After Ukraine, the Kremlin’s next targets could be Moldova and the Baltic countries, Belgian army chief Michel Hofman has warned.
Russia has “already shown that they have the will to attack a neighbor,” Hofman told Belgian news outlet VRT while visiting Belgian soldiers stationed in Romania. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s language “is always ambiguous. It is absolutely possible that they will also have other ideas later. Either in the south in Moldova or the Baltic states,” he said.
“Europe must urgently prepare and make it clear that it can defend itself” and that “it will … counterattack if necessary,” said Hofman, who is the chief of defense of the Belgian armed forces.
Ukraine has been fending off Putin’s full-scale invasion, which began in February 2022 and shows no signs of abating despite fierce resistance from Kyiv’s forces.
“Russia has switched to a war industry,” Hofman added. Even if Moscow’s forces seem weakened at the moment due to their ongoing war against Ukraine, this weakness is “temporary,” he said. If Russia wins the war, it “will eventually regenerate the war machine and rebuild its armed forces,” the army chief warned.
Moldova neighbors Ukraine and one of its regions — Transnistria — is backed by the Kremlin. It has functioned as an unrecognized state since the fall of the USSR, keeping its Soviet-era hammer and sickle flag and using Russian as its official language.
To the Kremlin’s west, the Baltic countries are protected by NATO’s common defense clause — and an attack by Putin’s troops on Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania could trigger a wider conflict.