Vilnius Security Forum 2024: Deterrence, Coercion and the Future of Total Defence

Vilnius Security Forum 2024 (


9th Vilnius Security Forum: Deterrence, Coercion and the Future of Total Defence | 2024-02-23


Emilė Balodytė, former intern at the National Defence Foundation, advisor at the National Security and Defence Committee in the Lithuanian Parliament – moderator


Opening Speeches


Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament:

The occasion is solemn – the anniversary of the large-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine. 2024 presents challenges no less daunting than those faced at the beginning of the invasion. Russia, too, has adapted and learned from its mistakes and continues to test the resilience of Ukraine daily. We, the democracies of the West, so far have been frustratingly inefficient in raising the costs of the war for Russia. Ukrainians need our assistance and support just as much as they needed it two years ago. This is the context of this Security Forum: aid Ukraine’s journey to peace, EU integration, and battling the security threats to Europe. Security issues can become entangled with domestic issues, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the urgency of the situation.


The war exposed unsettling truths both about Russia and ourselves: about the endless brutality of the Russian regime, but also our approach to security, about how we establish our red lines, only to find ourselves constrained by them. Furthermore, Russia’s deliberate strategy to prolong the war yields concerning results: the data published before the Munich Security Conference indicates a troubling trend of diminishing concern regarding Moscow’s threat among the G7 countries. This shift in focus is troubling because it is now clear that Russia is preparing for but also manoeuvring towards a military confrontation with the West. Putin has not renounced his threat against the neighbouring countries; he persists in interpreting historical events in a manner that undermines the international system.


The way forward demands decisive action. The West must exert substantial effort to alter the course of the war in Ukraine; in addition to military assistance, new sanctions must be imposed to cripple Russia’s war machine in Ukraine. Measures should be taken to utilise Russia’s frozen assets. The depth of our concern can be counted in monetary terms; it has been calculated that should every country in the Rammstein coalition allocate 0.25% of its GDP to military aid for Ukraine, the military victory of Ukraine on its soil can become achievable. Decisions taken in Madrid and Vilnius [NATO Summits] are not sufficient. This is not just about NATO’s future; it’s Europe’s future. Regardless of the stance taken by our allies in the US, the repercussions for Europe will be profound.


On a national level, Lithuania prioritises several key initiatives of our defence capabilities: (1) unwavering support for Ukraine both in rhetoric and action; (2) the German brigade in Lithuania, the smooth deployment of which must be assisted; (3) advocating for the extension of the US rotational deployment; (4) reliance on our allies hand in hand with our determination to defend ourselves, steps towards universal conscription, moving towards comprehensive defence, securing sustainable sources of funding. Lithuania can contribute to regional security and stability. Let us use this Forum to reaffirm our commitment to Europe.


Laurynas Kasčiūnas, host of this event, Chairman of the National Security and Defence Committee in the Lithuanian Parliament:

The Committee of the National Security and Defence has always advocated for a total defence concept in Lithuania, hence the title of this conference. Our philosophy is based on the hedgehog concept. Even the biggest Russian bear will not swallow a brave Lithuanian hedgehog if we employ the concept of total defence. Our military strength can’t equal Russia’s, but we can make any military operation against Lithuania too costly. We consider two approaches: one vision is an iron fist (heavy brigades, heavy divisions), which is understandable. At the same time, the second view, which I think doesn’t contradict the former concept, is the total or comprehensive defence. What is the source for this discussion? NATO’s new defence plans. They encourage us to move towards the iron fist path. Generals would like to see strength and be able to fight and manoeuvre. Sometimes, this limits our military thinking. That’s why we are trying to make progress in defence planning, with the German brigade deployment here, and also pursue the total defence approach.


Why do we need total defence? No army will fight effectively if society doesn’t have the will to resist. We must be ready to fight before the Allied reinforcement comes. NATO doctrine is based on technological superiority, and I agree with that. But we have an enemy that is willing to fight long and devastating wars. That’s why we need a broader society, too. We must be able to prepare for geopolitical shifts. I will not explicitly mention which elections are the most important for us this year. I hope it’s Lithuanian, but you probably got the message.


What do we need to do to achieve total defence? (1) Organize, train, and well-equip our military reserve. Currently, we have 28,000 active reservists. However, we have not yet trained in units or brigades. (2) We also have 80,000 reservists who served in the Lithuanian army approximately ten years ago. The question is how to integrate them into our defence planning. As a Committee, we suggest creating self-defence or backup systems, which we call “commandant systems”—prepared to combat diversion groups, protect infrastructure, and ensure evacuation processes. Previously, the commandant system was intended to be established within the first five days of a war, but we propose implementing it in peacetime to allow for training and exercises. (3) A strong, energetic Riflemen’s Union. This organisation provides a great platform for engaging society. They need to be well-integrated into the general defence system. We recently visited the bomb shelter in Helsinki, which can accommodate 100% of the city’s population. It was built in 2003. This is the total defence approach we aim to adopt in Lithuania. I hope we emulate the Finnish model—less talk, more action.


[Thanking Colonel Vaidotas Malinionis]


Lieutenant Colonel Linas Idzelis, Commander of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union:

It is necessary to define the problem: [showing slides] Russia’s primary goal is to conquer Ukraine and restore the Soviet Union. The decision-making process in Russia is notably faster. It is also evident that the defence industry in Russia is under government control.


We need to recognise that there is support for the war at all levels of Russian society. If a Russian rocket were to hit a city in Ukraine, causing three civilian deaths and 70 injuries, somewhere in Novosibirsk, a school pupil might exclaim, ‘We gave them a good one! We reached quite a success!’ Society is so poisoned that conventional measures seem futile.


Furthermore, Russia is bolstered by what I refer to as the ‘committed Easterners’—North Korea, Iran, etc.—who supply them with spare parts despite our sanctions. Russia shows a lack of sensitivity to losses. The cumulative losses of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers exceed the total military personnel in Europe. We are not prepared to sustain such losses. We question whether to withdraw when we lose even a few people in a peacekeeping operation. Does society understand that this is a new Cold War? Can we continue to support Ukraine? Some claim fatigue is setting in. Can we still assist Ukraine if they deplete ammunition and lose people? I posed these questions two years ago.


