Estonia’s PM: The West should not say it will not intervene in Ukraine

The Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas, said in an interview with the Estonian Public Broadcasting’s radio service that the West should not publicly say it will not intervene in Ukraine under any circumstances – as the US president, Joe Biden, has repeatedly said, for example.

“No red lines have been agreed upon. I don’t like when it is openly said that we will not intervene under any circumstances,” Kallas said, adding that such an uncompromising assertion gives Vladimir Putin “a feeling of impunity”, and that whatever he does, the West will not react.

She stated that the “best way to achieve peace was to send a clear signal that, if necessary, the West must intervene to prevent a bigger disaster”.

Sceptical about no-fly zone

But Kallas was sceptical about a no-fly zone over Ukraine, a measure that many opinion leaders and politicians, including majority MPs of the Estonian parliament, have demanded. The prime minister conceded that a no-fly zone means not only shooting down planes but also eliminating the enemy’s air defence systems so that the no-fly zone could be enforced.

“The air defence systems are also located in Russian territory, and doing so would mean going directly to war with Russia. At the moment, the main damage to Ukraine is being done by long-range artillery fire from land and sea, but the no-fly zone won’t help. And Ukraine’s own drones and planes that have caused a lot of damage to the Russians so far, would also not be able to fly,” Kallas said.

Boris Johnson, Kaja Kallas and Jens Stoltenberg at a press conference in Tapa, Estonia, on 1 March 2022. Photo by Raigo Pajula.

The prime minister added that attacking Russian air-defence systems would afford Putin a narrative that NATO has attacked Russia, thus providing the justification to attack neighbouring states that belong to NATO.

“It’s also hard for me to watch what’s happening in Ukraine. We are helping Ukraine in every way we can, but all the prime ministers are also responsible for the preservation of their own land, their own people and their own culture, and no one wants the war to spread to them. No prime minister wants a war in their own backyard, but to protect their own people,” Kallas said.

Be prepared for a longer confrontation

According to Kallas, “no one can see the end of the war at the moment, and we have to get used to the idea that we have to be prepared for a longer confrontation”. “On social media, Ukraine gives a very good impression that they are doing very well, but the picture is not so rosy. Russia has a very large military advantage. But the fact that the plans have not gone as Putin wanted them to go in the first place has led to them becoming more brutal, especially against civilians,” she noted.

She added that Putin “must not succeed in this war because eating increases appetite”. “After [the annexation of] Crimea, unfortunately, he has developed this sense of impunity. There are different sensitivities about sanctions in different European countries. I have said that we need strategic patience for sanctions to work.”

The prime minister also noted that many of the statements made by Putin or the Kremlin are “designed to scare the Western public”. “What Putin and the Kremlin are good at – they know what our fears are. Threatening to use nuclear weapons is playing on the fears we have in our societies.”

Read also: Live updates: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – reactions in Estonia.

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