March 7, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Sweden joins NATO, becoming its 32nd member

Institute for the Study of War

Lithuanian intelligence assessed that Russia has the capability to continue sustaining the current tempo of its war in Ukraine and will likely have the capability to gradually expand its military capabilities in the near term. Lithuanian intelligence published its 2024 national threat assessment on March 7 wherein it assessed that Russia has the manpower, material, and financial resources to sustain its war effort in Ukraine in the near term. Lithuanian intelligence noted that Russia reconstituted and increased its deployed manpower in Ukraine in 2023 despite suffering heavy losses but continues to prioritize quantity of manpower and materiel over quality of forces. Lithuanian intelligence also assessed that Russia’s defense industrial base (DIB) has become a driving force within the Russian economy at the expense of other economic sectors and that Russia had allocated at least 10.8 trillion rubles (about $119 billion) to military spending in 2023. The Lithuanian intelligence assessment stated that Russia’s economy is doing better than expected due to high oil prices and Russia’s ability to offset Western sanctions. Lithuanian intelligence caveated that short-term factors are driving Russia’s economic growth and that Russian structural problems, which impose limits on Russia’s short-term capacity, are only likely to deepen in the long term. Lithuanian intelligence also assessed that the Kremlin views Russia’s upcoming March 2024 presidential election as a significant event to legitimize Russian President Vladimir Putin and that Putin will be more likely to make unpopular decisions (potentially such as mobilization) after the election, which could allow the Kremlin to address some potential constraints on its long-term war effort.

Lithuanian intelligence also assessed that Russia is unlikely to abandon its long-term objectives of subjugating Ukraine even if Russia fails to achieve these objectives through military means. Lithuanian intelligence assessed that “Russia shows no intention of de-escalating” its war against Ukraine and that Russia is unlikely to abandon its operational objectives in the long term, even if Russia suffers a military defeat in Ukraine. Lithuanian intelligence stated that Russia will continue to pursue its goal of completely undermining Ukrainian statehood and sovereignty, enforcing Ukraine’s neutral status, and destroying Ukraine’s military potential in the long term, regardless of the outcome of the war in Ukraine. Lithuanian intelligence assessed that Russia will also continue efforts to expand the Russian state’s administrative control to the administrative borders of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia, and Kherson oblasts in the short term. Recent Russian official statements underscore that the Kremlin’s maximalist objectives in Ukraine have remained unchanged since the beginning months of the full-scale invasion and likely will not change, despite Russian information operations that aim to persuade Western audiences and leaders that Russia has limited objectives in Ukraine to seduce the West to support negotiations that favor Russia.

Lithuanian intelligence assessed that Russia is preparing for confrontation with NATO in the long term while also waging its war in Ukraine. Lithuanian intelligence assessed that Russia has allocated substantial resources to the war in Ukraine but maintains the means to prepare for a long-term confrontation with NATO in the Baltic Sea region. Lithuanian intelligence stated that Russia has deployed forces and assets from its western border areas to Ukraine and has thus had to increasingly rely on air and naval capabilities for security and deterrence purposes on NATO’s eastern flank. Lithuanian intelligence reported that Russia deployed Kalibr missile carrier ships on combat duty in Lake Ladoga near St. Petersburg for the first time in 2023, likely in response to Finland’s accession to NATO, and increased the number of Tu-22M3 heavy bomber flights over the Baltic Sea from none in 2022 to five in 2023. The Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service (VLA) also recently assessed that the Russian military is forming the Leningrad Military District (LMD) and Moscow Military District (MMD) in part to posture against Finland and NATO.

Key Takeaways:

  • Lithuanian intelligence assessed that Russia has the capability to continue sustaining the current tempo of its war in Ukraine and will likely have the capability to gradually expand its military capabilities in the near term.
  • Lithuanian intelligence also assessed that Russia is unlikely to abandon its long-term objectives of subjugating Ukraine even if Russian fails to achieve these objectives through military means.
  • Lithuanian intelligence assessed that Russia is preparing for confrontation with NATO in the long term while also waging its war in Ukraine.
  • Sweden formally joined NATO on March 7, becoming the 32nd member of the alliance.
  • The governor of the pro-Russian Moldovan autonomous region Gagauzia, Yevgenia Gutsul, met with Russian Presidential Administration Deputy Head Sergei Kiriyenko in Russia on March 7 as Moldovan authorities announced that a criminal case against Gutsul will soon go to court.
  • Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated Chinese calls for peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine on March 7; Russia will likely continue to use such calls to promote long-standing information operations aimed at prompting Western concessions.
  • The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) announced on March 7 that it neutralized an Islamic State (IS) terrorist cell that had been preparing an attack on synagogues in Moscow.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kupyansk and Donetsk City amid continued positional engagements along the entire line of contact on March 7.
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