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Never underestimate Russia, top NATO military official warns

Never underestimate Russia, top NATO military official warns

by host

BRUSSELS — NATO is crafting its new military plans assuming Moscow will make a comeback. 

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Admiral Rob Bauer, chair of the NATO military committee, said that although the bulk of Russia’s land forces are fighting in Ukraine, he believes the Kremlin’s forces are still a threat. 

“We are convinced that the Russians are going to reconstitute,” he said. “And therefore, the plans are built on not the actual status of the Russian army, but on the status of the Russian army before they attacked Ukraine.”

Russia, Bauer said, “will learn lessons from that war” and NATO “will continue to look at them as a serious threat.” That includes in the seas, in the air and in space, where Russian forces “are still very, very capable,” in addition to nuclear capabilities.

“We should never underestimate the Russians and their ability to bounce back, as they have shown in history a couple of times,” he added. 

Next Tuesday and Wednesday, the Western alliance’s leaders will gather in Vilnius, where they will sign off on historic new regional military plans and discuss how to boost investment in defense as Russia continues its war in Ukraine. 

Speaking about NATO’s new military plans, Bauer underscored how the summit will mark the beginning of a long implementation process. 

“We have to go and do our work — to reach the higher number of forces with a higher readiness, we need to exercise against the plans, we need to buy the capabilities that we require,” he said, “and that will take time.”

Executing the plans ranges from more recruitment to ensuring sufficient weapons and ammunition are being produced — along with more resources dedicated to defense. 

“We need more money, collectively, to pay for that,” Bauer said. Plus, NATO’s new model for high-readiness forces will require “making sure that the nations have a mechanism in place to increase the numbers of people that are available for the armed forces.” 

Asked about the status of Ukraine’s counteroffensive, the admiral pushed back against a narrative of disappointment with Ukrainian forces. 

“It is extremely difficult, this type of operation,” the chair stressed. “I think the way they do it is commendable,” he said, “and I think they are — for good reasons — in some places cautious.” 

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