The West must be ready for a long and gruesome war and be careful with premature calls for peace
KAJA KALLAS. PRIME MINISTER OF ESTONIA
12 June 2022 • 7:21pm
Russia’s war in Ukraine will not end overnight, and peace will not break out tomorrow.
Russia is the most direct threat to European security right now. In fact, should it get away with its aggression, it would undermine peace and security around the world. If aggression pays off somewhere, it serves as an invitation to use it elsewhere.
That is the reason we are so committed to helping Ukraine push back Russian aggression. What we are defending is the very idea of freedom, territorial integrity and sovereignty – that is, the right to exist as a country and the right to live free from repression.
Let us zoom out and have a closer look at what is at stake in Ukraine. We are witnessing Russia’s state-orchestrated calls for genocide.
The Kremlin has made it clear that their aim is to wipe Ukraine off the world map. “Denazification” is the official Russian label of this policy of destruction of the Ukrainian state and its people.
A “Nazi” is simply any Ukrainian who resists. All this rhetoric is used to portray Ukrainians as enemies and make them a seemingly legitimate target for destruction.
And it works. What we hear from the battlefields is that Russian soldiers have internalised this and are responding to the genocidal campaign. To hold perpetrators accountable, Ukraine must win back its territories and Russia must fail.
No impunity for war crimes must also form a cornerstone of our long-term policies. Putin and all those who have committed atrocities must know that their judgement day will come.
The aggressor must also pay reparations and victims must be compensated. A special fund for victims could be one way, using Russian assets and central bank reserves frozen by sanctions.
The free world has made many right decisions in support of Ukraine. But we need to speed it up. What Ukraine needs today are arms to fight back the aggressor and liberate their country.
And we must be careful with premature calls for ceasefire and peace. Remember that for half of Europe, peace after WWII did not mean the end of atrocities, but further repression. This is now being repeated in Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine – children deported en masse to Russia, women raped, men imprisoned.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has fundamentally changed the security environment in Europe. We need to move from a forward trip-wire presence to a modern forward defence model that entails combat forces ready and in place, with persistent and rapidly scalable reinforcement from across the Nato alliance.
Our force posture must clearly demonstrate not just the will, but also the ability to defend every inch of its territory.
The UK has been a Nato framework nation for the battle group in Estonia since 2017 and has doubled its forces in Estonia since the Russian invasion on February 24. We are grateful to every single British soldier in Estonia and look forward to working closely in beefing up the defence of the Baltic Sea region even more.
I often get questions about how we can improve relations with Russia. My reply is very frank – we should be courageous enough to admit that if it’s necessary for stopping the aggressor, we must be ready to face a long and gruesome war.
There should be no fear of a bad relationship or a non-existent relationship with war criminals.
Our policies must be rooted in the understanding that the Russian threat will not go away tomorrow. There should be no return to business as usual. In fact, there should be no business at all.
That is why we need to continue isolating the aggressor economically as well as politically.
Economic isolation means we need to dry up the Russian war machine by making sure that Russian troops run out of equipment and the Kremlin runs out of money.
Ukraine is not the victim of a one-time miscalculation by a madman. We are witnessing a meticulously planned Kremlin campaign to exert control over neighbouring countries by brute force, no matter the human cost. We need patience and long-term persistence with our policies.
We must do all we can to help push back the Russian invasion and end the committing of war crimes on our doorstep. Otherwise, worse will follow.
Our own history teaches us this. Failure to learn will have a cost for all of us. Let us repeat – gas might be expensive, but freedom is priceless.