Experts: West struggling to find new ways of helping Ukraine

Defense Ministry Secretary General Kusti Salm.
Defense Ministry Secretary General Kusti Salm. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The West has given Ukraine all the help it can, while new ways of aiding the embattled country without Russia interpreting it as direct involvement are becoming hard to find, Ministry of Defense Secretary General Kusti Salm said on the ETV "Esimene stuudio" talk show, with ICDS Director Indrek Kannik echoing the point on "Aktuaalne kaamera."

Salm said that all NATO allies have done a great deal during the first month of the war.

"Estonia has given €280 million worth of arms. We have given most of what we can afford to give, as have other states. It is increasingly difficult to find new ways of helping," Salm said.

The secretary general said that allies are currently deliberating how the war could end with Ukraine winning and Russian forces leaving, instead of some dubious peace deal.

Direct involvement by NATO troops is not currently being discussed.

"We cannot see that, and for a very rational reason. Intervention would lead to war between NATO and Russia. It would effectively mean the conflict being multiplied. All NATO leaders want to avoid that. We need to find a solution that is contained in Ukraine," Salm said, adding that future NATO intervention cannot be fully ruled out.

He said that NATO countries are indirectly involved by bringing unprecedented sanctions against Russia that will send the country back to the days of stagnation in the USSR.

"Not only economically, but also in terms of repressions," he added.

Regarding nuclear threats by Russia, Salm said they are meant to irritate Europeans and NATO allies.

"Russia knows that talk of nuclear weapons causes the hairs on the back of every European or NATO member to stand up. It creates fear, anxiety and the conviction among politicians that it is something that has to be addressed. It is an escalation in some ways… /…/ A nuclear strike would no longer allow the West to remain a bystander. U.S. President Joe Biden said as much on Thursday."

The secretary also said that while one way for NATO to get involved would be to dispatch peacekeepers to Ukraine, this would require the withdrawal of Russian troops. "But we are still months away from that," he said.

Salm remarked that a drawn-out conflict would be the worst outcome for Ukraine and Estonia.

"A frozen conflict would be a disaster for Ukraine and the worst outcome also for Estonia. It would tell Putin that it's an option – expensive and painful while it might be, it is something the West can stomach. From there, we can fast forward to where his mind might go next," Salm said.

Kannik: Active phase of war could be over in a few weeks

Director of the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) Indrek Kannik told "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Thursday that while the active phase of the conflict might end in a few weeks' time, that would not mark the end of the war. "If Ukraine fails to expel Russian troops or the latter fail to achieve their goals, the pot will continue to boil and the conflict could return to active battles later.

Kannik said that he believes peace talks are not close to a major agreement and that rather, humanitarian corridors or prisoner swaps are being discussed.

Kannik said that the West's military aid to Ukraine has been considerable and very useful. "The reason we are not doing more is the fear of the conflict spilling over the borders of Ukraine, which has been said on numerous occasions. Personally, I hold such fears to be exaggerated, while that is where the leading Western states stand today," he said.

Kannik said that the West has given Ukraine quite a lot of anti-aircraft weapons without which the situation in the country would be even worse.

Indrek Kannik. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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