The war helps to reinforce Vladimir Putin’s personal power; it provides a pretext to repress political opposition and tests the loyalty of the elites and security forces. Aggression against Ukraine has exposed the regime’s inefficiency and corruption, lack of potential to secure its economic development. Although the Western sanctions have not led to a collapse of the economy, the problems are building up gradually. Russia is capable of continuing the war and maintaining social control through political repression in the short term. However, the war requires mobilisation of state resources, which undermines political and economic foundations of the regime.
The regime is preparing for a long-term conflict with Ukraine and the West – it increases the size of its army and defence spending. The sanctions that weaken Russia’s economy will not impede the regime’s ability to prioritise the funding of increased military needs at the expense of public welfare. Nevertheless, the war against Ukraine will diminish the Russian military threat in the Baltic sea Region only temporarily. Russia will prioritise efforts to replenish and strengthen the regional military grouping as quickly as possible, but the speed and success of this process will heavily depend on the duration of the war and the losses incurred in Ukraine.
Belarus has not only provided Russia with the ability to use its territory for offensive operations against Ukraine but also allows deploying the contingent of the Russian Armed Forces. This has a negative effect on the security of Lithuania and other NATO members – in case of conflict with the West, Russia would enjoy unlimited access to Belarus’ territory and military support. Alyaksandr Lukashenka hopes that Russian financial support will help to mitigate the impact of international sanctions; however, Moscow’s failures in Ukraine and growing economic losses due to Western sanctions highly likely will diminish the Kremlin’s financial capacity to support the Lukashenka regime.
Xi has secured unlimited power and eliminated political rivals, but emerging public dissatisfaction challenges the regime and forces Chinese authorities to strengthen the security apparatus. China demonstrates that it is prepared to cross a red line in its relations with Taiwan. Although military invasion is unlikely, China’s aggression towards Taiwan will increase. Beijing supports Russia in the information and diplomatic domains, helps to mitigate the impact of the sanctions. In the near and medium term, Chinese–Russian cooperation will intensify; however, the relations will become increasingly one-sided.
As European states expelled Russian intelligence officers under diplomatic cover, the intensity of human intelligence operations by Russian intelligence services in Europe and Lithuania has decreased. This will force Russian services to resort to other information gathering methods and search for new intelligence opportunities. Although Russia’s intelligence dedicates most of its focus and resources to activity in and against Ukraine, Lithuanian citizens visiting border areas with Russia or crossing the Lithuanian–Russian border are at risk of becoming targets for Russian intelligence.
Russia’s priority – supply of Western goods and technologies that can be used in military industry. The most common methods to bypass sanctions regime are concealing the true purpose of the goods and the end-users with a help of a long chain of intermediaries. Attempts to circumvent the sanctions involve searching for EU-based intermediary companies.
International terrorist organisations have lost capability to organise new terrorist attacks in Europe; attacks are planned and perpetrated by radicalised individuals who have no direct associations with terrorist organisations. Migration route via Belarus has become one of the routes to enter the EU illegally. Belarusian border guard officers, along with human traffickers and smugglers, facilitate illegal migration.