VILNIUS – Russia is gearing up for war with Ukraine, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis says, adding, that the international community, including Lithuania, have so far failed to properly assess this threat.
"I believe Russia is really gearing up for war and is doing it seriously. I still have the feeling that we are not taking this seriously enough, including what's going on in Lithuania as well," Landsbergis told journalists in Brussels after of the EU foreign minister's meeting on Monday.
Some 100,000 Russian troops have amassed near the Ukrainian border in recent weeks and these maneuvers have caused major concern for Western countries that Moscow might invade the neighboring country.
NATO has warned Moscow it could face large-scale strategic and economic consequences in case of invasion.
Russia rejects such concerns and says its moves are aimed at preventing Ukraine from joining the US-led NATO military alliance.
Landsbergis warns Russia wants more than just to "rattle its saber" or cause temporary unrest in the region.
"Judging from warnings from our partners and colleagues, they want to change the region's strategic landscape that has developed over the past decades," Lithuania's top diplomat said. "And this is very dangerous, and dangerous for Lithuania."
Landsbergis confirmed on Facebook that the West, willing to avoid a war, might be ready for major strategic concessions, adding that the existing escalation is happening because Ukraine is increasingly slipping away from "Putin's world".
Since Russia's military action could take place not far away from Lithuania, the latter must prepare independently and in cooperation with partners, Landsbergis said.
"We need to get ready with possible sanctions as well. It must be clear what Russia could face if it crosses Ukraine's border again," he said, adding that the West should "not play Russia's game".
"Nations and their democratically elected government representatives, not dictators living nearby choose their states' strategic landscape. The open-door policy is both NATO and the EU's gravitational powers and the catalyst of positive changes," the minister said.
"The fact that, even without clear promises, changes are taking place near the EU is thanks to the open-door policy. Closed doors might dramatically slow changes," he added.
Security of the Baltic Sea region must be bolstered in response to the existing threat, Landsbergis says.
"It must be clear for people of our region and also potential aggressors that the Alliance has teeth and the teeth are very sharp," he said.