Estonian PM pushes for Ukraine aid, defense industry boost at European Council

  • 2024-03-22
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN -  At the European Council meeting in Brussels on Thursday, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas emphasized the importance of continuing comprehensive support for Ukraine and strengthening European defense readiness.

The prime minister stated that a compromise has been reached on the issue of military support for Ukraine and five billion euros have been added to the European Peace Facility, which is an important sign to both Ukraine and the Kremlin that the European Union will not back down and it will help Ukraine win the war.

"However, European defense readiness and industry must be our next strategic goal. So far, we have been in a reactive role to Russian aggression, it's time to move forward with long-term planning and strategy," Kallas said.

The prime minister highlighted that the European Union must offer even more "out-of-the-box" solutions, such as Estonia's million-shells initiative and the Czech shell coalition. 

"Our goal must be to produce more ammunition than Russia," she said. "In the short term, we can fill the gaps in Ukraine's defense needs, as Estonia's recent military aid package does, but the long-term solution is the rapid development of the European defense industry."

Kallas also pointed out that if countries part of the Ramstein coalition spent at least 0.25 percent of GDP annually on military aid for Ukraine, Ukraine could win the war within three years or even sooner.

"Compared to countries' spending on development aid or their own defense expenditures, this is entirely feasible," she said.

The premier added that both the reconstruction of Ukraine and the development of the European defense industry require additional funds. 

"We need to start using the interest from Russia's frozen assets to support Ukraine and find additional capital for our defense industry," she said. "Cutting off revenues to stop the Russian war machine is also necessary, which means primarily imposing new sanctions, more effectively enforcing existing ones, and imposing import duties."

"Estonia's principal security interest is the unity between NATO allies and EU countries. We need to invest more in defense to not risk losing the war in Ukraine. This is where the speed of action and sufficient funding are crucial," Kallas said. "A capable defense industry also creates jobs and economic benefits. The already allocated 1.5 billion is a good start, but the initial investment need is at least 100 billion euros."

Additionally, state leaders will discuss in Brussels solutions to the Middle East crisis, opportunities for the European Union's enlargement, migration, and alleviating the complex situation in the agricultural sector. The Euro summit will also take place in Brussels on Friday.