As the Russia-Ukraine war continues, Moscow is losing “military superiority” it once held over its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies in the Baltic region, according to a new think tank report.
In the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), a research center and a forum for debate on major international political and economic issues, a report published on November 14 by Pavel Baev said that many Western policy planners have not grappled with the long-term implications of what the war in Ukraine means for security in the Baltics.
The Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were annexed by the Soviet Union during World War II. Since becoming independent in the 1990s, their forces have been far smaller and less developed than Russia’s. For years, the Baltics have been a focal point for the American-led NATO alliance, which has strengthened its position in the region amid concerns that it was outgunned by Russia.
Baev, a longtime Russia expert whose work included a stint at a research institute inside the Soviet Union’s defense ministry, wrote that Russia’s war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022, has taken an extreme toll on its military and challenges its ability to maintain a large force on its western flank with NATO.
“Whatever the scope of the outcome of the war, Russia will not be able to rebuild a position of military superiority in the Baltic theater or even to set an approximate balance of forces with NATO, which is implementing a new plan to strengthen its posture in this reconfigured direction,” Baev wrote.
“Russia has effectively lost its position of power and the capacity to threaten its neighbors with projections of military power, and while for many Western policy planners these changes appear unnatural and transitional, in Moscow they are perceived as both unacceptable and irreversible,” he added.
Newsweek has reached out to Russian defense ministry via email for comment.
In his report, Baev, who is a research professor at the Peace Research Institute,
writes that the Baltic frontier has historically been a major avenue of interactions between Russia and the West, adding that the nature and intensity of challenges in various parts of NATO’s “multi-domain interface with Russia has changed drastically,” noting that the most profound changes is in the complex balances of military forces and political powers.
“The problem is that the ongoing organizational and operational changes in the Russian armed forces, driven by the setbacks in the long war, can hardly provide useful directions for further reforms,” Baev wrote.
“While the Ukrainian army is moving forward with rearmament to modern weapon systems and reorganization for modern warfare, the Russian army is falling back to the Soviet patterns of a mass army equipped with armaments designed in the pre-information technologies era. The economic and demographic realities of Russia in the 2020s and the decades to come make these resource-consuming patterns unsustainable.”
The report also says that several vulnerabilities including Moscow’s strategic goal of turning its military exclave of Kaliningrad into a launching pad to dominate the central part of the Baltic region “has effectively been canceled” as well as Ukraine’s ability to target Russian military infrastructure around Crimea has exposed weaknesses in Moscow’s coastal defense weapon systems. Those vulnerabilities also apply to the Russian military along the Baltic coast.
This is not the first time Russia’s military losses have been addressed as Ukraine claimed earlier this month that Russia lost 3,700 more troops than the 13,700 soldiers that Moscow says were lost by Kyiv. Newsweek has not independently verified any of the figures, which both sides may be inflating.
On Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Ukraine had lost a “colossal” 13,700 troops this month, according to a report from Russian-state media outlet RT. Shoigu also claimed that Ukraine had lost 1,800 units of tanks and “other heavy weaponry” during November.
Meanwhile, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported Tuesday that Russia had lost a total of 319,820 troops since the war began, a figure that includes 17,400 Russian soldiers purportedly killed this month.