VILNIUS – Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis on Tuesday urged Lithuania to prepare for a scenario where Russia is not stopped in Ukraine and will continue its fight against NATO countries, underlining the need for immediate strategic decisions to bolster the country's security.
"We have to remember that the Ukrainian struggle is a struggle for us and that geographically we are closest to the war and that historically we have experienced occupation by the same forces," Landsbergis told reporters.
"And if history teaches us anything, not just the history of occupation but also recent history, it is that Russia will continue its fight if it not stopped now," the minister said.
"I see that efforts to stop it are failing," he added
According to Landsbergis, the time may come to state that "our two neighbors are not only undefeated, but they also have the ability to recover and continue their fight further, and the question is, who will be the next target?"
The minister warned against succumbing to apathy, thinking that NATO's Article 5 will protect Lithuania, urged consideration of strategic defense changes, and stressed that the stalling tax reform is also linked to national security.
Landsbergis acknowledged that Lithuania had made headway "in tactical steps" by increasing defense spending, but said that these expenses reflected the situation of a year ago, which he said looked more optimistic.
"First, we have to agree on whether we see the threat in the same way. Do we understand that Lithuania potentially faces existential threats that can no longer be addressed through tactical steps, but require strategic steps that must fundamentally change our security situation and the instruments available to us?" he said.
"If we see that the situation there is not improving but is heading in another direction, that Western support, as it seems now, is diminishing and that Ukraine is facing very real and complex existential dilemmas, what impact does that have on us and our security, and isn't it time for all of us to seriously answer the question of what we do about it?"
According to Landsbergis, Russia, which started the war in Ukraine with 200,000 troops, now has "at least twice as many," and its military reform is under way and is aimed "against NATO, against us."
Ukraine has consistently demanded greater military aid from its Western allies, but its forces have made only marginal gains in their counter-offensive against entrenched Russian forces, launched in June.
On Sunday, the Ukrainian army said it had pushed the Russians back 3-8 kilometers from the banks of the Dnipro River, which would mark the first significant advance by Ukrainian forces in several months. However, experts say it may be difficult to turn it into a real breakthrough.