“We cannot let Russia win [en Ukraine] because the very security of Europe and the entire Russian neighborhood would be called into question,” declared President Macron during his press conference on January 16. However, the situation does not seem to be going in the direction desired by the tenant of the Élysée… At least for the moment. This is indeed the conclusion reached by Norwegian military intelligence [Etterretningstjenesten ou E-tjenesten]in its latest annual risk assessment report “Focus 2024”.
“In this war, Russia is currently in a stronger situation than a year ago and is gaining the advantage,” said Admiral Nils Andreas Stensønes, head of E-tjenesten. , noting in passing that Moscow could mobilize approximately three times as many troops as kyiv. “Substantial Western arms assistance will be required so that the Ukrainian forces can defend themselves and regain the initiative in the conflict,” he added on February 12.
However, for the moment, American military aid has dried up, due to lack of agreement in Congress to replenish it to the tune of 61 billion dollars. This complicates not only the sending of new weapons and ammunition, but also the maintenance in operational condition of equipment already delivered. In addition, the Ukrainian forces are struggling to renew their numbers and, consequently, to relieve the troops sent to the front line. Finally, the dismissal of their commander-in-chief, General Valeri Zaloujny, and his replacement by General Oleksandr Syrsky, may raise questions about the continuation of operations.
For E-tjenesten, the “war in Ukraine will be decisive for the development of Russian military power in 2024 and beyond. Russia has converted to a ‘war economy’ and its arms industry has received significant additional subsidies, allowing it to currently produce ‘enough munitions and materiel to enable Russian forces to support their war effort in 2024.”
The Norwegian military intelligence report estimate thatthanks to the considerable intensification » of its production of weapons and equipment and the amount of its military expenditure [118,5 milliards de dollars en 2024, soit 30% du budget de l’État]Russia will manage to restore its combat power to the level it was before 2022 within three to five years after the end of the war.
This estimate more or less agrees with that made by the Danish Minister of Defense, Troels Lund Poulsen, who, on February 10, declared that a “Russian attack against a NATO country would be possible in the next three to five years “. Note that this is the deadline that the Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr, General Carsten Breuer, gave his troops to prepare for the possibility of war…
Furthermore, E-tjenesten expects to see Russia launch a “major offensive in Ukraine” in the course of 2024. An offensive which would be made possible by increasing the production rates of munitions and equipment… as well as by the reorganization of Russian forces and better logistical support. And to emphasize that the experience acquired on the Ukrainian battlefields and the tests of new weapons systems can only benefit the “development of Russian military power in the years to come”.
“Seen from Moscow, Russia is in direct confrontation with the West and is waging a proxy war with NATO in Ukraine. It is therefore seeking to strengthen its cooperation with other countries. After the United States and Europe imposed sanctions, it was quick to intensify its diplomacy, trade relations and strategic communication with China and other non-Western countries,” emphasizes Norwegian military intelligence. .
In addition to the rapprochement with Iran and North Korea, it highlights the “key role of Saudi Arabia in cooperation within the framework of OPEC+ and the desire of the Gulf States to facilitate the circumvention of sanctions” targeting Russia. “Russian authorities and economic actors will also continue their efforts to strengthen relations with cash-rich Gulf states,” he predicts.
“So we are now seeing clearer cooperation between non-democratic nations, who want to challenge Western domination, as they call it,” summarized Admiral Andreas Stensønes.
“Moscow expects a prolonged confrontation with the West and believes it is necessary to increase its military power. According to public plans, the military strength should increase from one to one and a half million soldiers by 2026. The Moscow and Leningrad military regions should be reactivated and new divisions will be created in Karelia. Russia will also train a number of new infantry divisions and airborne troops. Such an increase in the military structure will require a long and demanding process, especially in the shadow of war, and Moscow’s plans are above all a political signal,” E-tjenesten concluded.