WARSAW, Poland, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Hopes for a peaceful solution in Ukraine are fading, and contingency plans for potential conflict in former-Soviet NATO republics are in place, Poland's defense minister said Thursday.
Tomasz Siemoniak called Russia's involvement in helping pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine Europe's biggest security threat since the end of the Cold War. He added there is "no reason to believe in Russia's good intentions" as Ukraine attempts to integrate itself into Western Europe.
"It is clear there are less and less chances for a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian crisis. I believe some very tough months and years are ahead because Russia's clear intention is to block Ukraine's way toward Europe."
Poland has been a solid supporter of the Kiev government, and although Siemoniak did not endorse recent calls by other European governments for additional economic sanctions against Russia, he said "the climate has changed" from a time, several weeks ago, when loosening of sanctions was under consideration. Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetnya called for more sanctions Thursday.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, also expressed fear the Ukraine conflict could intensify, but blamed the West for "dragging" Russia into war.
He told the Russia's Interfax news service, "Unfortunately I cannot say for sure that a cold war won't lead to a 'hot' one. I fear they [Western nations] could take the risk. Where will that lead all of us? A cold war is already being waged openly. What's next? All you hear is about sanctions toward Russia from America and the European Union. Have they totally lost their heads?"