“The threat of war is a crime on the European continent,” former Lithuanian Defense Minister Rasa Juknevičienė said in an interview with Free European Radio, believing that the only EU and NATO response to Russia’s threats must be unity. As far as Moldova, Juknevičienė, the current Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee on Defense and the Vice-Chair of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, is concerned, the EU should speed up the procedures to allow accession negotiations to begin. An interview conducted by Iolanda Bădiliță.
Free Europe: Ms Juknevičienė, how serious is the threat of a Russian-led war and how do the EU and NATO react to that threat?
Rasa Juknevičienė: “It simply came to our notice then. Very important. The answer is: unity. And I see we have this unit. We will not do what happened in 1938, when certain politicians of the time decided to make a series of concessions to Hitler, who was doing exactly what Putin was doing today: he was claiming certain territories. Hitler was successful in his work, and so Czechoslovakia was divided. Ukraine is the new Czechoslovakia. And Putin has something of both Hitler and Stalin. The situation with
NATO is under attack, Putin is attacking the United States, wanting the United States to stop operating on European territory, not to divide, to attack European democracy.
facing Europe is not just about Ukraine. NATO is under attack, Putin is attacking the United States, wanting the United States to stop operating on European territory, not to divide, to attack European democracy. Putin is only instrumentalizing Ukraine to achieve these goals, and first it is not testing. I have seen such attempts before when I was Minister of Defense in Lithuania (2008-2012). The second reason Putin is looking for all this is that he is afraid. He fears what is happening in Belarus or Ukraine (pro-European movements in these countries), he fears that the democratization of the former Soviet republics will be a bad example for the Russians, he fears what happened to Navalny. That’s why he’s now in action. If until now we have witnessed a hybrid war, now it seems that it is preparing something else. But as I saw the unity reaction in the EU and NATO, I think Putin was wrong. “
Free Europe: However, it is one thing to see threats against a state like Ukraine, which is not a member of the EU or NATO, and another to see states like Romania, a member of NATO and the EU, to strengthen your military capacity in the event of war.
Rasa Juknevičienė: “The leaders of a country must be prepared for every opportunity. He must do his best to prevent such a situation from happening. The situation is very serious, the EU and NATO take it very seriously, because no one knows what to expect from Mr Putin. The occupation of Crimea took everyone by surprise. Very few have believed that such a thing could happen in our lifetime. But it happened. That is why we need to consider any possible scenario.
From my point of view, so far Putin’s actions do not justify the activation of Article 5 of NATO. Putin may think that we will be weak, that there will not be enough political will, he may think that we will be divided, he may think that we will make concessions based on energy criteria. The next two or three weeks will be crucial. China has urged Russia not to go ahead with its plans, especially during the Winter Olympics. But beyond that, what we see now is that Putin himself is around the corner. It is clear to me: he must not allow any more risky actions of this regime, not to deal now in Ukraine, but for what he has already done. The threat of war on the European continent is a crime. “
Free Europe: If because of this situation Ukraine will be denied access to NATO and the EU, can we assume that this will happen to Moldova? Will the threat of war close the way for the Eastern partners to join the EU one day?
Rasa Juknevičienė: “No way! The accession process takes time. That’s all. That is why, at the moment, the EU can speed up the access of these countries to the European single market and increase the level of cooperation. As for Moldova, a small country with very high European aspirations, I think it is at a very good time in its history. Moldova could be a kind of pilot state, a success story of cooperation with the EU, a very good example for the future wave of EU accessions, for other states that are not as ready for accession as Moldova will be, I hope. very soon. Moldova should receive an action plan for accession, more doors should be opened so that accession negotiations can begin in the near future. I think it would be a very important signal for the state that Ukraine should not give up on reform, not be disappointed that we did not invite accession. This is a chance for the EU to show that it is open to new enlargements, and Moldova could be a success story in this regard. “