Vladimir Putin ‘tested rival’s military’ amid fears of European invasion

Russia: Ambassador to UK denies Ukraine ‘invasion’ plan

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Tensions surged in April when Russia flooded its border with Ukraine with military presence. Political observers and analysts predicted a repeat of 2014, when Mr Putin’s forces stormed across the border and annexed Crimea. Tensions in the region have since calmed with focus now turned to appeasing the flare-up of violence between Israel and Palestine.

Yet, Professor Julian Lindley-French, an internationally recognised strategic analyst and advisor in defence, argued that Russia is unlikely to have ended its military belligerence.

The veteran analyst has recently co-authored a book, ‘Future War’, exploring how the US and Europe might consolidate their military forces in the face of increasing threats from the likes of Russia and China, as well as handling new and cutting edge techniques of conflict.

Far from intending to spark real conflict, Prof Lindley-French said, Mr Putin and his General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian General Staff, would have gained valuable knowledge of Ukrainian capabilities during the border crisis.

He told Express.co.uk: “It was a wonderful test for General Gerasimov and Putin, of Ukraine’s defences.

“The Russians are aware that Ukrainian armed forces are better than they were in 2014 when they ceased Crimea, partly because of Western training.

“So they would have observed in the recent build-up how Ukraine responded, where it responded, what it responded with.

“That would have been very carefully monitored by Moscow so that if Putin at some point decides that he really is going to consolidate control over the Donbass and exclude Ukrainians anywhere off the Kerch Strait that they know exact where to strike and how to do it, and they’ve got the assets to do it.”

Russia stationed 100,000 troops along its western border with Ukraine and annexed Crimea.

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Despite Mr Putin’s announcement that he was planning on pulling back, the soldiers and military hardware remained stationed in the region well into mid-May.

It is not clear whether they have retreated or are still on the border today.

The pile-up of forces took place against the backdrop of increased fighting in Ukraine’s troubled eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

There, government forces have battled allegedly Russian-backed forces since rebels seized territory in April 2014.

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As part of the soft aggression, Russian military units also conducted exercises in the Black Sea region of Crimea.

Russia has long been involved in skirmishes and conflicts in its former Soviet republics.

Within Georgia are the two self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both of which are Russia-backed and have deep roots and ties with Moscow both financial and cultural.

Elsewhere, on Russia’s north-western border with Finland, tensions have also threatened to boil over.

In 2018, Finnish soldiers found “secret Russian military bases” after raiding a mysterious island.

The country had historically terse relations with Soviet Russia, having fought on two occasions against it during World War 2 on the side of Germany.

Meanwhile, Prof Lindley-French added that he feared what the consequences might be of Russia’s amassing and modernising its military services.

He said: “They’ve invested a huge amount of resources in building and modernising their armed forces, but the thing about modernising armed forces is there comes a point when they’re modern, and there comes a point when they’re obsolete.

“And for an autocracy like Russia the temptation is always to use the force when it’s at its peak, and that’s that threat that we’re moving towards the climax of the Russia military modernisation programme.

“The temptation will be at some point to use it or lose it because the West will respond and when we respond we will always be more capable of developing modern armed forces.”

‘Future War and the Defence of Europe’, written by John R. Allen, Frederick Ben Hodges, and Julian Lindley-French, is published by Oxford University Press and out now.

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