In an interview with German paper “Die Welt” published on Friday, President Kersti Kaljulaid said that she was confident in Germany as a leading country in European politics, and that cooperation in terms of sanctions as well as defense continued to be essential.
Asked what she thought the future stance of the U.S. on NATO would be, the president said that in Washington as well as in Europe the understanding was that NATO would remain important for global order, and that cooperation in the fight against terrorism needed to continue.
America remains committed to NATO, expectations are justified
Kaljulaid said that there would be the opportunity at the upcoming Munich Security Conference for further exchange with the new U.S. administration, but also pointed out that the signals received by various European representatives from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis had all pointed towards continuing American commitment to the alliance.
International security and the way it was built up was in everybody’s interest, Kaljulaid said, not only in that of the Baltic states. Potential concessions of the Trump administration to Putin’s Russia, and the American demand that all members of the alliance increase their defense spending to the 2 percent of GDP agreed on at the Wales Summit in 2014 didn’t mean that Estonia was afraid.
But the Baltic states did act, the president stressed. Estonia met this goal, and had done so for years. The American expectations were justified.
Sanctions need to continue, diplomacy not to be underestimated
Asked if she had expectations towards the German government, the president said that this wasn’t necessary, as Chancellor Angela Merkel had said herself that she wanted to move in the direction of the 2-percent goal of the alliance. Beyond that, Kaljulaid said that good cooperation between NATO and the European Union was very important. The challenges all of the organizations’ members were faced with in the East as well as in the South required everybody to work together.
In terms of coordinated European defense, anything was possible that the states could agree on, Kaljulaid said. What was more interesting than how closely the EU would work together in the area defense was the fact that there was a lot of talk about the military, while the diplomatic course was unsteady. Diplomacy was Europe’s first line of defense, the president stressed. As an economist by trade, Kaljulaid said she was convinced that if Europe held together in the matter of economic sanctions against Russia, this would prove to be the best way to go for everybody involved.
Commenting the sanctions further, Kaljulaid said that there could be no compromises without getting something from Russia in return, otherwise Ukraine would end up like Georgia did in 2008, which had been dropped by the West. Russia had violated international agreements, not Europe.
About the situation in the Ukraine, the president said that the country needed to be given time to reform its politics and fight corruption. The country was at war, and this shouldn’t be forgotten, she said. At the same time, Russland needed to be convinced that it had to honor the Minsk agreements.
Kaljulaid welcomes German role as leading country in European politics
Kaljulaid said she trusted German politics towards Russia. Estonia welcomed the fact that Germany had taken on a leading role in European politics. Germany made the largest contribution to security in Estonia’s region. Commenting on Germany’s new president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who in the past has repeatedly criticized a harsher course against Russia, Kaljulaid said she expected Germany to stay true to its current foreign policy course.
Asked by the interviewer what she would recommend Germany should do about potential Russian interference in its upcoming elections, Kaljulaid said that fending off such attempts was a task for the whole of society, but that the media played a crucial role in checking what was fact, and what was propaganda. “That’s your job,” Kaljulaid said.
Click here to watch the full-length video of the interview in English.
Editor: Dario Cavegn