The West should not publically say it will never intervene in Ukraine, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said on Wednesday. President Vladimir Putin should not be able to feel like he can act with impunity, she added.
"Red lines have not been agreed upon. I do not like it when it is said publicly that we will not intervene under any circumstances [...] To prevent Putin from having the feeling of impunity: "Whatever I do, they will not react"," Kallas said on radio show "Stuudios on peaminister", adding that such firm lines do not have to be drawn in the sand.
The chairman of the Reform Party said she had emphasized in a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday that the best way to achieve peace is to give a clear signal that the West will intervene if necessary to prevent the situation from worsening.
"But the perceptions are different, especially in countries who are further from the war. But on the contrary, they are also more complicated, because they are the countries that have planes and they need to intervene. But we should not say that [Putin] can do what he wants and so let it continue," she said.
Discussing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, Kallas said there is no easy answer. She said enforcing a no-fly zone does not only mean that planes will be shot down but also that air defense systems will be bombed.
"But they are also located in Russia, and doing so would mean going directly to war with Russia. Ukraine is currently being hit hardest by land and sea with long-range missiles, but the no-fly zone will not help this. And Ukraine's own drones and planes would not be able to fly which have so far caused a great deal of damage to the Russians," Kallas said.
The prime minister said it has also been difficult for Putin to explain why he is attacking Ukraine, long regarded as a brother nation. Instead, he has built a narrative that NATO is attacking Russia.
"That would be that then. He would have justification for launching bombs and missiles at his neighbors," she said.
After Crimea, Putin felt he could act with impunity
Kallas said, unfortunately, no one can see an end to the war at the moment. She said we must get used to the idea of a long conflict.
"On social media, Ukraine creates a very good impression that they are doing very well, but in reality, the picture is not so rosy. Russia has a military advantage. But because the initial plans did not go as well as Putin wanted, they [Russia] have also become more brutal towards the civilian population," Kallas said.
The prime minister said harsh sanctions have been imposed on Russia and these must be maintained in order to divert money away from maintaining Russia's war machine.
"Putin must not succeed in this war, because eating will only increase his appetite. Unfortunately, he has developed a feeling of impunity after Crimea," she said, adding different countries weigh sanctions differently but "strategic patience" is needed for them to work.
It is very difficult to see what is actually going on inside Putin's head, Kallas said. But many of his or the Kremlin's statements are intended to intimidate Western public opinion because they know our fears, such as using nuclear weapons.
Western countries calling Putin at Zelenskyy's request
Kallas said she had asked both President of France Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz why they speak to Putin so often. She does not believe this will help to resolve the situation.
"Our data shows that Putin likes to be called by everyone. Then he feels that he is not doing anything wrong. But they [Macron and Scholz] say they are calling at [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy's request. But whatever deal Ukraine makes with Russia, it would not be voluntary. Putin is killing civilians and every head of state wants that to end. Any agreement to end the war cannot be seen as voluntarily surrendering regions. And if Zelenskyy wants them back later, he would have to go on the offensive. This would create pressure on him not to take them back," Kallas said.
There has also been speculation in the Western media about the health of the Russian president. Kallas said she has not spoken to Macron about this subject.
"And what's the difference, whether he's doing this healthy or sick. Rather, it seems everything has been thought through. For 20 years, Russia has been feeding right-wing extremist groups in Europe a narrative that Europe is being flooded with refugees. And now he is the one doing the flooding. Those two things will now come together, and those he has been keeping warm will start to stir up conflicts and social unrest. It is a carefully considered plan, and it makes no difference whether the person behind it is sick or healthy," the prime minister said.
Editor: Helen Wright