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Latvia’s defense minister says no country in the West wants a conflict with Russia, but that Ukraine has a right to defend itself as fellow NATO Baltic states send assistance to Kyiv.
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania announced last week they would provide defensive aid to Ukraine, including anti-armor and antiaircraft missiles after the United States approved the transfer of the U.S. supplied weapons.
Intelligence reports assess that Russia has placed more than 125,000 troops near the border of Ukraine, spawning mounting concern over an imminent attack. Russia denies any intention of invading and accuses the United States and its allies of provoking the situation.
"We are gravely concerned about the situation near Ukraine’s borders. We think that the Ukrainian people have a right to defend themselves,” Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks told Current Time on January 24.
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"No one is threatening Russia. Who in the West is interested in a conflict with Russia? No one. Russia, on the other hand, as an authoritarian state, constantly needs to escalate the situation to demonstrate the need for such a regime in Russia,” he said.
The United States and Europe have vowed swift and severe consequences should Russia invade Ukraine, including sweeping economic sanctions.
Pabriks said he thinks the Kremlin may try to annex areas held by Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The West must prepare a response to such a move because it “will mean that there is no war, but on the other hand, it would mean deployment of Russian troops on a territory that is lawfully Ukrainian,” the Latvian minister said.
The nearly eight-year war in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 13,200 lives since 2014, the same year Moscow illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
Russia has used its menacing troop buildup near Ukraine to issue a list of demands to redraw the security architecture in Europe. Moscow wants NATO to abandon any prospect of Ukraine one day joining the alliance and seeks a major pullback of the alliance’s forces from Eastern Europe, including the Baltic states.
Washington and its allies say many Russian demands are nonstarters, but they have shown a willingness to discuss arms control, missile deployments, and confidence-building measures. Four rounds of high-level diplomacy this month between Russia and the West failed to reach a breakthrough.