Do we allocate enough resources to prepare for war with Russia? [shows a slide with military budgets] I recall attending a conference at NATO Headquarters in 2011. General Robert Gates came from the US to Brussels and criticised Europe for relying heavily on US defence funding, which then constituted 75% of NATO’s spending. In a paper published by the Baltic Defence College, I remember arguing that we must reach a defence spending benchmark of 2% of our GDP. Our Dean then suggested 5-7% if we truly intend to prepare for war and support Ukraine. The 2% is merely a peacetime budget, insufficient for wartime preparations.


Panel 1: Lessons Learned from Russia’s War Against Ukraine


Colonel (ret) Stephen Olejasz, Executive Director of the American Association of Friends of Kosciuszko at West Point – moderator:

As the opening speeches highlighted, discussing Ukraine is crucial and highly relevant for our first panel. I extend greetings to Lithuania, which is celebrating its 20th membership anniversary in NATO, coinciding with NATO’s 75th anniversary. Greetings from General John Kronkaitis, the Lithuanian Chief of Defence at the time when Lithuania joined NATO.


Brigadier General (ret.) Rainer Meyer zum Felde, Institute for Security Police at the University of Kiel:

Remember that Russian hybrid aggression toward Ukraine began in 2014. Initially, there were significant failures in political and military leadership in assessing the situation. The Russians seemed to believe they could do whatever they wanted, driven by their propaganda, reminiscent of Hitler’s actions with Austria. This situation echoes the prelude to World War II, around 1938. Ukrainians were more prepared than Russia or the West anticipated and defended themselves effectively in those crucial initial moments.


The first lesson is the importance of clarity in our communications before the onset of war and hostilities. The question remains whether NATO has sent clear enough messages to prevent Russians from misjudging Ukraine’s readiness to fight and the West’s willingness to assist.


Later, we observed the Russians adopting more defensive stances, adapting quickly to the changing dynamics in 2022-2023 by fortifying positions. This strategy was so effective that, despite considerable international support, Ukraine struggled to launch an effective counter-offensive. This shift led to a prolonged war of attrition, a scenario for which NATO, accustomed to preparing for short-term conflicts, was unprepared. The Cold War mindset was focused on brief engagements followed by quick resolutions, not prolonged engagements requiring sustained logistical support.


Another significant issue is nuclear coercion, particularly evident in Germany, a non-nuclear state. There has been considerable pressure not to supply Ukraine with our most advanced systems, like the Leopard tanks, now Taurus and Himars. This is due to overt Russian nuclear threats, underscoring the need for robust American nuclear deterrence to protect NATO’s non-nuclear members.


Finally, total defence is critical to seamlessly transition from peace to crisis, not just at the front lines but across all government levels and society. This involves strengthening cooperation between civil authorities and the military, reminiscent of the WINTEX-CIMEX exercises in 1989, which simulated NATO’s response strategies in various scenarios. We practiced using civilian resources such as trucks for military purposes and coordinated across different government layers. These practices have since been neglected and must be revived and adapted to current realities. Though it may be politically challenging, we must send unequivocal messages to Moscow about our seriousness.


Mrs. Julija Kazdobina, Senior Fellow at the Stockholm Centre for Eastern European Studies, Foreign Policy Council Ukrainian Prism:

It’s my second year at this Forum, and I’ve noticed an increase in attendees compared to last year. This reflects a growing recognition of the threat Russia poses.


Regarding lessons from the Ukrainian experience, I’d like to emphasise that our analysis found little difference between Russian tactics before the war (which began in 2014, not 2022) and afterwards. Russia has been consistently employing informational tactics, infiltrating Ukrainian society at various levels—media, politics, and civil society—through what appear to be legitimate organisations, all aimed at influencing Ukraine from within. The challenge is how to respond effectively.


Before the war’s onset, Ukraine’s measures were often criticised by the West as illiberal and not in compliance with democratic standards. However, adhering strictly to these standards in the face of an adversary that disregards them can prove fatal. In such instances, it is not only an issue of free speech; it becomes a matter of national defence. Today’s informational environment enables the build-up of networks that propagate damaging narratives at various levels.


Another key takeaway is the celebrated resilience of Ukrainians during the full-scale invasion, which was not spontaneously generated but cultivated over time through a vibrant civil society and extensive efforts in media literacy, educating the populace about Russian tactics. Our organisation has integrated this knowledge into training for public servants. Here in the Baltic states, the nature of Russia is well-understood, but further West, misconceptions persist that Russia was provoked.


We must also remember the historical context of our subjugation under the Russian Empire, with recent atrocities in Bucha and Mariupol echoing past abuses, demonstrating that these are not defensive reactions but outright aggression. These points need to be clearly communicated to the public. Building cooperation between civil society and the government is crucial, often facilitated in Ukraine by volunteer agencies alongside governmental initiatives. Monitoring the information space should focus on narratives and specific actors aligned with Russian interests. Exposing Russian agents within Ukrainian society before the war was crucial in mitigating the impact of Russia’s more destructive strategies.


Lastly, it is essential to address vulnerabilities within our societies that can be exploited by external forces. The protests in Poland, for instance, involve legitimate grievances. Yet, the presence of signs like ‘Putin deal with Ukraine, deal with Brussels’ and incidents of spilt Ukrainian grain suggest Russian influence. Closing these vulnerabilities requires strong leadership and is vital to preventing external manipulation of internal dissent.


Colonel Radu Cisleanu, Director of the Military Intelligence Agency in the Moldovan Ministry of Defence:

Firstly, the fundamental nature of warfare remains consistent. Adversaries persist, with both nations capable of adapting and modifying their strategies. There are two key aspects: (1) tactical lessons from the battlefield and (2) strategic insights.


(1) Traditional military platforms, such as tanks and fighter aircraft, are now vulnerable to low-cost defensive systems. We have seen firsthand the impact of Javelins and similar systems in combat. Artillery is a vital warfare component, becoming increasingly lethal when combined with precision-guided munitions and well-executed tactics. This underscores the ongoing arms race to enhance these capabilities.


Drones have transformed the battlefield. The ability to monitor and identify enemy positions via satellite imagery has made the conflict in Ukraine more transparent. Yet, 20th-century warfare elements like geography still play a critical role in modern combat, influencing battle plans and strategies.


(2) The importance of adapting to modern warfare cannot be overstated, including embracing emerging technologies and innovative tactics. Drones, for instance, have proven crucial in containing the Russian navy. The interconnected nature of the world, along with the cohesion of alliances, shapes today’s warfare. We can draw lessons from how Ukrainian leadership has conducted itself, particularly President Zelensky’s role during the early days of aggression, where he remained in the capital, bolstering national unity and continuously seeking international support.


