Russia’s army has grown since before the invasion of Ukraine despite sustaining heavy troop losses, and is ‘modernising’ as it learns how to ‘defeat’ Western warfare techniques and equipment, a top US general has warned.

Lieutenant General Charles Costanza, Commander-in-Chief of the US Army’s V Corps, which is stationed in Poland, said the biggest threat to NATO is ‘clearly Russia’, and that the threat is more imminent than many realise.

‘I think that there’s a little bit of a misperception that we have time and that Russia is taking a lot of losses and it’s going to take them a while to rebuild and reconstituted. I don’t have that view,’ he told Voice of America.

He said that while Vladimir Putin’s conscript army ‘may not be as well-trained’ as the original ranks he sent into Ukraine in 2022, the push for more troops has meant they are a far bigger fighting force than before the war broke out.

The top military brass warned that Moscow’s forces have also ‘modernised, learning the lessons from fighting in Ukraine which is going to be a problem for us in the West because Ukraine is using Western equipment, they are using Western techniques.

‘Russia’s learning how to defeat that, and I think we need to be ready in the near-term,’ he said. 

Lieutenant General Charles Costanza, Commander-in-Chief of the US Army's V Corps, which is stationed in Poland , said the biggest threat to NATO is 'clearly Russia '

Lieutenant General Charles Costanza, Commander-in-Chief of the US Army’s V Corps, which is stationed in Poland , said the biggest threat to NATO is ‘clearly Russia ‘

Russian servicemen attend the Victory Day military parade on Red Square in Moscow on May 9, 2024

Russian servicemen attend the Victory Day military parade on Red Square in Moscow on May 9, 2024

Discussing a timescale for preparedness, Lt. Gen Costanza said: ‘NATO thinks a three to seven year kind of horizon to reconstitute, other people say the same thing. I think it’s much more near-term than that.’

He added that while the security alliance may not be fully prepared for confrontation yet, he had never before seen such ‘a real sense of urgency from NATO to get ready’ as the organisation was displaying now.

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His comments come after the UK Ministry of Defence estimated this month that the number of Russian casualties likely stands at more than 465,000 since Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Despite significant losses, the Kremlin’s forces mounted a renewed ground offensive over the weekend targeting towns and villages Ukraine’s Kharkiv region in the northeast of the country, claiming on Sunday 

The US Army commander’s warnings come as the Kremlin continued to issue its own, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declaring today that Russia is prepared to engage if the West wants to fight for Ukraine on the battlefield.

‘It’s their right – if they want it to be on the battlefield, it will be on the battlefield,’ Lavrov said in comments carried by Russia’s RIA Novosti. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared today that Russia is prepared to engage if the West wants to fight for Ukraine on the battlefield. Putin and Lavrov are pictured this week

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared today that Russia is prepared to engage if the West wants to fight for Ukraine on the battlefield. Putin and Lavrov are pictured this week

Lt. Gen Costanza said: ‘NATO thinks a three to seven year kind of horizon to reconstitute, other people say the same thing. I think it’s much more near-term than that’

French President Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility that Western troops could one day be sent to Ukraine.  

Vladimir Putin warned earlier this year that deploying NATO troops into Ukraine could lead to World War Three, with the Kremlin saying that any Western equipment used by Kyiv to attack will be seen as a legitimate target, even if it is based in a third country.

In the UK today, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also recognised the looming threat of war, declaring: ‘Putin’s recklessness has taken us closer to a dangerous nuclear escalation than at any point since the Cuban missile crisis.’

But Sunak also looked beyond the war in Ukraine, warning that Britain faces an increasingly dangerous future due to threats from an ‘axis of authoritarian states,’ that include Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

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‘I’m convinced that the next few years will be some of the most dangerous, yet most transformational, our country has ever known,’ Sunak said.

The speech today comes weeks after the British Prime Minister announced renewed focus on security, pledging to up defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2030.

He also said that the world is the ‘most volatile’ for years and Britain’s defence industry must go on a ‘war footing’ in statements given during a joint appearance with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg at a military base in the Polish capital last month. 

A Russian howitzer fires toward Ukrainian positions at an undisclosed location

A Russian howitzer fires toward Ukrainian positions at an undisclosed location

Sunak’s push to move Britain’s defence industry to a war footing came after General Sir Richard Barrons warned the nation is sorely underprepared for a conflict with Russia, and urged the government to invest heavily in reconstituting the armed forces to meet the challenge.  

‘Russia is clearly angry and rearming so their capability will be restored and when the shooting stops in Ukraine, Russia will blame the outcome on us,’ he told MailOnline earlier this year.

‘We are already In confrontation with Russia. Right now, we have chosen to do very little about it.

‘During the Cold War the Army, at all times, was ready to fight at four hours’ notice. When the Cold War ended and there was no sense of existential risk to the UK, all of that was dismantled.

‘Now we would need five to 10 years’ notice of a Russian surprise attack to manage to deal with it. It’s deeply disappointing.’

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