General Petr Pavel says that Europe and the U.S. are “embarrassingly” unprepared for a Russian attack, as fears of a confrontation between the West and Russia escalate as Russia continue to increase their military presence at the Ukraine border.
General Pavel warned that the West needs to “weigh its positions regarding whether it would start a war – maybe even a nuclear war – against Russia for the Baltic states”.
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were all incorporated into the USSR by Stalin in June 1940, but are now members of NATO and the EU.
General Pavel added that measures taken by Europe against threats from Russia, including Islamic State, were “embarrassingly ineffective”.
He warned that NATO was hit by “weaknesses” such as a “complicated decision-making process” because it requires the agreement of 28 member states.
He said: “Russia on the other hand can make decisions very quickly, in a couple of hours.”
Putin was last year quoted as boasting: “If I wanted, Russian troops could not only be in Kiev in two days, but in Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw or Bucharest, too.”
The warning comes as reports have pointed to a massing of Russian equipment close to the Ukraine border.
Hundreds of pieces of weaponry including mobile rocket launchers, tanks and artillery at a makeshift have been spotted.
Many vehicles have removed number plates and identifying marks, while servicemen have taken insignia off their fatigues.
The scene at the base on the Kuzminsky firing range – only 30 miles from the Ukrainian border – is said to offer “some of the clearest evidence to date of what appeared to be a concerted Russian military build-up in the area”.
Ukraine and the West insist Russia has not only armed and equipped rebels, but also sent in troops to spearhead fighting against Kiev’s forces.
NATO said rebels are using a lull in fighting due to a shaky truce to bolster their forces ahead of a possible new offensive.
However, the Kremlin has consistently denied government soldiers are fighting in Ukraine and claimed those fighting alongside rebels are there as volunteers.
Meanwhile, Putin’s move to sign a decree to make a “state secret” information about troop losses in peacetime has been described as a way to “imprison or scare people”.