, Russia’s war budget stands at 14.3 billion rupiah for 2024, or 6%. of GDP.
Russian arms factories operate around the clock and supplies from Iran and North Korea have allowed Putin’s military to outnumber Ukraine as Western aid to kyiv begins to falter.
Russia manufactured 3.5 million units of ammunition last year, far exceeding Ukrainian production and Western supplies, according to Estonian services. This figure will reach 4.5 million in 2024 as Western production remains slow, meaning the gap between Russian and Ukrainian forces will widen further, according to the report.
Russia nevertheless suffered losses of heavy equipment, including more than 2,600 tanks, 5,100 armored personnel carriers and 600 self-propelled artillery units last month, according to the report.
In a bid to circumvent Western sanctions that limit Moscow’s access to machine tools, production lines and factory equipment, Putin has ordered the modernization of armored vehicles salvaged from warehouses and has actively sought alternative supplies, particularly from China and Hong Kong, according to the report.