The president also called for progress in coalition talks between the reformists, the center and the social democrats (SDE), not for the first time in recent days.
Appearing Monday morning on the Vikerraadio program “Välistund”, the president denounced the Prime Minister’s statements in an article in the British daily Financial Times published online on Wednesday June 22, in which she said that the emergency plans of the NATO for Estonia were under Russian occupation for six months (180 days) before being liberated would, given Ukraine’s recent experience, be more than enough for the physical destruction of the Old Town of Tallinn and the flooding of the three Baltic states.
President Karis told interviewer Indrek Kiisler that: “If you ask me if I would have published such a story, I certainly would not have done so, because I am not in favor of the idea that we are trying to solve the problems via the media, when we knew that these documents were already more or less formalized”, referring to a declaration of the Ministry of Defense made on June 23 according to which the information that Kallas had given to journalists is accessible to the public and are not classified.
“While reading [NATO Secretary General] Jens Stoltenberg’s comment the next day in the same newspaper, it was clear he was a little disturbed by the comments. Attempts to settle things should still be done around the table of bilateral and multilateral meetings. I think most of what Estonia and the eastern flank countries wanted was already in the documents,” the president added.
As the ongoing coalition negotiations between Kallas’s party, Reform, Isamaa and SDE, now entering their fourth week with no sign of a deal in sight, and Reform in power as a minority administration, do not constitute a security threat at present, this could change, in the future, continued the president.
“At the moment it’s not a security threat, but of course that can change. We have a government, but we certainly don’t have a well-functioning government, and I think it’s important that there is one, because these problems that the government already has to deal with today to solve them as soon as possible – whether it is inflation or heating prices, whether we will have an LNG terminal, etc. – this are things that should be happening now. I understand that officials are doing their job, but clear political decisions are needed here and they need to be being negotiated right now,” the president said.
Public perception was that the situation was already a security risk, Karis added.
“Public discontent that we don’t have a government together is already a security risk in some sense,” he said.
That said, there is no risk of an outbreak of physical war for Estonia in the near future, the president said, and Estonia is currently more protected than Finland and Sweden, which are not enter the ratification phase of their application for NATO membership.
In addition, the complete severance of relations between Russia and the West is also not the right decision, the president continued, and should not occur at the level of state leadership.
This makes it necessary to maintain an Estonian embassy in Moscow, he added.
“As long as it is possible .. it should be. This is also one of the reasons why I accepted the credentials of the new Russian ambassador here, so that there is no situation where our ambassador would be called away from [Moscow]. Information can certainly be gathered, and that work continues. It’s another channel to capture a bit of what’s going on, even gauging people’s moods,” the president continued.
“We inevitably need help from the big states,” he said.
“The wish was for there to be larger defense forces here on the eastern flank, which NATO would guarantee, and I think we got that framework. It is also important that NATO statements indicate now clear where this threat to Europe is coming from,” the president continued.
The President also noted that while it has appeared necessary recently to stress Estonia’s need for additional NATO forces and additional funding for the EDF, this must be weighed against the fact that any firm statement on the subject of the threat of war will certainly harm foreign investment in Estonia.
Ultimately, Estonia remains a safe place to do business, and Russia is not strong enough militarily to pose the threat of invasion as things stand, he continued. .
The current security situation in Europe requires countries to see a slight decrease in economic living standards, he continued, while at the same time a ceasefire in Ukraine is not a viable outcome – because if such a truce turns into another frozen conflict like in 2014, it would pose an even greater threat to the security of Europe.
The effects of sanctions need to be monitored more closely for their effects; sanctions that are not effective should be dropped, while what works and what does not work should be considered before launching new rounds of sanctions, he said.
Regarding the ongoing coalition talks and potential new ministers, the president said the ideal candidate needed both expertise in their field and political experience.
The prime minister’s remarks, in which she said Estonia would be “wiped off the map” if existing NATO plans were to be followed in the event of a Russian invasion, were published in the FT on June 22, at the beginning of the summer holidays in Estonia.
The Prime Minister made dozens of appearances in foreign media, especially in quality publications in English, French and German, even before the February 24 invasion and was well received, for example, in the United Kingdom , where she recently received the annual Think Tank Award.
President Karis recently called for progress, or at least clarity, on the virtually stalled coalition talks on Friday, asking for an update by Sunday.
Updates on the talks have appeared in the media virtually every working day since they began on June 13, although no progress was reported on Monday on what was said over the weekend – namely that an agreement had so far only been reached on an increase in income tax – free allowance at the same level as the monthly minimum wage.
The Prime Minister refused to accept the resignation of Education Minister Liina Kersna at the end of last week. Had she done so, there would have been only six serving government ministers out of the 14 originally appointed to the current administration in January 2021. Reform ministers have been the only ones in office since the prime minister sacked ministers of the Center Party on June 3. .
The official line from the Ministry of Defense regarding last week’s Madrid summit is that Estonia got most of what it asked for, including the creation of a division-sized unit, composed of both EDF personnel, NATO personnel based in the country and rapid response personnel NATO personnel arriving from outside Estonia, mainly from the United Kingdom
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