VILNIUS – Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis on Thursday called on Europe to have courage and renounce Russian energy resources and also cut all Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank payment system.
In Vilnius on Thursday, UK Foreign Secretary Lis Truss also called for the isolation of more Russian banks.
"We cannot say A and not to say B. We must seek to disconnect all Russian banks from the SWIFT system, we must have courage to renounce imports of energy resources from Russia," the minister told a joint press conference with his Baltic counterparts in Vilnius.
Western countries unanimously imposed wide-ranging sanctions after Russia attacks Ukraine last week, but the UK foreign secretary says they need to be further tightened.
"We need to go further. We need to make sure no Russian bank has access to the SWIFT. We need to go further on reducing dependency on hydrocarbons from Russia, including oil, gas and coal," she said.
Currently, seven Russian banks are disconnected from the SWIFT system, but the sanctions do not include the banks EU countries use to pay Russia for energy resources.
"LAST RESORT DECISIONS"
The Baltic and UK ministers also stressed the need to step up assistance for Ukraine and to bolster the defense of NATO's eastern flank.
"Everyone in here, we set clear guidelines on the results we need to pursue. They include further bolstering of the eastern flank, with special focus on the Baltic states, and also further assistance for Ukraine and really unbearable sanctions for Russia. That's today's task," Landsbergis said.
Some experts say the involvement of NATO forces is the only way to stop the Kremlin's forces in Ukraine and ensure Europe's security.
Nevertheless, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics says they are "last resort decisions".
"I do believe that such decisions as NATO involvement are last resort decisions. They are being taken by all 30 member states," he said.
REPLACE DETERRENCE WITH DEFENSE
Landsbergis says NATO should not only bolster the defense of its eastern flank, but also replace its deterrence strategy with a defense strategy.
"I believe that, first of all, it’s an important political change in the decision-making sense. (…) The Alliance needs to send not only a deterrence and political message, but also send a very clear message about specific measures that will be used for defense," he said.
Landsbergis refrained from commenting on tactical details but underlined that all security dimensions, including land, see and air defense, should be boosted.
NATO allies have sent more troops and military equipment to Central and Eastern Europe amid the worsening security situation.