Estonian PM in Copenhagen: Aggressor must be defeated

  • 2023-05-15
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – Ukraine's fight for its existence is also a fight for peace and dignity in Europe, and is also about the right to exist as a country and live free from repressions, which is why the aggressor must be defeated, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in her remarks at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit on Monday. 

"For the Kremlin, democratic governance in Europe is a threat that it tries to destroy. It sees liberal democracy as its biggest enemy," Kallas said, adding that much of the free world is now inevitably focused helping Ukraine in the war, and rightly so.

"The aggressor must be defeated on the battlefield, but Russia is also waging a war against our democracies -- an energy war, an information war, a cyberwar. Democracies need to take steps to defend themselves in all these areas, as well as holding the line to defend a world where rules still apply, and where technology works for, not against, democratic societies," Kallas said.

"We in Estonia, at the front line of democracy, have long been aware of Russia's hybrid tactics. Many of their tactics are taken straight from the KGB playbook. They try to influence political and social choices and undermine trust within free societies. And not only within, but also between our societies -- one of Russia’s long-term goals is also to undermine unity between allies," she said.

According to the Estonian premier, our primary focus should be on making sure that aggression ends in defeat and that we are prepared to deter or stop its continuation or expansion in the future, as any "negotiated pause" serves Kremlin's interest so it can use the time to rebuild and prepare its forces for future aggression.   

Kallas stressed that our international approach to Russia must remain firm and long-term.

"We should not believe in the goodwill of an outright aggressor and a cold-blooded war criminal. There should be no interpreting of Russia via a democratic lens. There should be no room for wishful thinking. Russia is a pariah state that needs to be isolated, there's no room for appeasement and forgiveness, no flirtation with business as usual and lifting sanctions. Half-baked solutions are dangerous. Our joint pressure against Russia must increase, not decrease," she said.

The faster Putin understands he has made a mistake, he will not reach his objectives and won't be able to break Ukrainians, the sooner this war ends, Kallas said. However, for victory there are several conditions and policies we need to pursue.

"First, for victory, freedom must be armed better than tyranny. This is the call by President Zelenskyy and this should be also our motto. It means that the number one focus should be arms, ammunition and training -- they all must continue at a scale sufficient for Ukraine to win the war," she said.

However, it is not only the battlefield success that will decide the outcome of the war.

"We have to show Kremlin it cannot outlast Ukraine and the free world economically. So, Ukraine's win also depends on our ability to dry up the Kremlin's income to finance its aggression," Kallas said.

For peace that lasts in Europe we need accountability. Without accountability, Russia's cycle of violence will never stop.

"But it's not just Putin's war. The Russian people also have responsibility -- as long as territorial expansion is considered a virtue in Russia, and human lives lost are its acceptable side-effects, Russia's aggression will sooner or later return and there can be no lasting peace in Europe," Kallas said. 

She stressed that no impunity for war crimes must remain a cornerstone of our long-term policies. No-one is immune, not even the sitting head of the permanent member state of the UN Security Council.

"Until that's not the case, we should prepare for the worst. Stopping aggressor has its cost. Life next to a pariah state has a cost. Hence, we need to strengthen our own defense and security and adapt accordingly -- we in NATO need to undergo changes in our planning, in our defense budgets and capabilities. Peace and stability of Europe is secured by the geopolitical European Union and by NATO that is able to defend Europe militarily," she said.

"We also need to end grey zones in Europe. Grey zones fuel conflicts and invite dictators to invade. It has become clear that for peace in Europe, we need Ukraine in NATO and EU," the Estonian head of government said.