German Daily: Ilves says Europe should follow Biden line on Putin

Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Former president Toomas Henrik Ilves struck a characteristically uncompromising tone in a recent interview with German daily Die Welt, calling for European nations to follow POTUS Joe Biden's move in referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a killer. Ilves also hit out at Germany's policy and stance towards Russia in recent times.

"Well, it is true, isn't it? We shouldn't try to hide what everyone knows," Ilves told Die Welt (link in German).

"Putin has had people killed in the middle of Berlin. Should Europeans accept that? In any case, they'd signal that they did, if they didn't follow Biden's lead" Ilves went on, referring to the August 2019 murder of Chechen (though ethnic Georgian) military officer Zelimkhan Khangoshvili during the middle of the day in the German capital's Kleiner Tiergarten. Khangoshvili was considered a terrorist by Russian authorities, and was on an FSB wanted list.

The U.S. President referred to Putin as a "killer" earlier this week (actually answering ABC interviewer George Stephanopoulos' question to that effect in the affirmative – ed.) , prompting a backlash from the Kremlin, which has including recalling the Russian ambassador to the U.S. to Moscow for questioning, though Putin himself has extended an olive branch to Biden by inviting him to talks.

Ilves also criticized Germany's behavior in its relations with Russia, characterizing it by the phrase Russland über alles and an attitude he says dates back over 30 years, to the fall of the Berlin Wall, but which was never modified when the Soviet Union itself collapsed.

Ilves: Baltics just 'fly-over' country so far as Germany goes

Estonia, along with Latvia and Lithuania, are "fly-over" states so far as Germans traveling to Russia are concerned (the Nord Stream terminal on the Russian end of the pipeline is at Vyborg, the former Finnish city of Viipuri, and just a few hours' drive from the Estonian border - ed.), Ilves said, while at the same time Germany, along with France, has acted in a haughty and patronizing manner towards the Baltic States and other nations formerly within the Soviet/Warsaw Pact bloc, dismissing their knowledge of Russia and the Russians in favor of their, i.e. Germany and France's, own, supposedly wiser estimation.

"Do you really think in Berlin and Paris that you know more about Russia than we do here in Estonia?" Ilves asked his interviewer, also recalling a time when German diplomats repeatedly told him they wished to bar Estonia's entry to both NATO and the EU, both of which became fact in 2004, and did not modify their disdainful stance subsequently.

Concrete examples of this include the ongoing Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, linking Russia to Germany and providing gas supply under the Baltic.

"Naturally, Germany can promote its own economic interests with this, but it is doing so at the expense of the peoples of the Baltic and Eastern Europe. You ought to be be honest, and talk less about European solidarity, even if supposed to be interested in that," Ilves said.

The inconsistency of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier's words that Nord Stream constitutes a bridge to Russia, whose construction should continue almost as reparations for the estimated 20 million lives lost in World War Two as a result of Germany's 1941 invasion, was also not lost on Ilves, given the vast number of lives taken by the Germans in those other countries it invaded, especially Poland, Belarus and Ukraine (i.e. not Russia – ed.), leading him to wonder why Russia would be given preferential treatment here.

Ilves also noted that former U.S. president Donald Trump, a man seen as having warmer relations with the Kremlin, had also tangentially referred to Putin as a murderer in 2017, when he stated that: "We (i.e. the U.S. - ed.) are also killing a lot of people."

Another anomaly Ilves identified was the claim that many major international crises cannot be dealt with as well without Russia as they could be with, whereas many such situations were in fact created by Russia, meaning this line from Moscow will continue, if so encouraged – Syria, South Africa and the Crimea and Donbass regions of Ukraine were the examples he gave.

The full interview with Die Welt (in German) is here.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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