Estonian PM in Berlin: We must put an end to the fear of bold decisions

  • 2022-04-26
  • BNS/TBT Staff

BERLIN - Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas made the 16th Berlin Speech on Freedom at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom on Monday evening in which she focused on Russia's brutal war in Ukraine and called for an end to the fear of bold decisions.

In her speech, Kallas also called on all democratic societies to use their moral compass, government spokespeople said.

"The Kremlin needs to feel it is isolated. We have seen huge and historic turnarounds. Also here in Germany. However, as long as this aggression is not stopped, we have not done enough," Kallas said.

The prime minister recalled how she was in Berlin for the first time in 1988 as an eleven-year old and her father took her along with her brother to as close to the Brandenburg Gate as possible to have a look at the Berlin Wall.

"I vividly recall him saying: 'Kids, breathe in deeply -- that’s the air of freedom that comes from the other side.' And if we do everything to help Ukraine, there will be no 11-year-olds for whom the air of freedom is something they only experience from a distance," Kallas said.

"I understand the difficult choices leaders in democracies face today. I understand that rising inflation -- in particular a surge in the cost of energy -- could mean that economic difficulties at home overshadow the suffering of Ukrainians," the prime minister said.

"Gas might be expensive, but freedom is priceless. It’s up to every government to decide how much of the burden its people are ready to carry. But it is equally necessary we get the message through to our people -- what is our neighbor’s problem today will be our problem tomorrow. We are in danger, when our neighbor’s house is on fire," Kallas said.

"While Ukrainians are defending the freedom they have built, the Russian killing machine wishes and I cite: 'to change the bloody and false consciousness of a part of today's Ukrainians'. These are the words of Dmitry Medvedev. The Kremlin and Putin have made it clear by their statements that their aim is to wipe Ukraine off the world map," the prime minister said.

According to Kallas, history matters. "Although the Soviet Union collapsed, its imperialist ideology never did," she added.

"When we look at Russia we see darkness -- fear is keeping its society together," Kallas said.

"And we see thousands fleeing the country. We know this fear. Fear of secret police who seize people in the middle of the night or arrest them only for holding up placards in public squares, fear of the constant distrust, fear to express your opinion, fear of the atrocities that might follow. Tens of thousands of Estonians fled this same tyranny after the World War II," she added.

"The warning signs were there: imperial nostalgia, in fact Russia kept the Soviet anthem, the narrative of Russian victimhood combined with heavy anti-Western propaganda while closing down free media. And we witnessed Putin’s wars in Chechnya, Georgia, Donbas and Crimea," Kallas said, adding that Putin's past wars illustrate why he must not win this one and why Moscow cannot be allowed to pretend that it has gained anything in the process. 

"Putin's strategic aims have not changed. The suffering and devastation in Ukraine is far from over. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal says: If Russia stops fighting, there will be peace. If Ukraine stops fighting, there will be no Ukraine," Kallas said in her speech.

According to the prime minister, hitting the right balance with policy is understandably one of the biggest challenges for democracies and for our freedom today. "However, were this war to be lost, it would be not lost by Ukraine but us," she said.

"We have reached the moment where we should have courage to say: Ukraine must win this war. And we must act accordingly. Freedom must be armed better than tyranny," Kallas added.

"That means we need to continue support Ukraine’s fight for freedom, while building up pressure against aggressor with further sanctions and political and economic isolation," the prime minister said.