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Gabrielius Landsbergis is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania.
Despite all the cruelty and hatred unleashed by the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukraine continues to resist its aggressor – and it is ready to fight to victory.
A year ago, many doubted Ukraine. They suggested that Russia would conquer Kiev within days – weeks at most. And some of those voices, then so blatantly wrong, are now brandishing “peace plans,” pushing Ukraine to compromise its sovereignty and territorial integrity in exchange for Russia’s agreement to end the war.
But these ‘peace plans’ are based on prevailing myths that we must face before they become reality.
First myth — Ukraine is unable to reclaim its territory.
Ukraine has already refuted that claim by retaking territory from Russian control – from the outskirts of Kiev to Kharkiv and Kherson. Ukrainians have the will to fight and an effective strategy to reclaim all that is theirs. Instead, it is our pace of support that hinders their ability to act faster and ultimately increases the death toll.
More weapons, more ammunition, more training is the sure way to a full recovery of the territory of Ukraine. And to do that, we need a longer-term strategy that will enable Ukraine to push Russia completely beyond its internationally recognized borders.
Second myth: Russia is unbeatable.
Despite Russia’s disregard for human life and careless willingness to dispose of soldiers as cannon fodder, the reckless death toll still fails to close the capacity gap. Ukrainian troops have high morale, skilled commanders and access to vastly superior technology.
We also have to accept the reality that the West – with its defense industry still at peacetime levels – has not even deployed its full military muscles. The North Baltic’s combined nominal GDP is higher than Russia alone, and it is real facts like these that should shape the West’s strategy — not Moscow’s narrative of being a NATO colleague. Mindset, determination and political will are the keywords.
Third myth: Russia will run out and want to settle down.
Putin is not ready to settle for a fair and lasting peace. As in 2008 and 2014, this latest war is fueled by Russian revanchism, and when Western partners talk about a possible settlement or freeze of the conflict, Moscow sees it not as a turnoff but as a sign of Western fatigue.
Far from bringing peace closer, continued talk of a negotiated end to the war only increases the cost to Ukraine – and to Western allies. Therefore, this war will have to be “settled” on the battlefield, as any deal that brings real or perceived benefits to Russia would only be a breathing space for the next phase of this war.
Fourth myth: Crimea is a redline for Putin.
Putin likes to draw lines in the sand. He knows the West will take them seriously, as they would take their own country. And in the course of this war, Putin has repeatedly drawn new red lines.
However, these lines limit the speed of our decision-making. Internationally agreed borders can be the only red line, and Crimea is Ukraine. If Ukraine is prevented from taking back Crimea, Putin will never stop wanting more.
Fifth myth: there is life with Putin’s Russia after the war.
Putin and some in the West still count on the idea that “Russia will still be there” after the war and are therefore planning a return to business as usual. It is something that comes with the prevailing fear that Putin’s successor would be even more ruthless and vengeful.
However, we should not see Russia’s defeat as a threat, but as an opportunity to build another, transformed country that will not threaten its neighbors again. Instead of fearing Russia’s transformation, we must accept that while 30 years have passed, the unraveling of the Soviet Union is still incomplete – and never will be until the mindset in Moscow is changed.
Myth Six: All wars end with negotiations.
This is a story that does not stand the test of history. After World War II, European countries did not reclaim their territory after diplomatic contact with the Nazi regime. Imagine sitting at the negotiating table with Adolf Hitler in late 1942, when he was trapped in Stalingrad but half of Europe was still occupied.
Moreover, has a ceasefire agreement with Russia ever really brought lasting peace? If so, why do Georgians still go to bed afraid that the next attack will take away their own backyard? Did the Minsk Accords stop the war, or rather, did they give Russia time to prepare for all-out assault?
The 1994 Bucharest memorandum giving Ukraine security guarantees in exchange for giving up its nuclear stockpile also turned out to be empty promises. So Russia must now be defeated militarily instead of receiving invitations to a peace conference. And Ukraine should be invited to join NATO as soon as conditions allow, because only NATO can provide real security guarantees.
Seventh myth — Baltic countries and Poland only want revenge on Russia.
The war against Ukraine is fueled by Russia’s outrage at the collapse of the Soviet Union. And Russia’s vengeful imperialist agenda is an existential challenge not just for Ukraine but for all border states – mine included.
But every decision we’ve made over the past three decades is about creating safety for our people. When we warned about the dangers of Russia, we were dismissed as alarmists, but we were right. And we continue to voice our concerns because we know that Putin’s regime is not over and that the world will not be safe until it is.
Like Ukraine, we want a just and lasting peace. But if Ukraine is forced to settle, it will bring neither justice nor peace.
Therefore, Ukraine’s victory is our victory. Their safety is our safety. And only victory will stop Putin from attacking us again.