An essential takeaway is the Kremlin’s unreliability. We recall Putin’s assurances to leaders like Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz that he was not preparing for war. This highlights the critical need to effectively combat propaganda, misinformation, and manipulation.


Lastly, the legal and democratic frameworks are vital. Last night, we discussed how democracy is perceived as a vulnerability against nations disregarding democratic norms. Russia exploits this by sowing panic and destabilisation within democratic societies. These lessons should guide us in fortifying our societies to be more prepared and resilient in the face of such tactics.


Lieutenant Colonel (ret) Daniel Rakov, Senior Fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security:

I want to analyse the topic of this panel through the perspective of the war that began in Israel on October 7th, 2023, following the Hamas assault. There are notable similarities between the invasions of Israel and Ukraine: both were unprovoked, took the state by surprise, and highlighted the importance of alliances.


At the tactical level, the concept of being an ‘iron fist hedgehog,’ as the previous speaker suggested, resonates deeply. Ignoring major security threats has jeopardised our national security. We’ve grown accustomed to making compromises with Hamas and Hezbollah, which led to Hamas launching rockets into our cities. Within days, this conflict has erased much of the prosperity Israel gained in the past two decades. The failure of deterrence revealed that our military and civil structures were unprepared. Israel now needs to increase its defence spending significantly; despite previously spending more than 2% of our GDP, we may need to increase this to 6%.


The internal turmoil and societal polarisation in both Israel and Ukraine emboldened the aggressors, leading to suboptimal political decision-making during crises. Both cases also demonstrated that intelligence can be woefully inadequate. Israel has learned to focus less on its neighbours’ intentions and more on strengthening its overall defence capabilities.


It’s crucial not to demonise the enemy but to view them objectively. For instance, while many in Vilnius believe Russia played a role in orchestrating the October 7th attack, the consensus among Israeli leaders is that Hamas initiated this campaign independently, without coordination with Iran and Hezbollah. Nonetheless, Russia’s close ties with Iran, which we believe may strengthen, played a role in the informational warfare against the United States, Israel’s ally.


Research I conducted with Tel Aviv University revealed that when state security systems failed in both Ukraine and Israel, civilians had to step in. Volunteers were instrumental in stabilising the situation during the initial days of the invasions. The existence of such civilian defence structures significantly enhanced military-civilian cooperation. A vast majority of Israel’s population has undergone military training, and civilian volunteers have been crucial in preventing even greater disasters.


On a tactical note, it’s challenging to learn from others’ mistakes and even more so to implement changes within one’s military. For example, despite the Ukrainian experience highlighting the vulnerabilities of armoured vehicles to drone attacks, an incident where Hamas used a grenade against our tanks was needed to prompt the fortification of tank roofs.


In summary, the role of politicians is to prepare societies and not to ignore threats. Neglecting them can have severe consequences for our way of life. Both Israeli and Ukrainian societies have learned through their histories that aggressors will target the weakest points of a nation’s defence. Thus, there is an imperative for volunteerism and proactive defence measures. The relatively small scale of European military forces suggests difficulty in outnumbering Russian forces, necessitating models for rapid civilian mobilisation to bridge gaps. Israel had to mobilise 250,000 reservists in just a few days.


To end on a lighter note: What do Russian partial mobilisation and the Hamas assault on Israel have in common? There are long queues at airports to catch a flight to Tel Aviv.


[question from the audience]


Q.1 addressed to Radu Cisleanu: Why didn’t the Moldovan authorities ask Ukraine to help eliminate the growing cancer in Transnistria years ago?


Radu Cisleanu: I’m not the appropriate person to address this question, but I can share the official stance of the Moldovan government. The political decision of the government of the Republic of Moldova has been to resolve the frozen conflict in Transnistria through diplomatic means. Although we were prepared for war in 1992, we are fully aware of such a conflict’s consequences. Hence, seeking peaceful resolutions for this conflict has been a strategic decision.


Involving Ukraine in this matter is complex. Consider what Russia and its propaganda machine might do in such a scenario. The potential repercussions of involving another country could escalate tensions, influencing both regional stability and international relations.


Q.2 addressed to Rainer Meyer zum Felde: If Russia’s nuclear threat is considered the primary barrier to Western support for Ukraine, how likely would NATO’s overall response be?


Rainer Meyer zum Felde: From Germany’s perspective, we are a non-nuclear power but a mid-sized power regaining our role as a pivotal player in conventional defence within NATO. This resurgence is underpinned by the nuclear umbrella provided by the USA. We are striving to reestablish Germany’s traditional role in NATO by permanently stationing a German brigade in Lithuania and playing a new role as a logistical hub for Central Europe. However, our Achilles’ heel is indeed our vulnerability to nuclear coercion.


Reflecting on the outset of the Ukraine conflict, the initial declaration by the American President was, ‘We will support Ukraine as long as it takes.’ He did not say ‘by all means necessary,’ and, along with other Western leaders, emphasised that they would not become direct combatants in the conflict. Putin perceived this as a tacit approval to proceed. The dynamics would be vastly different were a NATO member state attacked—NATO’s principle of ‘all for one, and one for all’ would trigger an immediate collective response under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty and Article 42.7 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, which is crucial not just for combat but for building resilience. With the inclusion of Sweden and Finland, NATO now commands an even greater strategic presence along the Russian border, which I imagine is quite concerning for Russia’s military leadership in Kaliningrad.


Ultimately, much hinges on the leadership within NATO, particularly the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. The upcoming decisions in Washington will be crucial. I am confident that the American public recognises the value of sustaining this alliance—not as an act of charity but as a strategic necessity. Meanwhile, we in Europe, including Germany, must intensify our efforts. For example, even the Greens, traditionally the most pacifist of German parties, now acknowledge the clear and present threats we face.


Q.3 addressed to Rainer Meyer zum Felde: Should the West eliminate the obstacles for Germany to become a nuclear power?


