TALLINN/LONDON – Experts agreed on Friday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine requires a rethinking of Europe’s approach to security and its transatlantic connection with the US.

Academics and think-tank specialists joined Baltic prime ministers on a panel at the Lennart Meri Conference to debate how the continent might effectively adapt to and overcome ongoing economic and political difficulties.

According to the panel, the Russia-Ukraine crisis has put European unity to the test, but it has also exposed the hollowness of Europe’s military capabilities and emphasized the need to strengthen its defense industrial capability.

The conflict’s impact on Europe’s relationship with the United States was also a major topic on the agenda.

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said the turmoil in Ukraine and China’s growing power have brought Europe and the US closer together, with Washington now more involved in European matters than before.

“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we can strengthen this relationship, because I’m convinced from the European side it’s in our interest, but equally convinced it’s in the US side’s self-interest,” he said.

“We’re all starting to realize that we have full military dependence on the United States through NATO; it’s there.” The question is, what else can we do to strengthen our relationship with the US? We must not disconnect because we and the United States face numerous obstacles.”

According to Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, the EU is fundamentally a peace endeavor. She went on to say that the situation in Ukraine has forced the EU and its allies to evaluate the best methods to defend their hard-won peace, even if it meant using less-than-peaceful measures.

“I don’t want to say we have a special (perspective) in the region; we just have a living memory of our past,” she continued.

“Even for myself, I have (a memory) of the Soviet Union’s 15-year occupation of Lithuania, and never again means never again.” I really don’t want that to happen again.”

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said it was critical that Europe and the rest of the West work together to hold those responsible for Russia’s “crimes of aggression” accountable.

“Russia must be held accountable,” she stated. There is no such thing as impunity or immunity.

“A year ago, it was thought unthinkable that the ICC (International Criminal Court) would issue an arrest warrant for (Vladimir) Putin.” Only six months ago, few were willing to publicly embrace the notion of a special tribunal for war crimes. We’ve reached the point of no return.”

“There will be no sustainable peace in Europe if Ukraine falls,” Simonyte concurred. Russia will reorganize, re-arm, and move on to the next target.

“To avoid this, Russia must be expelled from Ukrainian territory, bear the costs of its recovery, and war criminals must be brought to justice.”




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