(POLITICO) HELSINKI — When Leonid Brezhnev was in charge of the Soviet Union, he did not see much need to threaten Europe with his country’s vast nuclear arsenal: The USSR’s overwhelming advantage in tanks, artillery and men meant that it was the U.S. which had to be ambiguous about the first use of its nuclear weapons to stop a potential Soviet juggernaut.
Russia under Vladimir Putin is in a different situation. Although it is embarking on a massive 10-year rearmament campaign and is now spending 4.5 percent of its GDP on the military, more than any NATO country, Russia’s conventional forces are dwarfed in size and quality by those of the Atlantic Alliance. […]
"Both the Russian leadership and Russia’s neighbors are inevitably comparing Russia’s current capabilities with those of the Soviet-era war machine, and the most obvious aspect is the numbers,” said Pavel Baev, a research professor at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo.
“Back in the mid-1980s, some 500,000 Soviet troops were deployed in East Germany, while Russia today is only able to put some 50,000 troops near the Ukrainian border,” he added.“The Soviet troops were also far better organized, trained, and supplied. The difference is huge.” […]
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