Baerbock: Germany will support Estonian security, as Russian threat is real

German Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock with Estonian colleague Eva-Maria Liimets in Tallinn on Thursday. April 21, 2022.
German Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock with Estonian colleague Eva-Maria Liimets in Tallinn on Thursday. April 21, 2022. Source: Patrik Tamm/ERR

People cannot close their eyes to Russia's actions, and Germany will contribute more to the alliance's security, German Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock said at a joint press conference in Tallinn, where she met with Estonian leaders on Thursday.

Speaking at a joint press conference delivered together with Baerbock, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) emphasized that Russia cannot win its cruel and inhumane war in Ukraine, according to a ministry press release.

"Ukraine needs urgent aassistance in boosting its defense capabilities to completely restore its sovereignty and territorial integrity," Liimets said, adding that, to date, Estonia has contributed more than €220 million to Ukraine's defense capabilities.

Estonia has likewise continued to provide political support and, in particular, crucial humanitarian aid to Ukraine, she continued, noting that nearly one in three people in Estonia has contributed, bolstering the nearly €15 million worth of humanitarian aid the country has provided to Ukraine.

Liimets thanked Germany for its important contributions to the security of the Baltic Sea region, especially via NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission.

"We must adapt to the new reality and reinforce NATO's defense and deterrence capabilities on the alliance's eastern flank," she said, noting that Estonia, accordingly, has decided to increase its defense spending over the next four years to 2.5 percent of the GDP.

The Estonian minister also highlighted several areas in which Germany and Estonia are cooperating, including at NATO's Tallinn-based Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCDCOE) and at the Baltic Defense College but also by helping Ukraine with field hospitals.

She acknowledged Germany as a crucial partner for Estonia in terms of the energy independence of the Baltic Sea network and the development of hydrogen technologies and connections, and said that Estonia could follow Germany's lead as the second largest offshore wind power producer in the world.

Liimets also, however, emphasized the need for Europe to achieve energy independence from Russia.

"We must adopt the sixth sanctions package of the European Union as quickly as possible, and Estonia strongly favors including oil and gas imports in this package," she said. "We cannot allow a situation where we are essentially continuing to support Russia's war machine through the import of their energy carriers."

Baerbock confirmed that the EU is united in sanctions on Russia, and will not yield until Russian President Vladimir Putin has ceased its actions in Ukraine.

"We're going to increase economic pressure on Russia," said the German foreign minister, who nonetheless didn't specify when Germany would give up Russian energy carriers, including gas, oil and coal.

'Germany can't give them everything'

According to Baerbock, Germany will also continue supplying Ukraine with weapons and ammunition, as Ukraine is defending the freedom of other European countries as well. "Following the outbreak of Russia's war in Ukraine, Germany started looking at security in a new light," she said.

She also confirmed that when it comes to security issues, Germany would remain a staunch supporter of Estonia.

"We stand beside you, as the Russian threat is real," Baerbock said. "We can't close our eyes to this, and Germany will contribute more to [NATO] security." She also stressed that the alliance's Article 5 applies with no ifs, ands or buts included.

Asked by ERR whether Germany, who thus far has been hesitant about supplying Ukraine with weapons, will be providing them with modern Leopard battle tanks, the minister replied that Germany intends to supply Ukraine with supplies that will be received in trade from other eastern partners. She also added that Germany is actually short on weapons and other resources such as helicopters.

"We have been supplying Ukraine with weapons since day one of the war," Baerbock said. "Looking at our own weapons stockpiles, Germany can't immediately give them everything. Our defense industry has drawn up a list to decide together with Ukraine what Ukraine needs."

Germany is likewise supporting its partners in NATO, enabling the latter to provide weapons to Ukraine that they themselves can't.

"It is not currently possible for Germany to deliver weapons like Leopard tanks to Ukraine, as they require training and knowledge regarding their maintenance," she said.

The German minister said that the situation in the besieged city of Mariupol is unbearable, but only Putin can create any opportunities for civilian evacuations from the city.

"The humanitarian corridor issue has long since been a major problem in Ukraine," she acknowledged. "There have been constant efforts to make Russian leaders understand the need for them. As experience has shown, Russian promises cannot be trusted in establishing them. We have tried to solve this problem with the International Committee of the Red Cross, but this is in Putin's hands alone. He needs to stop bombing evacuators."

Baerbock mentioned Estonia and Germany's long-standing ties, which can be traced back to the local Baltic-German population and the heyday of the Hanseatic League. "We want to deepen these ties, and there is great perspective here in the green energy field," she said.

She also acknowledged the great interest in the German language and culture present in Estonia.

"Our partner schools in Estonia are bridge-builders," the German minister said. "The networks we have established are against Nazism and division, as Russian propaganda wants to divide people from one another here in the Baltics as well. We will fight against this together — in the media field as well. Since 2016, we have been working together to loosen Russian propaganda's grip — we're teaching young people what free speech is so that they'd recognize Putin's lies."

Click here to watch Liimets and Baerbock's joint press conference in full.

Kallas: Germany has leading role to play

Later on Thursday, Baerbock also visited Stenbock House, the seat of the Estonian government, where she met with Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform).

The war won't end overnight as Russia's aim to destroy Ukraine remains the same, Kallas stressed according to a government press release. "Stopping the aggressor requires a tremendous effort from Ukraine first and foremost, but also from the free world," she said.

"It's clear that Ukraine must win this war, and Germany has a leading role to play in stopping Putin's war machine," the Estonian prime minister stressed.

"As the Ukrainians have said, the best humanitarian aid is military aid," Kallas said, emphasizing the need to quickly send Ukraine more aid. "Estonia is one of the countries who has helped Ukraine the most, but as long as the war in Ukraine hasn't ended and Russian troops haven't retreated, none of us have done enough."

At their meeting, Kallas and Baerbock discussed the EU's next planned sanctions package, as well as the importance of granting Ukraine candidate country status in the EU.

They also discussed defense cooperation and preparations for the NATO summit to take place in Madrid on June 29-30, and the Estonian prime minister highlighted Germany's contributions to the Baltic region's security.

According to Kallas, the focus at the Madrid summit must be on decisions reflecting the changed security situation in Europe. "As a country on NATO's eastern flank, what we want is more allied forces, planes and ships in Estonia," she said.

Thursday's visit to Tallinn follow's Baerbock meeting with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania's foreign ministers in Riga on Wednesday.

She will be concluding her multiday visit to the Baltic countries in Lithuania on Friday.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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