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".
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.
*Terrorist groups outlawed in Russia and many other countries.