Rainer Meyer zum Felde: We are signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Two Plus Four Treaty, committing to a non-nuclear path. For decades, we have relied heavily on US nuclear deterrence as our primary security measure, a stance supported by our major neighbours. The historical context of the two World Wars provides strong justification for maintaining a non-nuclear Germany. However, our ability to serve as the backbone of NATO’s collective defence is contingent upon the continuation of this US nuclear deterrence. Should Russia launch a nuclear attack on German soil and there is no immediate response from our allies, the German government would have no choice but to reconsider its stance. Thus, we require the sustained presence of US nuclear deterrence, even under President Trump. Alternatives are generally considered undesirable. The necessity for these assurances has become a focal point of discussion, particularly following President Trump’s recent campaign statements suggesting a reduction of US involvement in Europe.


Q.4 addressed to Julija Kazdobina: As we approach the NATO Summit in Washington, what are your expectations for it?


Julija Kazdobina: The expectations are not very optimistic because we [Ukraine] want to become a NATO member, but the signals we receive are not particularly encouraging. It seems unlikely that significant decisions will be made at this Summit, especially considering the US elections will be in full swing then. However, we will continue to advocate for our position. It’s crucial that our allies and friends also maintain their efforts.


Q.5 addressed to the whole panel: Ideology matters for Putin. After my 2017 presentation on this topic, there was a lot of silence and criticism. I believe that if the West had reacted more strongly two years ago, before the full-scale invasion, by affirming that there are no Nazis or fascists in Ukraine, Putin would have lost his ideological basis. Do you think ideology plays a significant role in Putin’s actions?


Rainer Meyer zum Felde: Most of Germany’s security apparatus and the public were initially sceptical that Putin would launch an attack despite available intelligence. This perspective is rooted deeply in history, tracing back to the eras of Gorbachev and Yeltsin. During the 1990s and early 2000s, Russia was seen as a status quo power, perceived as rational in its geopolitical strategies. Chancellor Angela Merkel believed that maintaining trade with Russia could serve as a means to negotiate with Putin. Unfortunately, we overlooked the significance of Putin’s 2007 Munich speech and the implications of the Georgian War. Our realisation did not come until March 1, 2014, and it took until 2022 for Berlin to fully grasp the situation.


Understanding Putin’s motives remains challenging. However, we have direct insights from Putin himself, as he has articulated his intentions and war aims in two letters: one to Washington and another to NATO in Brussels. In these, he outlines his vision for a complete overhaul of the security order established after the collapse of the Soviet Union.


Julija Kazdobina: I have doubts about whether ideologies matter that much. Even if the West had clarified that there is no Nazism in Ukraine, it likely wouldn’t have deterred Putin. His decision to attack was influenced by several factors, including his perception of Ukraine as weak, President Zelensky’s peace-oriented stance, and the belief that the West would not intervene militarily. Putin saw this as tacit approval to proceed as he pleased.


What we need to focus on are Putin’s intentions to confront NATO. While NATO is confident in its response capabilities, certain elements are causing insecurity. This includes statements from U.S. Presidential Candidate Trump and issues around Sweden’s NATO accession despite meeting all requirements.


As a Fellow currently working in Sweden, I can attest that Swedish authorities rely on the population’s ability to discern right from wrong and to be media literate. However, perceptions can shift rapidly in a crisis. It’s not just about ideologies—it’s about power. However, we must still pay close attention to Putin’s messages and the erosive activities.


Radu Cisleanu: Ideology matters. It’s the main thing that fuels the Russian population and their plans. We have to learn from the Ukrainian society how to combat that.


Daniel Rakov: I would refer to it not as ideology but as his [Putin’s] beliefs. Putin’s personal beliefs matter a lot because he is the most important person in the system.


Q.6 from a French ambassador to the whole panel: Two remarks: first, French nuclear deterrence is vital not just for France but also carries a European dimension. Second, there is an urgent need for us Europeans to organise more swiftly. You might have noticed a shift in our President’s language reflecting this urgency. My question concerns the type of strategic messaging we should be sending to Russia at this time, considering Russia’s extensive efforts to undermine our societies internally. What should our message be?


Julija Kazdobina: Messaging alone is insufficient; capabilities and a readiness to act must back it. Take, for example, the situation surrounding Navalny’s death. There were declarations before the war that his death would provoke a strong reaction. After his death, some new sanctions have been imposed, but can this really be considered a strong response? [shrugs] This tepid reaction only undermines the West’s image as a decisive force. We must be prepared to respond promptly and, in many cases, overwhelmingly. The strategy should be to escalate in order to de-escalate.


Radu Cisleanu: The best approach would be to foster greater cohesion, show more determination, and, as my colleague highlighted, avoid hesitation. Hesitation can be extremely detrimental and is often exploited by propaganda to weaken our position.


Rainer Meyer zum Felde: We need to replicate our strategic success of the 80s: collectively outperforming Russia just as we outperformed the Soviet Union. This means that, besides the 50 billion EUR Ukraine support package in the EU, we require a parallel 60 billion USD package from the US. We must take additional steps to ensure Ukraine does not lose this war.


It’s time to take serious action in NATO. We must expedite processes, build an industrial base, and initiate mass production of weapons systems, ammunition, and more. We should mobilise personnel in both front-line states and others, like Germany, to demonstrate our capability to respond and our technological superiority, even if it presents political challenges and impacts our welfare systems.


Regarding your correct observation about the valuable French contribution to nuclear deterrence, it’s also essential that the US contribution continues. While the French forces are primarily designed to protect French territories, the broader role of US forces in NATO’s collective security strategy cannot be understated.


Q.7 addressed to Julija Kazdobina and Daniel Rakov: There are many references to the need to assist Ukraine in fighting Russia’s disinformation. I wonder whether you see that the West still could help you with that or whether you are the ones to teach the West?


Julija Kazdobina: Assistance is crucial as many Ukrainian civil society organisations rely on Western support. Emphasising the significance of human rights and media freedoms is also essential to prevent our authorities from overreaching. Ukraine certainly has valuable experiences to share. We must exchange information to understand Russia’s actions across different nations.


Daniel Rakov: I concur on the need for international collaboration. Israel has recently become a target of Russia’s overt international campaigns. Previously, relationships between governments were more amicable. Nowadays, campaigns are even tailored in Hebrew, which is a novelty for us. Because this is new to Israel, the society is susceptible to manipulation. It’s imperative to learn from the experiences of others, like Ukraine and Lithuania. A unified response is essential; sanctioning individuals financially supported in Russia for their involvement in these campaigns is insufficient.


