„Geographically, we are closest to war; historically, we have been occupied by the same powers. If history teaches us anything, it is that Russia, now unstoppable, will continue its fight,“ Landsbergis warned on Tuesday.
The Minister said he could see clearly that Russia could not be stopped in Ukraine, and as a result the security situation in the region was changing.
„A year ago, I believed the situation in Ukraine could be different. There comes a time when we have to realise that our two neighbours are undefeated and can recover and continue their struggle. The question is, who will be the next target. We must remember that we are very close to it“, he said.
Landsbergis noted that NATO's Article 5 protects Lithuania, but it cannot be a factor for apathy.
„The question is whether we can concentrate on financing our security to the extent that we can strategically change our actions. We have made tactical strides in the last three years – 2.7% of GDP in total defence spending is significant. (...) But does it reflect the changes that are taking place?“ – Landsbergis questioned.
Therefore, according to Landsbergis, the question is to what extent the public is ready to agree on more funding for national defence.
„First, we must agree on whether we understand the threat similarly. Do we understand that Lithuania is potentially facing existential threats that need to be tackled not with tactical but with strategic steps that must fundamentally change our security situation?“ – he asked.
Noting that there is no consensus on the possible threat not only in the public but also in the Government itself – for example, Minister of National Defence Arvydas Anušauskas, according to the opposition, „demonstrates Olympic calm“, Landsbergis said that he would not enter into this kind of discussion.
„I have two responsibilities, of which the Minister of Foreign Affairs is perhaps even the smallest. The first is as a citizen, as a parent, as a person who wants to live in Lithuania and wants his children to live in safe Lithuania. I see risks to this hope.
The second responsibility is as a party chairman, who has the opportunity and the mandate from the party to say things that are not yet generally vocalised or visible today,“ he said.
The Minister said that if the Lithuanian public sees that the situation in Ukraine is deteriorating, that Western support for Ukraine is declining, and that Ukraine is facing real existential dilemmas, then a discussion about the impact of this situation on Lithuania's security makes sense.
„So, isn't it time for everyone to seriously answer that question – what are we doing about it? The Conservative Party's proposal is the idea of universal conscription.
It must no longer be discussed in the abstract, not someday, but realistically, with an assessment of what resources are needed. And the next question is how do we finance it, do we tie it to money, what are the sources“, he stressed.
Asked how much time Lithuania has to prepare for a possible Russian aggression, Landsbergis said there are different estimates.
„Russia started the war with 200,000 troops massed near Ukraine. Today, Russia has at least twice as many. The plans they have announced about reforming the army seem to be in line with reality. It is not, as we are used to, their traditional propaganda. This army reform is against NATO and us“, he warned.
Asked why he started talking about it now, Landsbergis pointed out that we may soon see changes in Ukraine.
„I stress all the time that I would like to be wrong. I want to be wrong. (...) But times are changing. A year ago, I was more optimistic“, he said.