News2023.03.09 16:11

Russia ready to continue war in Ukraine for another two years – Lithuanian intelligence

BNS 2023.03.09 16:11

Russia is ready to continue the war in Ukraine for another two years, Lithuania's military intelligence chief said on Thursday.

"We estimate that the resources available to Russia today would be sufficient to wage a war of the same intensity that we see today for another two years," Colonel Elegijus Paulavičius, director of the Second Investigation Department under the Defence Ministry, told a news conference.

The State Security Department and the Second Investigation Department said in their annual national security threat assessment report published on Thursday that Russia under Vladimir Putin "becomes increasingly totalitarian", but " the war erodes the regime’s political and economic foundations".

According to the report, Russia's aggression against Ukraine has exposed "the inefficiency and corruption of the regime, revealed limits of Russia's military power and lack of potential to secure its economic and technological development".

Russia's dependence on energy exports has increased, the agencies said, adding that "there is no alternative to such an economic model".

"[Western sanctions] have not led to a collapse of the economy, but Russia's economic problems, for example, dependence on raw material exports, inefficient logistics, declining production due to shortages of components and technology, and substantial budget deficit have been building up steadily and are likely to continue to do so in the short term."

Russians' dissatisfaction likely to grow

The majority of the Russian population has been passively supporting the war, but last year's mobilisation has revealed that "this support is not so strong as the regime’s propaganda has been trying to portray", the intelligence agencies said.

"Dissatisfaction with the regime’s policies is currently passive and manifests itself in mobilisation evasion or complaints about poor supply and disorder in the Armed Forces," they said.

However, "Russian society has started losing its confidence in propaganda and the number of supporters of peace talks is growing", they said, adding that "with the economic situation deteriorating, dissatisfaction with the Kremlin's policies is likely to increase in the near term".

The report notes that there are tensions and anxiety about the future among government officials and large businesses.

"Former practices of the regime, such as imitation of democratic procedures, competition among Kremlin factions, oligarchs' corrupt activities in Russia and abroad, will have to cease due to the regime's increasing totalitarian tendencies and state control over the economy," the agencies said.

Failures on the battlefield, further mobilisation and a sharp deterioration in the economic situation may have negative consequences for the stability of the regime, they said.

"In the current social and political environment, the most likely alternative to Putin's regime is another authoritarian regime, so Russia will likely remain a threat and source of instability in the region at least in the medium term," according to the report.

Western Military District to be reinforced

The intelligence agencies note that the Russian Defence Ministry last December unveiled a plan "to change its force posture in the Western strategic direction by introducing a large-scale reform in the Armed Forces".

Moscow's plan calls for expanding the Armed Forces by an additional 350,000 troops, set up three new motor rifle divisions and reorganising the current seven motorizsd rifle brigades into divisions, tripling them in size.

"It is assessed that these and other reforms would increase the number of military personnel, armament, and combat equipment units in the Western Military District by 30 to 50 percent," the Lithuanian intelligence report reads.

The agencies underlined, however, that these changes are only possible in the long term, in five to ten years, even though Russia aims to carry out the reform by 2026.

Russia has also announced plans to hold the Zapad strategic military exercise in 2023, two years ahead of schedule. These exercises raise concerns for Lithuanian officials because of the risk of unintentional incidents.

"This shows that Russia is adapting its Armed Forces to be a better fit for an extended confrontation with the West and intensifying its regional deterrence efforts due to anticipated Swedish and Finnish membership in NATO," according to the report.

The intelligence agencies also note that Russia is increasing its defence budget by more than planned.

"Even under sanctions, Russia increased the official war spending by 30 percent last year. In 2023, the cost is estimated to reach five trillion rubles (66 billion euros); in fact, with all secret allocations the cost of war is assessed to be much higher."

The agencies also warn that the "unrestricted possibility for Russia to deploy its forces to Belarus negatively affects the security of Lithuania and other NATO member states".

"In the event of a military conflict with NATO, Russia would use Belarusian territory, air space, and infrastructure without any limitations; [Alexander] Lukashenko would also provide Russia with military support," they said.

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