For Europe, winning the war against Putin means taking bold military and political steps now, not later

Successfully confronting Putin means considering bold steps, like reintroducing mandatory military conscription in some Member States, increasing military budgets and pushing for a fast-tracked process for Ukraine’s EU membership
Fighters from the Azov battalion return from the front line in eastern Ukraine. Photo credit: Tommy E Trenchard | Source: Alamy Stock Photo

By Rasa Jukneviciene

Rasa Jukneviciene (LT, EPP) is a vice-Chair of Parliament's Subcommittee on Security and Defence

16 Mar 2022

In 2014, and now - I am astonished that in the West there is so much surprise by the actions of Vladimir Putin. 

It is worth remembering that Putin himself was elected as president after a massive provocation by the Federal Security Bureau (FSB), when homes were bombed. People were killed in Russia itself, and the Chechens, who were then striving for independence, were immediately falsely blamed for the bombings. 

We should not be surprised seeing Ukrainian cities being razed to the ground, because it happened in the past - remember Grozny and Aleppo.  

I don’t believe it when it is said that we can’t help Ukraine because it could provoke a war of a bigger scale. If we don’t stop this cruel aggressor now, we will have to stop him in the suburbs of Brussels in the future

What we see now is the continuation of consistent implementation of Putin’s 20-year-long plan. However, even I am astounded by his extraordinary cruelty in killing Ukrainians and trying to annihilate Ukraine.  

A lot of people ask why Russians are silent. The answer is the following: Putin’s first term was devoted to the occupation of Russian people. He destroyed free speech and media, also the real opposition, he poisoned his own people not only with chemical weapon Novichok, but also with unbelievable lies.  

Putin’s main goal is not only Ukraine, it’s also a war against the free world. And he has a concrete objective: to push the United States out of the European continent.  

At this moment there is nothing more important for Europe, including both the EU and non-EU countries on this continent, than to win the war declared by Putin.  

It’s important that Western countries have united and announced unprecedented sanctions for Russia. Europe has to commit that the sanctions will stay until the very end, until the last occupier leaves Ukrainian soil. 

Now it is crucial to contain Putin and his regime, including imposing a total embargo of oil and gas, because Europe is currently the biggest source of Putin’s income. According to our own calculation, every day Europeans pay enough money to buy 200 hundred modern Russian tanks.

After Putin’s invasion in Ukraine we have to avoid permitting an even bigger gap between Eastern European and West European countries

Therefore, we must understand that we will not manage without essential military help for Ukraine. I don’t believe it when it is said that we can’t help Ukraine because it could provoke a war of a bigger scale. If we don’t stop this cruel aggressor now, we will have to stop him in the suburbs of Brussels in the future. That is what we witnessed in the last century. We have to stop Putin with all possible measures today.  

What can the European Union do in the future with regards to its Common Security and Defence policy? 

First of all, it is necessary to increase defence budgets in all European democracies.  Germany has already done it and made a decision to increase its spending on defence to more than 2% of its economic output. All EU member states that are not in NATO have to do it because there is no free ride in the security train.  

After Putin’s invasion in Ukraine we have to avoid permitting an even bigger gap between Eastern European and West European countries. If some countries in Northern Europe like Finland and Sweden started discussions about joining NATO, then the so-called old European countries speak louder about the principle of Europe’s strategic autonomy. We will have to find the solution and common understanding on this issue, even if it is difficult. 

I would also like to raise a question regarding the term “strategic autonomy” itself. The people who elected me have a hard time understanding the concept.  

In my opinion, it would be better to speak about the “strategic responsibility” of Europe for the defence of the continent. 

I would also like to raise a question regarding the term “strategic autonomy” itself. The people who elected me have a hard time understanding the concept. It would be better to speak about the “strategic responsibility” of Europe for the defence of the continent

That would mean that the EU must develop much bigger defence capabilities. It also has to maintain a strong transatlantic bond, because I cannot imagine Europe’s defence without the United States. The EU also must strengthen its cyber defence capabilities, response to potential hybrid attacks and to develop other areas of defence as described in the EU documents.  

My suggestion would be to start discussions on the importance of the territorial defence of Europe.  

For example, in Lithuania, a mandatory nine-month military service was reintroduced in the spring of 2015, following Russia's annexation of Crimea and the start of the war in Ukraine's Donbass. This way, Lithuania's youth gain skills for protecting their homeland and their families if needed. In 2017, Sweden also returned to military conscription. 

I also don’t see one EU army as a realistic project in the coming decades. We have to strengthen national defence capabilities, as well as better coordinate joint procurements and capabilities with other member states, especially in such fields as air defence. 

Europe has to act in the field where it is strongest, that is, on the political level. Therefore, a strong political message and a fast-track procedure to grant Ukraine the membership of the EU would be a huge moral support to the Ukrainians.  

I would like to invite European politicians to be bold and take the lead on this issue, because according to the latest polls, people in France and Germany already see Ukraine as a member of the EU.  

I strongly believe that Ukraine will win. It has signed its membership into our European family with its blood.  

I also believe that in my life Russia will change. We have to prepare for that as well.  

Read the most recent articles written by Rasa Jukneviciene - There’s nothing more important for Europe than to win the war declared by Putin

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