VILNIUS – As Russia continues to escalate tensions, the Western world must do everything to avoid a war scenario, participants of an international security forum in Vilnius said on Wednesday.
Laurynas Kasciunas, chairman of the Lithuanian parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense, one of the organizers of the forum, says Russia, having massed its army near Ukraine's border, "is trying to raise the geopolitical temperature, escalate the situation and create strategic uncertainty".
"This uncertainty might lead to a lot of problems. Obviously, we can speak about a military attack, the escalation of the situation. Perhaps somebody will start negotiations with Russia over certain conditions, and this is where the biggest risk lies – to start negotiations on Russia's conditions," Kasciunas said.
In his words, "when Russia escalates a situation, it knows that someone will come from the West and try to start negotiations and everything will be done on its terms, and Russia will eventually manage to achieve its geopolitical goals".
"They are clear and aimed at preventing Ukraine and Georgia from joining NATO and making the Baltic state second-class members of this North Atlantic organization, and we cannot allow that," Kasciunas said.
In his words, Lithuania sees three red lines in this situation one cannot give in on: NATO space cannot have several levels of security zones; NATO must maintain its open-door policy; one needs to seek Belarus' independence from Russia.
Ex-Finnish Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Antti Rinne says Russia's military activity has been observed for the past several years, adding that Western countries now need to do everything to avoid "a war and collapse in Europe".
He also pointed out that Finland, which has maintained a policy of neutrality since WWII, would make up its own mind regarding NATO membership. "No superpowers will have impact on Finland," he said.
Marko Mihkelson, chairman of Estonia's parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, says Europe's existing situation is similar to the one before WWII.
"Our priority was to build transparent and good relations with Russia but, unfortunately, not because of our mistakes or bad decisions we are in a very dangerous situation, living in very dangerous times. Today's situation is very similar to the one Europe was in the 1930s. I would say there's now a chance of the world getting into the state of confusion, and there's also a possibility of that horrible scenario, a world war, as Russia is carrying out hybrid aggression against Western democratic countries," the chairman of the Estonian parliamentary committee said.
"We are trying to understand why Russia is so aggressive, why it is giving ultimatums regarding NATO, regarding Western countries, and is it its wish to restore the empire. That hostility towards freedom is deeply-rooted in Russia. (…) Russia has been on the war path at least from 1979, let's reminisce the war in Afghanistan that lasted for almost a decade, and that was one of the key reasons for the collapse of the Soviet empire," Mihkelson.
The Seimas of Lithuania is on Wednesday hosting a security forum to discuss the situation in Ukraine and the region.
The conference has been organized by the parliamentary Committee on National Security and the National Defense Foundation.
The goal of this conference is to review the existing tense geopolitical situation in the region and possible military escalation scenarios as well as the West's response to Russia's aggression, the Seimas said.
Russia has massed tens of thousands of its troops near Ukraine's border and fueled the West's concern over Moscow's potential invasion.
Moscow claims the army maneuvers come in response to NATO's growing activity in its sphere of influence. Russia is also issuing categorical demands for the Alliance to stop its expansion towards Russia's borders.