Panel 2: Lessons Learned from Russia’s War Against the West


Mrs. Molly McKew, information warfare expert, Foreign Policy and Strategy Consultant, the USA – moderator: 

The insights from a Ukrainian colleague earlier about the West’s unpreparedness for war delve deeper than just not being ready for February 24th, 2022. Countries closer to Russia perceive the threats more acutely, whereas those further away tend to underestimate them. Even during the ongoing war in Ukraine, Russia employs its agents within Ukraine to undermine reform initiatives and, externally, to maintain damaging narratives about Ukraine’s ‘corrupt system’ in the West.


First question: Since 2007, there’s been discussion about the gap in preparedness between the Baltic and Nordic countries, the UK, and Poland, and allies further from the Russian border. There were times, like in March 2022, when the gap seemed to narrow and times when it alarmingly widened. Are these tensions positively shaping the mindset within the Alliance, or is the rift in European perceptions overstated while the real challenge lies with Washington? What is the most significant factor contributing to the lack of mobilisation within the Alliance to robustly support Ukraine? What can be done to enhance this mobilisation, or are we content to let Moscow think its strategy to outlast and exhaust everyone with the war in Ukraine is working?


Mr. Keir Giles, a senior consulting fellow with the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House:

First, I am not a government representative, so I can say whatever I want without getting fired. I will start by saying that maybe Lessons Learned is not the best title for our panel. The key point here is that a lot of lessons, in fact, are not being learned. Not only were some countries not prepared for February 2022, but some countries are still not preparing for what is undeniably underway.


So why is there a gap between the perceived threat and the actions? There are as many answers as nation-states with their specific decision-making contexts. But let’s divide the Western backers of Ukraine into two broad categories: capable but reluctant and willing but incapable. The former category, unfortunately, includes some very important countries in the Western Alliance, like the US and Germany. General Zum Felde this morning stated that it is nuclear coercion that prevents Germany from supplying things like Taurus to Ukraine. The sad fact is that nuclear coercion hasn’t even started. Germany and the United States are responding to Russia’s long-term information operation, which is not backed by genuine action. The division between countries willing and unwilling to be proactive in helping Ukraine also mirrors the division between countries that have internalised this message and are acting on it and those that see through it and understand that Russia’s nuclear threat should be measured by action, not by the ranting of Medvedev on social media.


And so you get the traditional divide across Europe. The border states along Nordic states and the UK know what needs to be done, but the problem is that these states are also the least equipped. There is a long and dishonest tradition within the UK for senior military officers to tell the world that everything is okay in the British defence while in office and then change the narrative as soon as they retire. The threat is so severe that even current defence ministers say this is a pre-war situation. Unfortunately, that does not translate to the highest political level. Now is the second best time to look for alternative means of deterrence. If we cannot rely on the EU or NATO to step in, it can be down to the national responsibility and total defence.


Mr. Marshall Billingslea, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, former Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing at the United States Department of the Treasury and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs:

A critical aspect in which we are failing: autocratic regimes are advancing a narrative that sanctions don’t work. We need to tackle this. A month after the invasion, President Biden tweeted that the ruble would be reduced to rubble. Yet here we are two years later, the ruble depreciated only by 14%, and the Russian economy grew by 3.6% in the last year. Is Putin right? Are we to believe that sanctions don’t work? I beg to differ.


Sanctions can work if applied appropriately, not as a substitute for strategy. They have to be applied comprehensively, accompanied by secondary sanctions to deter third parties, and they have to be enforced. We are falling in many respects: the West has been unclear about its strategy. Helping Ukraine as long as it takes is not a strategy; it’s a slogan. Suppose your goal is to crush the Russian war-time economy, to degrade its ability to produce equipment, to cause the ruble to lose so much of its value that there will be bread lines again in Moscow. In that case, you need to approach these measures differently than they are today. Russia is a very simple economy that fuels itself through energy exports. All you have to do is target its energy exports, dry up the revenue, target its access to technology, and take down its banking sector, which is the mechanism through which they pay for technology and receive money for their oil. Many Russian banks are still on the SWIFT system. We failed to clamp down on export controls. We failed to sanction Russia’s energy exports.


Last year, Russia raked between 600 and 700 million EUR daily from energy exports. It would be best if you had a comprehensive embargo and secondary sanctions. Today, the Biden administration will announce a new round of sanctions. The EU is about to release its 13th packet of sanctions. We will see what they include, but I can already say that if they don’t target the energy exports, banks, and export controls, then this incrementalism will be similar in economic warfare as with the supply of certain weapons, like the ATACMS. The narrative the Russians are pushing that sanctions don’t work is false. They do work when applied properly.


Brigade General (ret) Jaroslav Kraszewski, PhD, CEO Grupa Niewiadów S.A.:

A bit of a Polish perspective. I fully agree that countries must build up their defence budgets and that Europe wasn’t preparing for the war. During the break, we discussed what Europe did between 2007 and 2014. We were fully engaged in the war on terrorism and peace-keeping operations. And based on the Polish experience, we were good at checkpoints or doing exercises without learning how to conduct offensive operations. We thought we didn’t need heavy tanks, heavy artillery, rocket launchers. We had to reduce the armed forces personnel and the artillery units dramatically.


Suddenly, Russia’s aggression of 2014 happened, and fortunately, Poland started spending 2% of GDP on defence. After Trump became president, we rapidly sped up processes to invest money and changed the approach to billing the military capabilities to the US and our European neighbours. To wake up from dreams of peace-supporting operations, we have also increased the engagement of Polish armed forces in the multinational military formations; a good example is the Multinational Corps Northeast working together with Denmark and Germany. This Corps is part of NATO’s Rapid Deployable Corps, ready to be immediately dispatched to war zones. Its area of responsibility is exactly in the Suwalki gap; it is in charge of being the first one to show the cohesion for Article 5 operations.


Later, we created a Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian brigade, which has now become a centre of excellence for Ukrainian training. The last thing we need to do is increase the importance of two multinational organisations: the B9 states of the NATO eastern flank and the Three Seas Initiative. Hopefully, all the B9 countries will increase their defence spending.


We have to think about how to help Ukraine in the upcoming months, when Russia, in my opinion, will start a new counter-offensive operation. Ukraine is now struggling with the inability to launch deep strikes and the lack of manpower.


Mr. Kaimo Kuusk, Estonian Ambassador in Vilnius, former Estonian Ambassador to Ukraine:

Before going to Kyiv in 2019 to work as an Ambassador, I worked in Estonian intelligence for 20 years. We didn’t experience any relaxation during the 90s and 00s. We are a small country, and we are pragmatic. Our three priorities in intel were Russia, Russia, and Russia.


