TALLINN - It is naive to see Russia as a part of European security architecture, Estonian President Alar Karis said following a lunch meeting of top opinion leaders held by Washington Post at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
"Having launched a full-scale war to conquer Ukraine, Russia does not want to take responsibility for peace and stability in Europe; instead, its goal is to undermine stability and security. Therefore, Russia is currently a threat to the European security architecture," Karis said.
The Estonian president focused at the meeting on the new security situation in Europe which is seeing Finland and Sweden join NATO and millions of war refugees flee Ukraine. After the meeting, Karis underscored the need to change the culture of thought when it comes to foreign and security policy and recommended that the West be realistic about threats and less tentative with regard to dealing with them: "Let us deter Russia, not ourselves."
Russia is a long-term security challenge for Estonia and the Baltic region and, therefore, permanent presence of NATO's allied forces on the eastern flank is necessary, according to the Estonian head of state.
"The war in Ukraine shows Russia's wish to undermine the role of NATO and the transatlantic security axis in maintaining security in our region to everyone who is willing to see it. Russia's aggressiveness leaves no choice for NATO -- a stronger deterrence posture in the Baltic states and Poland is essential and self-evident," he went on.
With regard to assisting Ukraine, Karis underlined the need to stop Russia's opportunities to earn gas and oil revenues.
At a panel discussion on the EU's neighboring countries at the World Economic Forum, Karis discussed with Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Schallenberg what the future of EU neighborhood policy should look like considering Russia's aggression in Ukraine.
It was acknowledged at the discussion that Europe needs to be an importer of security and wellbeing by integrating its neighboring countries and not leaving the task to anyone else.
"Estonia has always been a strong supporter of the enlargement policy. We've been in the same situation as the states looking to join the European Union and we know how important support from friends is on this complicated path of reforms. Concrete activities and more ambition is also needed from the EU," Karis said.
The prime ministers of Georgia and Moldova underscored both nations' strong desire to join the EU.
Karis had bilateral meetings in Davos on Wednesday with the Georgian prime minister, Irakli Garibashvili, Minister of Economy and Planning of Saudi Arabia Faisal Al-Ibrahim and founder and CEO of the World Economic Forum Klaus Schwab.
As part of the World Economic Forum, the president also met with representatives of Siemens, Google Jigsaw and Coursera to discuss cooperation opportunities with Estonia.