Meelis Oidsalu: No NGO can be the 'bottleneck' of the war in Ukraine
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to appear in front of the Riigikogu on Wednesday. And I am already ashamed that he will be wasting his valuable time. And because the Riigikogu will not have anything of substance to say to him. Yet, everything depends on our answer, including the future of Estonia, Meelis Oidsalu writes.
The Riigikogu held a special session on helping Ukraine on Tuesday. The highlight of the session was a presentation by Johanna-Maria Lehtme, head of NGO Slava Ukraini. The session had to be cut short as Lehtme was unable to resume answering questions after the end of the prescribed 10-minute break due to a personal ordeal (the death of a friend and their child the previous night).
Even more telling was Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets' (Center) speech before Lehtme's presentation that concentrated on logistical problems of getting food aid to Ukraine. The foreign minister briefly mentioned Ukraine's EU accession perspective. The question of Ukraine's NATO accession wasn't even broached during Q&A, this despite the fact that Finland will likely decide to join NATO in the near future, which stands to increase the risk of military conflict for the Baltics.
The Q&A instead concentrated on whether the minister was accurate in terms of Ukraine's need for fuel as Liimets got her magnitudes wrong on several occasions.
The foreign minister never used the word "genocide" or even "suspicions of genocide." There was talk of war crimes and making sure the people of Ukraine get to try those responsible. Mentioning genocide would be too complex. It is simpler to talk of teddy bears and fuel.
I do not want to talk about what Lehtme pointed to in her opening words: that she had returned from Ukraine the previous night to give her speech in front of the Riigikogu, while the floor was all but empty.
The times would also excuse glancing over the fact Peeter Ernits (EKRE) managed another one of his hallmark trolling remarks, suggesting that an MP needs medical attention (I can only guess) after hearing voices behind them. And how the colors of the Ukrainian flag are also those of the Reform Party.
Of course, Ernits, grappling with what seems to be an especially toxic and longwinded middle-age crisis, did not forget to mention the devastating threat Ukrainian refugees pose to social cohesion in Estonia.
The Riigikogu session, in keeping with the current composition's traditions, balanced between a hapless play and a serious emotional debate. Excuse me, but the Tuesday session was clownery pure and simple.
The listener/viewer was left with a feeling of moral and physical helplessness. And it is the West's helplessness that manifested in the words of our MPs. Because we are the West. Estonia (read: the West) lacks a strategy for the Ukraine war, lacks oft touted "unity." Instead, we have haplessness disguised as "unity."
[NATO Secretary General] Jens Stoltenberg said before the last NATO summit that use of chemical weapons would alter the nature of the conflict also for NATO. Let us see what steps NATO will take next in this conflict of an altered nature. What will NATO or the West (as a coalition of will) do should news of a possible chemical attack in Mariupol prove accurate?
Johanna-Mari Lehtme's presentation concentrated on networking ability that is for NGOs what collective defense is for countries. Nonprofits are fighting a world war against Vladimir Putin, while Ukraine, for reasons incomprehensible, is not receiving enough military aid.
One thing is clear from the debate in the Riigikogu. We are treating the Ukraine war as a nonprofit topic, a rescue effort (MPs talked about forest fires in Ukraine at length). At the same time, the biggest conflict in Europe since WWII continues to unfold.
What is wrong with this picture?
First of all, Estonia and its NATO allies lack a defensive strategy for Europe. Ukraine seems to be the only country with one of those.
Secondly, NGOs need direct funding in Estonia's supplementary state budget as the Estonian state and the West as a whole are unable to contribute to alleviation. We are drowning in procedural particulars and helplessness, vocally expressed toward the start of the conflict, we for some reason call "unity."
Thirdly, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to appear in front of the Riigikogu on Wednesday. And I am already ashamed that he will be wasting his valuable time. And because the Riigikogu will not have anything of substance to say to him. Yet, everything depends on our answer, including the future of Estonia.
Fourthly, we already are ashamed and cannot even admit that much.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski