Europe requires urgent improvements to military readiness in the face of lingering threats from Russia’s war footing, Belgium’s top admiral said on 19 December.
In his interview with VRT News, the Belgian Army’s Chief of Staff Adm. Michel Hofman Michel Hofman said Moscow’s continued aggressive rhetoric and its economy’s recent switch to a war footing suggest the possibility fresh Russian aggression could open new fronts outside Ukraine:
“We see that Russia has switched to a war economy. I think we would be right to be worried. The language used by the Kremlin and by President Vladimir Putin is always ambiguous. It is by no means out of the question that they might open a second front at some time in the future. Either in the south, in Moldova or the Baltic States”, Admiral Hofman said.
Moldova, bordering Ukraine, faces Russian occupation in its Transnistrian region. Fearing further aggression, it seeks closer ties with the EU and NATO. The Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are NATO member countries, which is supposed to shield them, as an attack on one triggers collective defense.
While Russia appears weakened by the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war, Admiral Hofman believes it’s temporary:
“Russia will eventually regenerate its war machine and rebuild its armed forces,” Admiral Hofman believes.
He says Europe “urgently needs to prepare and make it clear that it can defend itself”:
“[Russians] have already shown that they have the will to attack a neighbor. We have to see that we have the capacity to prevent this happening again and show the will that we are prepared to counterattack if necessary,” Admiral Hofman says.
During his trip to Kyiv in October, the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrelll called Russia’s war against Ukraine an “existential threat” to Europe.