Former Russian president Boris Yeltsin wasn’t a liberal. In the West, they loved to say that we are not adversaries with Russia. And with this, we tricked ourselves. Because Russia sees the world in constant conflict, even if it’s not a hot war, they are preparing for future attacks.


It was the UK and the US that came to us in 2021 saying that Russia is preparing a full-scale war. In that sense, the trend is a positive one. What mobilises us is understanding what the threat is. However, the degree of that understanding depends on past experiences and geography. We see Russia as an existential threat to Estonia. Belgium doesn’t see it as an existential threat. And it is then our job to explain it to them. We need a clear strategy of what we want to achieve and why we must win this war. In Estonia, we see it as an investment and a chance to solve the issue we have been grappling with for 250 years.


Molly McKew:

Are we doing enough to defend our decision-making and societies from hostile Russian influences? What is a current Russian campaign of interest in an ally country that you think we need to watch? How will it impact the Alliance and support for Ukraine if we don’t pay close attention to that? Prioritise answering the second part of the question.


Kaimo Kuusk:

I travelled by car from Vilnius to Tallinn at the beginning of February. I stopped in Parnu and gave a two-hour lecture for high school students as part of the Diplomacy week. And one of the students asked me whether we should support Ukraine as much as we do. Since we lack money, for instance, to raise our teachers’ salaries.


And that is the narrative we should be aware of and explain. Russia tries to spread the message that if you help Ukraine, you will lack the resources to help yourself. Your farmers, your teachers will suffer, etc. I answered the same thing I said before – helping Ukraine is an investment to put the 250 years of misery under the Russian Empire behind. Yes, our expectation that life will improve every day is put on pause. But we need to deal with the beast.


Jaroslav Kraszewski:

In Poland, we have a similar situation as in Estonia. But something happened on February 24th 2022, and Poles became more united. We have about 4 million Ukrainians in Poland, and they have the same rights as Poles.


Before the war, we created new capabilities in the military—cyber defence forces—which allowed us to protect governmental organisations. Cyber defence protects most networks. Of course, we also did a lot in terms of education. We must spread knowledge on patriotism, nationality, and history to families and later at schools. The approach now in Poland is to have our soldiers want to fight, not have to fight.


Marshall Billingslea:

On the night Russia invaded, lawyers in the White House reached the opinion that if we continue providing support for Ukraine, we will become parties to the conflict. Congress learned about this through a press conference and went crazy, and the lawyers retreated. However, they imposed certain restrictions on sharing intelligence with Ukraine, which was eventually retreated, too.


Then we said that we would not send more Javelins, and Estonia was like, ‘We want to send more Javelins’, so we were like, ‘Fine, our Javelins will go too, but no Stingers!’ Latvia and Lithuania were like, ‘Actually, we want to send our Stingers’, and the White House said, ‘Fine, we will send the Stingers we have too, but nobody asks about the Himars!’


For some crazy reason, we in the US are drawing some arbitrary red lines, thinking about how Russia will respond to this or that. We can do a much better job listening to what Eastern Europe says because it has spent so long on the Eastern front. They’ve learnt how to measure what is escalatory and what deters an enemy who only understands strength.


Keir Giles:

If you are in the Russia-watching industry, you see individuals working in these circuits and often notice that they share precisely the messages the Kremlin wants the decision-makers in our capitals to hear. And yet, unless there is a legal framework to tackle the issue, you can do nothing about it.


I think it’s a spectacular achievement that the UK managed to overcome that and become a very vocal moral (if not practical) leader in terms of helping Ukraine. The trouble is that the US top officials have been unable to remove the agents who preach about giving Russia freedom to manoeuvre from their advisory settings.


Rather than focusing on some current campaigns, we need to remember that all effective Russian campaigns are long-term, strategic, and systemic. The stories Russia tells the world through media and informational warfare are the true danger. And that’s the danger that frontline states understand well and decisively tackle. But it needs leadership at our highest level, too.


Molly McKew:

One line from each of you: What price are we willing to pay to achieve a different future with a different Russia?


Kaimo Kuusk:

We should be able to respond robustly, not rely on deterrence only.


Jaroslav Kraszewski:

The price is time. We have to think about Russia without Putin.


Marshall Billingslea:

Xi Jinping has his own territorial ambitions, and he is watching the loopholes in our response. We have to move with speed and urgency to cause Russia to withdraw because conflict with China over Taiwan is looming.


Keir Giles:

Deterrence is expensive, but the cost of failing to deter is far greater.


[questions from the audience]


Q.1 addressed to the panel: To answer your question of what Russia would do with the West, it will use your vulnerabilities. There’s more or less a consensus on what we should do: collaborate, increase defence spending, etc. However, we are missing a point about influencing Russian society. What can we do now to influence them?


Q.2 addressed to Marshall Billingslea and Keir Giles: Why has the perception of Russia been better than US opinion on the USSR?


Q.3 from online submission to Jaroslav Kraszewski: Question about Polish border blockades: how can they be resolved? What is the role of Ukrainian-Polish bilateral cooperation?


Kaimo Kuusk:

The only way to influence Russia is to help Ukraine win. The only way Russia will learn is by becoming really weak.


Jaroslav Kraszewski:

Difficult questions. The border situation is a problem. The Prime Minister announced that the border posts become critical infrastructure, so the farmers should back away from the borders themselves. There should be a meeting between the Polish Prime Minister and the Ukrainian President on the border to discuss spilling grain.


To answer the other question addressed to me [in the online platform], yes, Poland is ready to help Lithuania if there is a crisis. I’ve said that Multinational Corps Northeast is allocated to the Suwalki gap. And they have been trained to conduct combat operations. Poland is also building a huge firepower. We declared a lot of assistance regarding missiles and artillery guns to help our Lithuanian friends.


Marshall Billingslea:

Notice the chronology. During the Barack Obama administration, Putin invaded Crimea in 2014. Notice how Putin waited two years into the Biden administration to attack Ukraine again and didn’t invade during Trump’s administration. Why is that? It’s because we had a President who understood the power of leverage. When negotiating with Russia, you must remember Lenin’s quote: You probe; if you find mush – you push; if you find steel – you withdraw.


Keir Giles:

It’s important to consider how we influence Russian society’s behaviour, not just their views. There is only one way to connect the two goals: changing Russia’s long-term state behaviour by bringing change within Russian society. That is how to deliver Russia an undeniable strategic defeat. That wouldn’t be the end of Russian aggression, but a first step.



