President Alar Karis: We are all at war

The Estonian president, Alar Karis, gave a speech on 16 March in Tallinn at a concert in support of Ukraine, where he said that the missiles falling on Ukrainian cities are falling on every city in Europe and that all of Europe is at war, fighting against the aggressor and for peace; Estonian World publishes the speech in full.


We now measure time in terms of ‘before the war’ and ‘after the war’.

Putin has taken from us a world in which, despite its uncertainties and the crises it faced, one thing seemed certain: no European country would wage war on another. Putin’s aggression towards Ukraine has changed everything. The attacks of Russia’s land, sea and air forces on Ukrainian people and cities expose the true face of evil.

We are in a war in which all of us have to choose which side we are on. Even indifference makes the indifferent an accessory in this war.

Mariupol, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Odessa, Chernihiv and Kyiv are our cities now just as much as Marseille, Düsseldorf, Panevežys, Kraków, Napoli, Glasgow, Barcelona, Turku or Tallinn. The bombs, rockets and shells falling on Ukrainian cities are falling on every city in Europe. We share the pain of the thousands of people who have been killed and the millions who have fled.

We are all at war. We are fighting against the aggressor and for international law, peace and goodwill. We are fighting for Ukraine.

I sympathise with those who feel powerless in the face of the news coming out of Ukraine. I feel it myself. But we will not grow weak or weary in our support of Ukraine. We are providing them with military assistance, we are taking in their refugees and we will help them rebuild once the Russian forces retreat. We are firm in our belief that good has the better of evil and that peace will triumph over war.

I thank all of my fellow Estonians who have opened themselves up to Ukraine and Ukrainians and who are assisting Ukraine’s brave army and its terrorised refugees. Imagine for a moment being that mother who grabs her children and a single bag of possessions before giving her husband – if he is not already at the front – one final kiss and joining the millions of others fleeing who knows where.

We read these stories, but it is those making their way here, and those taking them in and helping them adapt to life in Estonia, who truly feel that angst and shoulder that concern.

Today’s concert is an expression of will on the part of Estonia’s cultural figures. It is truly unbelievable just how much goodwill and desire to help there is in Estonia at the moment. Thank you. I wish you all a good deal of fortitude, since your help is likely to be needed for some time yet.

This war will not end any time soon; nor will it end once the last battle has been fought. It will weigh heavily on generations to come. Ukraine will need our support for a long time, and it is the debt we owe them. Because again, in defending Odessa, Mariupol and Kyiv, they are defending Berlin, Tallinn and Stockholm.

Ukraine’s strength and belief, indeed the feelings we all share, are reflected in the words of poet and playwright Lesya Ukrainka:

“No! Through all my tears I shall laugh,

“Sing songs despite my troubles;

“Have hope despite all odds,

“I want to live! Away, you sorrowful thoughts!”

Слава Україні!

The opinions in this article are those of the author.

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