Russian money allocated for military technological developments ended up being spent on oligarchs' yachts rather than missiles due to corruption, Admiral Rob Bauer, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, told ETV's "Välisilm" while discussing Russia's performance in its war with Ukraine.
Bauer was in Tallinn to chair the NATO Military Committee conference at the weekend. He spoke to presenter Tarmo Maiberg about the alliance's future plans for the eastern flank, Russia's war in Ukraine and NATO's support for Ukraine.
Speaking about Russia's performance on the battlefield, Bauer said NATO had "incredible intelligence" and an "extremely good picture" of what the Russians were doing on the border of Ukraine between November 2021 and February 2022 and their intent.
But the following full-scale invasion shows there was a big difference between what the Russian government said it was doing in relation to military modernization and what it actually did.
"We knew what was going to happen. But of course, there were some surprises, I agree with that" he said. "They have hypersonic weapons. They have actually used them in the operation. And they have used cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. But in the end, they are not as effective as we all thought.
"So, intelligence-wise, you had to look at the amount of missiles they had, the enormous amount of money invested in the Russian armed forces. So our expectation, through our western lens, was that they would have a very capable armed forces.
"I guess because of corruption in Russia, a lot of the money that went into those technological developments has not ended up in in the missiles but in the yachts of oligarchs," he said.
Bauer denied NATO is at war with Russia in Ukraine, as Russia claims.
"No, NATO is not at war with Russia. I have to be very clear about that," he said. "If Russia would attack one of our allies, then it is absolutely clear, and we make that as clear as we can to Russia, that we would defend every inch of allied territory. Then Russia and NATO will be in a conflict. But until that moment, NATO is not at war with Russia."
The admiral also said it is not possible to move large numbers of Russian and Belarusian troops to the borders of the Baltic states quickly without NATO knowing.
"That is not how it works, you will see the build-up of forces," Bauer said.
He said the decision to expand eFP battlegroups to south-eastern Europe was taken at the alliance's Madrid summit to show Russia that NATO is serious about defending its eastern flank. But logistics still need to be improved, he added.
Discussions about prepositioning additional equipment in the Baltics are expected to be agreed by the next NATO summit in Vilnius next summer.
The full interview, carried out in English after the introduction, can be watched below.
Editor: Helen Wright