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4th Mar 2024

Russia may attack Baltic nations after Ukraine, says Lithuania

  • Putin's six-day 'special military operation' in Ukraine is an active war that has now dragged on for almost two years, Estonia's foreign minister said (Photo: Image Bank of War in Ukraine)
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Russia may launch attacks against Baltic nations and other eastern flank states if it is not stopped in Ukraine, according to Lithuania.

"If Russia is not stopped in Ukraine, it could continue. And then it's Baltic states who would be next," Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania's minister of foreign affairs, told reporters in Brussels on Monday (22 January).

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Speaking ahead of a ministerial meeting that included a video conference with Ukrainian foreign minister Dmitry Kuleba, Landsbergis said immediate efforts are needed to prepare for a possible conflict with Russia.

The statements followed earlier comments from Germany's defence minister, Boris Pistorius, that Russia could launch attacks against Nato members within the next few years, amid an acute ammunition and funding shortage for Ukraine.

Sweden's commander-in-chief general Micael Bydén had earlier this month instructed Swedes to mentally prepare for war.

Dutch admiral and senior Nato official Rob Bauer also said on 19 January: "We have to realise it's not a given that we are in peace. And that's why [Nato forces] are preparing for a conflict with Russia."

Landsbergis said preparations are needed now, saying that Ukraine is buying the rest of Europe time through spilled blood on its behalf.

He said Lithuania has since increased its defence spending to 2.7 percent of its GDP with talks underway to introduce universal conscription.

"We feel the chill of the war on our necks," he said, noting that a collective EU fund is needed to further shore up aid to Ukraine.

Latvia and Estonia on edge

Similar comments were issued by the foreign ministers of Latvia and Estonia, also on Monday.

Estonia's foreign minister Margus Tsahkna told EUobserver: "When I was [Estonian] defence minister in 2017, we used to have 100,000 troops on the other side of the Russian border ready to go if they got the order. Many of these troops were sent to Ukraine and don't exist any more, so I'm not panicking. But, of course, we know, Russia is able to prepare for the next conflict [after Ukraine] and be ready in maybe three or four years".

Latvia's foreign minister Krišjānis Karins, said: "I think we have to open up our eyes and realise that Russia will not stop its war in Ukraine".

Karins said a decision needs to be made to ensure funding for Ukraine in the long-term.

"We also have to make sure that we provide the weapons and the ammunition that they need in order to do this task," he said.

And without mentioning Hungary, he took a broad swipe at those who believe EU money is better spent elsewhere.

"If we do not help Ukraine stop Russia now. It will be only all the more expensive for us later," he said.

The comments are likely linked to a stalled disbursement of €50bn in long-term funding for Ukraine that Budapest vetoed in December, as well as funding troubles from the European Peace Facility (EPF), an off-budget instrument.

The EPF reimburses member states for weapons sent to Ukraine.

But another EU funding instrument is currently being mulled, in a proposal put forward by the EU's foreign policy branch, the European External Action Service (EEAS).

It would seek to more rapidly deliver both lethal and non-lethal equipment to Ukraine.

The overall funding shortfall warnings were echoed by Tsahkna, who also said that frozen Russian assets need to help pay for Ukraine.

Almost €200bn alone is tied up in Belgium's Euroclear, a firm that deals with cross-border securities transactions and risk management.

The European Commission had in December come forward with a proposal to use the Russian assets to help rebuild Ukraine.

Talks are ongoing on how to use the extraordinary profits generated from the assets, and not the assets themselves, given the sensitivity of openly seizing assets of other countries.

For its part, Estonia is pressing for assets to be on the table. And its parliament has already passed a first reading of a draft law to use Russian frozen assets, inspired by a similar law in Canada. "This is a universal solution for everybody," said Tsahkna.

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