TALLINN - Estonian President Alar Karis and French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly, who is on a visit to Estonia, discussed on Monday Russia's war against Ukraine, condemning the war crimes committed in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities and underscoring the need to jointly continue stopping Russia's brutal aggression.
The Estonian head of state conferred on Parly the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, 2nd Class, and thanked the French minister for her significant contribution to the development of defense cooperation between Estonia and France.
Speaking about Russia's war in Ukraine, Karis said that the killings of numerous civilians in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities are gruesome war crimes for which the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
Karis said that Russian President Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine is the biggest threat to Euro-Atlantic security since World War II.
"Together with the allies we must do everything in our power to ensure that Ukraine wins this war," he said. "As the first step, the allies must increase the price of this aggression for Russia by establishing more stringent sanctions."
The president said that Ukraine has the full support of Estonia and that Estonia also provides weapons and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and supports the strengthening of sanctions and isolation of Russia.
"We must give Ukraine everything we can give to ensure that the Ukrainians are able to defend their state and freedom against the aggressor," Karis said.
When presenting Parly with the Estonian national decoration, Karis said that during the French minister's term in office, defense cooperation between Estonia and France has become stronger and France is now one of Estonia's closest allies.
"Our units are serving together in Mali and today, the French defense personnel are maintaining the security of NATO's eastern flank in Estonia," the president said. "Upon the outbreak of Russia's war in Ukraine, France decided to extend the presence of its contingent in Tapa and deployed its fighter aircraft to conduct the air policing mission from Amari. As a result, both Estonia and Europe are better protected."
NATO's presence in the Baltic region is crucial because the threat originating in Russia is a long-term challenge for Europe, according to Karis.
"NATO must decisively strengthen its deterrence and defense posture on its eastern flank," he said. "A permanent and strengthened NATO presence is needed in the Baltic Sea region for this purpose. Because of the changed security situation, we must talk about switching from air policing to air defense. In order to improve our combat readiness we need a backbone of a NATO division created in each Baltic state based on allied units and units of the three states. It is our shared commitment that helps ensure the indivisible security of NATO's entire territory."
Karis said that all three Baltic states have expressed their commitment to increasing their defense spending to at least 2.5 percent of GDP. The president added that all EU member states should likewise boost their contribution to national defense.