By demanding NATO roll back its borders to how they were in 1997, Russia is trying to " build another divisive wall in Europe", Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in Berlin on Thursday during a meeting with Baltic leaders and the German chancellor. De-escalation cannot come at gunpoint and at the expense of Ukraine, she emphasized.
Dear Chancellor Scholz, President Nausėda, Prime Minister Kariņš, members of the press,
Let me begin by thanking Chancellor Scholz for welcoming us in Berlin tonight for the first time. Our meeting could not be timelier – Russia is threatening Ukraine with renewed aggression, the efforts of diplomacy have increased, in fact, the Normandy format is gathering in this very building today. Consultations and joint planning among friends and allies are taking place at high speed and intensity.
Russia is trying to take us back to a time where spheres of influence were a guiding principle of governance. They have made a public demand to NATO to return to 1997 borders, to a time when 14 allies had not yet joined NATO. This sounds as if the aim is to build another divisive wall in Europe. I was in Berlin for the first time in 1989. I remember the Berlin Wall and my father saying: "Kids, breathe in – its the air of freedom that comes from the other side". Such dividing lines cannot have a place in modern Europe. This is something we must resist with the strongest determination.
In a few moments, we will discuss in detail the current security situation in Europe with Chancellor Scholz. Germany is our friend and close partner and unwavering NATO ally. We are grateful for Germany's contribution to Estonian and European security. Germany has been one of the leading countries securing our skies as part of NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission. Berlin and Tallinn may be 1,500 kilometres apart, but our security is common and indivisible. Your recent decision to deploy additional troops to Lithuania is a clear confirmation of it.
Today it is of utmost importance that we continue to uphold the existing European security architecture, and exercise unity, resolve and strategic patience. Diplomacy and genuine dialogue will have a chance only in combination with a credible deterrence and force posture. Any failure in this would send an encouraging signal to Russia and could lead to similar tactics and pressure elsewhere. We must be aware of not giving any concessions, even small ones at the gunpoint.
Our focus is on supporting Ukraine. De-escalation cannot come at gunpoint and at the expense of Ukraine. Estonia offers Ukraine political and practical support. We help them with defensive military aid and expertise. In cooperation with Germany, we just sent a field hospital to Ukraine. The EU has just announced a new financial assistance package to the country. In addition, we have all made it crystal clear that hard-hitting sanctions would be implemented swiftly should Russia escalate its aggression against Ukraine.
The current situation shows that NATO has been right to bolster its defence and deterrence posture on the eastern flank. And we need to do even more at an accelerated pace. Recent new commitments by our Allies, including Germany, have signalled strong solidarity and demonstrated visible support to European defence.
Allied support matters, but we are also ready to do more ourselves. That is why Estonia is investing an additional 380 million euros to comprehensive national defence. Estonia's current defence budget is 2,4% of our GDP. This number is not a goal of its own but a blunt expression of our own commitment.
Editor: Helen Wright