With tensions between Ukraine and Russia escalating, Lithuania's foreign minister says Moscow is trying to test the new US administration.
Last week, Kyiv accused Moscow of massing thousands of troops on Ukraine's northern and eastern frontiers. Ukraine also complained there was a troop buildup on the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
“Clearly, actions over Easter around Taiwan, where we saw more frequent Chinese aircraft flybys, and near Ukraine's borders are attempts by authoritarian states to test what the response could be to these actions,” Lithuania's Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told LRT TV on Tuesday. “The response must come from where [these actions] are directed, Western countries.”
He also commended US President Joe Biden's administration for “resolute language” about the war in Ukraine. “They [Washington] make it clear that they're watching, seeing and having no illusions about what Russia is doing,” Landsbergis said.
According to him, the US and the EU must prepare for even more escalation in Eastern Ukraine.
“There is a wide range of possible scenarios. [...] We need to be prepared if there is more escalation, if Russia is indeed intent on testing the Western countries' support for Ukraine,” he said.
If Ukraine were a NATO member – which is an express goal of the government in Kyiv – Russia would not have been able to annex Crimea and start a war in Eastern Ukraine, according to Landsbergis.
“We are all probably feeling a little responsible today for the actions we didn't take in the past,” he said, adding that NATO countries should help Ukraine implement reforms on the path to membership in the military bloc.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday that NATO membership was the only way to end the war in Donbass.
On Wednesday, Lansbergis said that Lithuania would propose to NATO allies to provide a membership action plan (MAP) to Ukraine.
“We should soon turn to our colleagues with a letter, urging them to once again consider this option of providing an MAP to Ukraine,” he told a press conference in Vilnius.