Admiral Michel Hofman, the Belgian Army’s Chief of Staff, has warned that Europe must be ready for possible armed conflict with Russia now the country has become a war economy, mass-producing weaponry and ammunition.
“Europe must urgently prepare and make it clear that it can defend itself,” Hofman told Belgian state news outlet VRT NWS in a report on December 19.
He made his comments on his current visit to troops stationed in Romania guarding NATO’s eastern border.
“I believe we have reason to be concerned. The Kremlin’s and [Russian] President Vladimir Putin’s language is usually vague,” he said, adding: “It is not impossible that they will come up with new ideas later on. Either in Moldova’s South or in the Baltic states.”
Hofman said he believed Russia’s losses suffered in the war in Ukraine would be temporary. “Russia will eventually regenerate the war machine and rebuild armed forces,” he said.
“They have already demonstrated the willingness to attack a neighbour,” he pointed out.
“We need to see that we have the capacity to avoid that and show the will that we are prepared to counterattack if necessary.”
Hofman’s warnings echo those of ex-Lieutenant General Marc Thys, former Belgian Vice-Chief of Defence.
In early December, he claimed Belgium was not at all ready for armed conflict, saying that within hours of any attack its troops would be rendered unable to shoot back and would have to rely on “throwing stones”.
Since long before Russia invaded Ukraine, it has had its attention on neighbouring countries, especially the Baltics and Moldova, where large Russian ethnic minorities live.
In the Moldovan Transnistria region, a Russian “peacekeeper” force has been present since 1992. The Russian military contingent consists of a military base, a large ammunition dump and about 1,500 soldiers.