Panel III: Total Defence, Future


Moderator: Dr. Sheu Jyh-Shyang, Assistant Research Fellow, Institute for National Defense and Security Research (TW) 

Total defence is an important topic in Taiwan because it is in a situation similar to Eastern Europe. In 2021, Taiwan experienced three times more airspace violations from China than NATO countries in Eastern Europe had from Russia. Eastern Europe has its own experience with similar security challenges, which I hope to learn from as someone who comes from Taiwan.


Lieutenant General (ret) Ben Hodges, Former Commanding General of US Army Europe (2014-2017), currently serves as NATO Senior Mentor for Logistics and consultant for several companies on Europe, NATO, and the European Union: 

The key to total defence is for our elected officials to be honest with the population. They must explain the threat and what needs to be done to prepare for it. We face global challenges from Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, which are all connected. The Hamas attack on October 7th, 2023, was not a coincidence as the Kremlin benefitted from it, distracting attention and resources from Ukraine. This means we must think strategically and organise ourselves together if we want to protect freedom of navigation, sovereignty, human rights, and the international rules-based order that Russia, Iran, China, and North Korea despise.


In 1942, after three years of war and nothing but disaster for Great Britain, Nazi Germany, Italy, and the Empire of Japan were all on a streak of victories. In December 1941, the United States was drawn into the war after the disaster at Pearl Harbor. In January 1942, Churchill came to the United States, met with President Roosevelt at the Arcadia Conference, and they decided on a ‘Germany first’ strategy, forming a combined Chiefs of Staff to plan and execute the war effort. Despite the bleak situation, they decided to fight for what they believed in, no matter how long it took. In 1943, at the Casablanca Conference, they set a well-defined end goal for the war: unconditional surrender of the enemy.


The Ukrainians are ready to defeat Russia; they need the tools. People say that Russia spends 7% of its GDP on the military. Still, if you combine the military spending of Germany, Poland, Norway, the Netherlands, and the Baltic countries, it dwarfs Russia. We only need the political will to make the decisions that Roosevelt and Churchill did. We have the capacity and the military capability, but do we have the political will? When we defeat Russia, Iran will be alone and without friends, North Korea will have outdated ammunition with no one to give it to, and China will realise that the West is serious about defending freedom and sovereignty.


Dr. Giedrius Česnakas, Professor, Security Research Group, General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy: 

When we talk about total defence, we sometimes put too much emphasis on hardware like tanks and drones. The core of total defence is the ‘software’ of the people. In my research, I identified three pillars for total defence:


  1. Strategy
  2. Holistic approach
  3. Muscle memory


“If you don’t know where you are sailing, no wind is good for you.” We need a clear plan for total defence, not just bureaucratic goals. Defence goals should produce an actual working system based on lessons learned. Resource allocation is crucial, including financial, time, and human resources. Most countries have total defence policies but lack strategies.


A holistic approach requires every governmental institution to have a department responsible for preparing for potential war threats. This should extend to municipalities. Additionally, there must be acceptance of changes in daily life, whether economic or operational, to prioritise universal service.


Muscle memory means people should be prepared for basic survival and national defence. We need more drills, like fire drills and evacuation drills for small towns, to train our response to calamities. Updating our mindset and ‘software’ for total defence can take decades, but we must move faster.


Moderator: Your comments remind me of the situation in Taiwan. Around 70% of the population is willing to defend Taiwan should China decide to invade, but it’s not clear that those willing to defend their country know how to do so. This means we need to develop our own comprehensive response.


James Townsend, Senior Fellow for the Transatlantic Security Program at Center for a New American Security: 

When the Cold War ended, both Finland and Sweden approached the United States to establish a relationship with NATO. During talks with Sweden, we saw their national defence strategy, including highways doubling as landing strips. In Finland, we saw the commitment of reservists. The dedication of these countries to their national defence was impressive, from conscripts to 90-year-old men ready to defend their country. This level of readiness is what we need if we want to take our national defence seriously.


In the US, we need to recognise that times have changed. If something happens to Estonia or Lithuania, it impacts us at home. Ukraine is buying us time to get ready.


Michael Malm, Swedish Armed Forces Defence Staff, Department of Total Defence: 

There is a global conflict happening, and we must be prepared for nuclear warfare, information warfare, economic warfare, and more. Total defence addresses all these threats collectively, including deterrence and defence. In Sweden, all government agencies and companies are involved in national defence. Voluntary defence organisations mobilise around 350,000 volunteers. Sweden will spend 2% of its GDP on defence this year, but we must always be ready for surprises.


[questions from the audience]


Q.1 In what pragmatic ways could the United States bolster the defence of Europe?


Ben Hodges: The US should remove any doubt about its commitment to the security of its allies. We must live up to our talking points, show resilience, and not be easily divided by disinformation. We must also address vulnerabilities, such as the fitness of our youth for military service.


Q.2 How can total defence cooperation among like-minded countries be formalised or institutionalised?


James Townsend: We need to prepare for a possible war before it happens. Lithuania and Taiwan are ahead in this regard. US political leadership must align with the people regarding the need for total defence. Conferences like this one are important for sharing experiences and learning from each other.


Q.3 How can smaller countries strengthen the idea of total defence?


Giedrius Česnakas: Total defence is conditioned by geography and geopolitics. Sharing good and bad experiences, conducting exercises, and adapting to each country’s circumstances are crucial.


Q.4 What lessons could countries that want to invest seriously in the total defence concept potentially draw from Sweden?


Michael Malm: Awareness, responsibility, and engagement are key. We must inform the public, ensure responsibility at all levels, and make it easy for people to get involved in national defence.


Q.5 What could be the possible outcomes of the hypothetical Lithuanian decision to match Russia’s defence spending (in terms of percentage of GDP)?


Michael Malm: Numbers are just numbers. It’s more important to assess the military and civil defence needs and build a strong social contract between the armed forces, government, and people.


Q.6 You said that Sweden has 65,000 registered bomb shelters. How much time did it take to develop this infrastructure? Could you elaborate on their design and properties?


Michael Malm: Bomb shelters are usually incorporated into building basements, subways, and underground parking lots. You can find the closest bomb shelter online.


Q.7 If you were the US Army Europe Commanding General today, what would be your main security concerns in Europe?


