Estonia's NATO ambassador Jüri Luik (Isamaa) expressed hope that the increased combat capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces and the determination of Ukraine's western allies could help prevent Russian aggression.
The West has reason to worry about the concentration of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, but it must be taken into account that Ukrainian armed forces are now much stronger than they were in 2014, when the conflict first triggered, Luik told ERR.
"There is no doubt that if the U.S. secretary of state (Anthony Blinken - ed) and NATO secretary general (Jens Stoltenberg) are worried about the movement of Russian forces around Ukraine and both have warned Russia very publicly and very seriously, there is reason to worry," the three-time defense minister said. "These statements are not made lightly and these statements are far from everyday."
The ambassador said the West follows what is happening in Ukraine with great interest and is drawing its own conclusions. "There is reason to do so. The U.S. and NATO are certainly very alert and attentive while using all their resources," Luik said.
Ukrainian forces much stronger than in 2014
"When it comes to a possible [Russian] invasion into Ukraine, then it is clear that the Ukrainian army is 100 percent different from what it was in 2014," the veteran politician said.
In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine. This event led to a war in the Donbas region between Russia-backed separatist groups and the Ukrainian armed forces.
Luik pointed out that the Ukrainian army is battle-tested, as its units have participated in missions and wars. Secondly, Ukraine now has access to much more modern equipment than it did in 2014, Luik said, adding that Ukraine has anti-artillery radars from the U.S., drones from Turkey and other equipment manufactured in Ukraine.
"There is remarkable production of combat equipment in Ukraine, which has now been set in motion," Luik noted. "And what is most important is that the Ukrainian army has demonstrated its extraordinary will to fight, because it is one of the most important factors for an army."
The NATO ambassador added that Ukraine has shown daily what it did not in 2014. "So anyone that is going to face Ukraine, if Russia were to face Ukraine, they must consider that they are facing a very serious military force," Luik said.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste