22:57 GMT26 September 2020
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    Earlier, UK Chief of General Staff Mark Carleton-Smith claimed Russia "indisputably" presented a "far greater threat" to Britain than Islamist extremist groups like al-Qaeda and Daesh (ISIS)*. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded by saying Russia couldn't "forbid anyone" from "demonstrating their intellectual…capabilities" with such remarks.

    Belgium, along with France, has been particularly hard hit by Daesh terrorist activity. Between 2014 and 2018, the country has faced at least half a dozen terrorist incidents for which Daesh has claimed responsibility. These attacks have left over 45 people dead and more than 310 injured.

    Nevertheless, Brussels "absolutely" agrees with the British defence staff's sentiment that Russia is a greater threat than Islamist terrorism, General Carl Gillis, the Head of Division Operations of the Belgian Defence Staff, has said.

    "Moreover, the same observation was made last week in Rome, so much so that we hardly mentioned terrorism. By contrast, Russia has returned to all our analyses," Gillis said, speaking to Paris Match magazine.

    According to the general, who is in charge of all of the Belgian military's operations abroad, late last month, he and his NATO colleagues held two days of discussions with an unnamed "political advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin" at the NATO Defence College in Rome, where the Russian official supposedly made "crystal clear" to the Western alliance that Russia "intends to reaffirm itself as a great power on the international scene".

    Gillis said that to achieve this, Russia is turning toward Asia, where it is seeking to build economic, political, and military alliances with countries like China and Japan. "On the other hand, the Russians consider that we have already entered a post-American multipolar world order and, as such, no longer accept what they call the dictates of the United States". Finally, the general said, Russia wants "to reestablish their influence in what used to be the buffer zones along their borders".

    Furthermore, he argued, "Russia is trying to undermine the cohesion of the European Union and NATO to weaken us", noting that Moscow was doing this by using "hybrid means", including playing on issues such as Brexit and tensions between Washington and its European allies.

    At the same time, according to Gillis, Russia is looking to ensure "stability and security" in its own sphere, including border security, as well as "respect". "Russia wants, at all costs, to be respected again", the Belgian general emphasised.

    Belgium deployed its military to Afghanistan alongside the US in 2001, with a contingent of troops remaining deployed in the country to this day. In 2011, Belgian forces participated in the NATO intervention in Libya, which led to the overthrow of the Gaddafi government and the collapse of Libya as a state. In 2014, Belgium joined the US-led coalition mission fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria. The country has also joined its NATO allies in beefing up the alliance's military presence along the alliance's eastern borders with Russia, taking charge of NATO's Baltic air policing mission in Lithuania earlier this year.

    *Terrorist groups outlawed in Russia and many other countries.

    Related:

    UK Chief of General Staff Dubs Russia 'Far Greater Threat' than Daesh
    Washington Sees Daesh as Ally to Be Used for Regime Change in Syria - Lavrov
    Tags:
    terrorists, terrorism, Belgian military, NATO, Carl Gillis, Russia, Belgium
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