VILNIUS - The existing support provided to Ukraine may not be enough to win against Russia, and the latter could rebuild its forces for a new offensive within a few years, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, leader of the ruling conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, warns.
In this context, he said, Lithuania must wake up from its "pleasant peacetime stagnation" and take urgent steps to boost its defense.
MOSCOW AWAITS NEGOTIATIONS
"We need to speak frankly. What has been provided to Ukraine may not be enough to win the war. Yes, escalation towards the West may be avoided in the short term, but it will simply not be enough for Ukraine to regain the occupied territories," he said in an article published on news websites on Friday.
"There is not the slightest doubt today that Moscow hopes, perhaps even more firmly than a year ago, that the day will come when Ukraine will have to negotiate. Even if they do so, they would do that not by choice, but only because of too little Western support. And yes, it will be a victory for Putin. And yes, that will be the day we start counting down to the next war. Russia's war against another neighbor," Landsbergis writes.
As crises have spread more widely around the world, he said, it has become increasingly difficult for Western powers to maintain even the attention they have paid to Ukraine since the start of the war in February 2022. As another threat, the minister pointed to the US's increasingly isolationist stance, which could prevail.
"We already hear talk of a potential change in NATO, or at least in the US role within it. All of this should at least promote a discussion on whether we are doing enough. Are we preparing for all scenarios?" Landsbergis writes.
Today, he argues, it is necessary to prepare for the worst-case scenarios and to prepare for "a new qualitative turning point in Lithuania's national security strategy".
"We can no longer remain silent. For Lithuania to move out of the pleasant peacetime stagnation, we all need to move together," the Lithuanian foreign minister stressed.
US, GERMANY AS SECURITY PILLARS
In his article, Landsbergis outlined ten points he believes Lithuania's security strategy should be based in and they should be given the most attention right now.
In his words, the US has been and must remain the main pillar of NATO and Lithuania's security, while Germany is becoming the European strategic pillar of Lithuania's security.
"Minister (Boris) Pistorius' promise to deploy a heavy brigade in Lithuania is a historic one. The minister's words must be engraved on the wall of the Town Hall in Vilnius," Landsbergis said.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has promised to deploy a brigade of almost 5,000 troops with weaponry in Lithuania within the next few years. A concrete deployment plan is to be signed in December.
Landsbergis also stressed that it was time to complete strategic connectivity projects and significantly strengthen military cooperation with Poland, to strengthen regional partnerships with the Nordic and Baltic countries, and to learn from Ukraine on a daily basis, not only from a distance, but also from being there.
Calls for 4 percent defense spending
Lithuania's top diplomat also believes it is necessary to introduce universal conscription in Lithuania, for the country to build up significant capabilities in the coming years, and to put itself "at the front, not at the back of the line" in terms of weaponry acquisition, pointing in particular to the advantage provided by drones and electronic warfare.
"All of this raises the fundamental question of how much funding is needed for strategic change. (...) As we look at the new defense needs, we must be prepared to fund them accordingly, and we must not be afraid to talk about allocating not just three, but also four percent of GDP for defense," Landsbergis said, adding that it is necessary to agree on how this will be financed.
The Lithuanian government plans to spend 2.71 percent of GDP on national defense next year. Of this, 2.52 percent will comes from the regular budget appropriations and the rest will come from the existing temporary banking solidarity levy that will be used to fund only the infrastructure to host allies.
Some experts say that Lithuania should spend at least 3 percent of GDP on defense, while President Gitanas Nauseda says that next year's budget should allow for borrowing up to this level.