Ben Hodges: NATO improved with Finland joining and will improve further with Sweden. The strategic calculation has changed, making the Baltic Sea more secure. However, Russia’s strategy could involve small incursions to test NATO’s response. Lithuania must be ready to fight with what it has until reinforcements arrive.


Q.8 What should the state reserve system look like in preparation for total defence?


Ben Hodges: Reserves should be ready to mobilise quickly, and exercises should identify and correct mistakes. Air defence exercises are crucial for protecting important infrastructure.


Q.9 Do you see any progress on the military mobility issue in Europe?


Ben Hodges: We need to be prepared, not scared. Speed is essential for responding to threats. Progress has been made, but more is needed, such as completing Rail Baltica.


Q.10 Do you see any strategies or policies to reduce the fragmentation of the defence industry in the West?


James Townsend: The US defence industry has deficiencies that need addressing. We need to focus on pressing issues like ammunition shortages before moving on to advanced technology.


Q.11 What defensive capabilities would Sweden and Finland bring to NATO?


Michael Malm: Sweden is ready to deploy a battalion in Latvia, participate in air policing, and expand operations east of Gotland. We have significant offensive capabilities and cooperate extensively with US forces.


Q.12 Is there a concern that Russia could instigate a ‘little-green-men’ style military operation from Belarus?


Ben Hodges: The nuclear weapon in Belarus is to scare us. Russia is unlikely to use a nuclear weapon, as it would bring no positive outcomes. However, Russia might use troops in Belarus to pressure Ukraine or others. Lithuania should be prepared.


James Townsend: Putin’s nuclear threats are to create fear. We must not self-deter.


Panel IV: NATO/EU Eastern Frontier and Total Defence


Moderator: Dr. Mantas ADOMĖNAS, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of the Baltic Advanced Technologies


Lieutenant Colonel Janne Pukkila, Finnish National Defence University, Russian/Belarus Research Group Expert: 

Total defence or comprehensive defence is not just about actions but also about winning the hearts and minds of the population. In Finland, compulsory service builds an understanding of the national defence. The perspective is that NATO’s Eastern Front is currently safe, but we must remain vigilant. Hybrid attacks, such as illegal migrants being sent across borders, are current threats. We must be ready for conventional military threats and not over-concentrate on one region.


Mr. Toomas Unt, Crisis Manager at the Estonian Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture: 

Estonia has approved a 10-year civil defence strategy and a 4-year action plan. We face a new Cold War with emerging threats like AI. The shrinking economy requires higher efficiency for national defence. Estonia has conscription and increased reserves. Societal resilience is essential, and we must ensure cross-border supply chain resilience.


Dovilė Šakalienė, Member of Lithuanian Parliament, National Security and Defence Committee: 

The future is complicated, but we must remain realistic. Europe should be more united in national defence, removing bureaucratic hurdles. Learning from the Ukrainian experience is crucial, but we must adapt strategies to our circumstances. Coordinating actions between China and Russia are a fact, making a two-front war more likely.


Q.1 How likely is Belarus to be used for hostile moves toward NATO countries?


Yan Avseyushkin: Belarus is a threat because Russia can use it with impunity. Sanctions create pressure, but the Belarusian regime has learned to bypass them. The West must show political will to respond to such threats.


Q.2 What is the Achilles heel of our region in terms of defence?


Yan Avseyushkin: Lack of understanding of response strategies and societal polarisation. Autocracies may have decision-making issues but don’t face delays. Defence requires a holistic solution, including education and communication.


Dovilė Šakalienė: Spending is a major Achilles heel, with NATO countries lagging behind Russia in GDP percentage for defence. Air defence and artillery shells for Ukraine are critical. Societal resilience is essential, as Sweden and Finland have demonstrated.


Toomas Unt: Societal resilience is vital, and we must ensure robust cross-border supply chains. Cooperation is essential to repel threats and maintain societal unity.


Janne Pukkila: Explaining Russian information to the public is important. Different NATO countries have different understandings of Russian information. We must prepare for hybrid and conventional threats, considering scenarios where Russia and China act together.


Q.3 What is needed to turn the Baltic countries into a metaphoric porcupine that would choke would-be aggressors?


Janne Pukkila: Prepare, train, and increase readiness. Finland joining NATO enhances cooperation.


Tomas Unt: Cooperation should extend beyond military terms.


Dovilė Šakalienė: Cooperation and a show of force are crucial for deterrence.


Yan Avseyushkin: Jeopardize Russia’s ability to build its military by cutting off crucial supplies.


Q.4 How can we ensure that military concepts and strategies for national defence are accepted in society?


Yan Avseyushkin: Information policy is key to reaching different societal groups. Deterrence alone is not enough; a regional security strategy is necessary.


Dovilė Šakalienė: Engage with society and explain national defence goals. Unconditional support for Ukraine is crucial.


Toomas Unt: Ensuring Ukraine wins unconditionally is vital. We must be prepared for scenarios where the common market is disrupted.


Janne Pukkila: Society’s role is crucial. Without societal support, the best weaponry and plans are moot.


Q.5 Regarding Belarus, are we making the mistake of wishful thinking?


Yan Avseyushkin: Sanctions create pressure, but the regime has learned to bypass them. Belarus is becoming more totalitarian, and soft power is unlikely to improve the situation.


Q.6 What are the main problems causing the European defence industry to rise so slowly?


Dovilė Šakalienė: Europe has scaled down its defence industry and exports a significant portion to third countries. Bureaucracy hinders the process and should be reduced.


Concluding Remarks


Linas Idzelis: 

We must continue supporting Ukraine as some European governments waver, but European societies remain supportive. It is essential to outperform Russia by strengthening our national industries. Sanctions must be applied and enforced properly to have the desired effect. Acquiring necessary military equipment for conventional warfare is crucial. We must also prepare for the possibility of China attacking Taiwan. The coordination between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Russia must also be addressed. Overall, Russia remains the main priority.


Julija Kazdobina:

The optimistic note of this conference was the support for Ukraine. The mood in Ukraine is sombre as lagging aid from the United States is crucial and cannot be replaced. Manpower shortages are a concern. The conversation has shifted from “no matter how long it takes” to “no matter what it takes.” Russia tries to erode unity in Western countries through information operations. We need to communicate with our society that peacetime is over due to Russia’s choices. We need the necessary weapons to finish the fight so future generations don’t have to.



Gynybos paramos fondas