Commander in Chief of the Estonian Defense Forces Maj. Gen. Riho Terras said the involvement of regular Russian soldiers in the conflict in Ukraine means it is a war and the world should begin using the term.
Russian forces have taken key towns just over the Ukrainian borders on a new, southern front opened in recent days.
NATO has released satellite images corroborating the reports that Russian regular forces are in Ukraine. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday that 1,000 Russian soldiers are in Ukraine; Russia denies the claims.
Terras told ETV on Thursday evening that with professional Russian soldiers involved, the conflict can now be called a war, and Russia wants a land connection to Crimea, which it annexed in March.
“Crimea is gone and no one is talking about that. But Crimea is a large mouthful for Russia to swallow and the supplying of Crimea can only be done by land,” he said, adding that the war began with the annexation of Crimea, when regular Russian troops entered the peninsula.
He said western nations find it unbelievable that war is possible in the 21st century and that because of that disbelief, they have reacted slowly. Terras said it is time to talk about real sanctions, even if they are hard on European countries. No one believes friendly relations between NATO and Moscow can be reinstated, he said.
“Russia has today declared that NATO is an enemy and that must facilitate changes. Some have already taken place and the NATO summit must give out a clear message to its allies and to Russia that NATO is the world's most powerful military organization and is willing to do all to protect its member states, including increasing its presence in areas bordering Russia,” the general said.