While Russia's invasion of Ukraine has meant that it has had to deplete its Western Military District – a vast zone facing the border with Estonia and Latvia – considerably, there is nothing to say that Russia could not rapidly resurrect the sort of numbers they had there prior to February 2022, US-based magazine Foreign Policy (FP) reports.
If so, this might mean this region of Europe being one of the areas Russia eyes up next, even if things are still not resolved in Ukraine, FP writes.
Tuuli Duneton, undersecretary for defense policy at the Ministry of Defense, told FP that: "Russia has plans to increase considerably the number of forces behind the Estonian and Latvian borders," adding that: "According to our assessments, Russia is going to be able to reconstitute its forces in two years."
This is potentially not only for show, either – the reconstituted forces would have a "limited incursion against NATO" possibility.
This could happen, FP reports, for instance if Russian leader Vladimir Putin senses weakness on the Northeastern NATO flank, meaning Poland the three Baltic States, and, now, Finland.
Col. Andrus Merilo, commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) 1st Infantry Brigade said that despite its focus on the invasion of Ukraine far to the South (the Western Military District also borders Ukraine-ed.), the Russian military could have its capabilities restored opposite the Estonian border within a couple of months, once a mobilization was announced.
"Of course, it will be based on older equipment, but it doesn't matter. A tank is still a tank, and if you have a large number of those, it will be a problem," he said.
Russia's ability to mobilize fresh troops, even poorly trained conscripts and reservists with aged equipment, showcases a capability that has alarmed military planners in Europe, FP says.
All told, far from being a spent force and despite its losses, guard against the Russian military machine should not be let down in order to focus on, for instance, China, FP reports, adding the words of Commander of the United States Army Europe and Africa Gen. Christopher Cavoli, who told the publication that: "The ground forces are greatly eroded; they have run into big problems. … On the other hand, they've also ingested a lot of people. The Russian army, the ground force, today is bigger than it was at the beginning of this conflict."
The original FP piece, which focuses more on traditional massed tanks and infantry-type warfare rather than hybrid, is here.
Russia's Western Military District (Zapadnyy voyennyy okrug) as its name suggests encompasses much of European Russia and is one of five such districts.
One of the most notorious units normally located within the Western Military District zone, albeit not under its command, is the 76th Guards Air Assault Division, whose personnel are thought to have been among the main actors in the atrocities committed in the town of Bucha, near Kyiv, in April 2022.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: Foreign Policy