Prime minister: Germany expected to take the lead on Ukraine

Kaja Kallas on a previous edition of 'Esimene stuudio'
Kaja Kallas on a previous edition of 'Esimene stuudio' Source: ERR

While Germany has often received unduly harsh criticism over its levels of military assistance to Ukraine, since the start of the Russian invasion two months ago, this is because the whole of Europe expects Germany to take the lead, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says.

Kallas made her remarks after a meeting in Berlin with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier this week.

Appearing on ETV politics show "Esimene stuudio" Tuesday evening, Kallas said:

"Germany has been looked at harshly and in some ways perhaps also unfairly, if looking also at other large states who could be doing a lot more."

"However, there is still a very significant pressure on Germany. In some ways, this is a compliment, whereby all are awaiting German's taking the lead and the direction and as a result the criticism in relation to them has been greater," the prime minister added.

"Worries do, however, vary in all countries. All of our allies are democracies; debates happen in democracies, public opinion is present and this is what countries take into account when making their decisions. This is what the behavior of leadership really reflects," she continued.

Kallas also noted that it is clear that Russia is playing on various countries' fears effectively, with its threats of nuclear escalation.

It may also be the case that Germany lacks sufficient weaponry to donate any excess to Ukraine, Kallas added.

This, Kallas notes, relates to one of the goals of NATO's establishment, just four years after the end of World War Two in Europe, namely limiting Germany's military capabilities which, among other things, led to the abolition of conscription (West Germany reinstated conscription in 1956, a policy retained after reunification and until just over a decade ago – ed.).

"It may also be quite the case that Germany, which is a very large country, is not, however, a country with a large army," Kallas added.

During her meeting with Chancellor Scholz, Kallas highlighted the importance of aiding Ukraine, and of decisions made at this summer's NATO summit in Madrid needing to bolster the security of all three Baltic States, she told "Esimene stuudio".

"In case anyone ever attacks us, we must have a credible defense," she said, adding she discussed this with the German defense minister, Christine Lambrecht, and that country's finance minister, Christian Lindner, while in Berlin, as well as with Scholz. 

"This was taken on board, and this support was in the table at various meetings," Kallas said.

As to host Mirko Ojakivi's question as to whether recognition had been given, in Germany, to the fact that selling weapons to the Russian Federation had been the wrong thing to do, the prime minister answered that this debate is currently an active one in the German media, with calls for those culpable to repent of their sins.

She said: "These are very sharp-edged issues. It is not our business to point the finger or to condemn. We can convince and argue out why we think this or that decision is the right one, but in the end, it is still at German domestic policy level where these decisions have to be made," commented Kallas.

In respect of any potential peace deal between Russia nd Ukraine, Kallas said that whatever agreement may be reached must be a decision for Ukraine, and the country must not be pressured into anything.

"However, it has to be understood on the other hand that this has not been voluntary – it is not the case that Ukraine had summonsed Russia and asked which of its territories it might hand over to the Russian Federation. This is happening because Russia attacked Ukraine, and because Ukraine wants the slaughter of its civilians to end," she went on.

All EU member states have now pledged that Ukraine will not be imposed upon to reach an agreement with Russia, and that this should be Ukraine's own decision, she added.

"It is also the case that everyone wants these horrors to come to an end. But what is the price Ukraine would pay for that? For instance, in respect of Ukraine's neutrality, the question immediately arises on Ukraine already having been in agreements with Russia. What needs to be grasped is that Russia's sole goal is to conclude the agreement, as it knows that while agreements are fulfilled in the western cultural space, and the West will implement the agreement in a very concrete way, Russia would never comply with it. We also have to consider that Ukraine surrendered its nuclear arsenal, via an agreement [with Russia]," Kallas went on.

Kallas said she found it unlikely that a decision on any natural gas or oil embargo on Russian imports would be made at EU level.

"These are very difficult negotiations, and what needs to be understood is that gas dependency varies greatly from country to country. Some countries are 100 percent dependent on [Russian] gas and there is nothing to replace it. And that puts them in a completely different situation. In the end, everyone has to agree. I would venture to say that there will be no such full-scale embargo on gas and oil right now," she went on.

Kallas said he has also offered an alternative to a full embargo. "We want to achieve that by taking money from the Russian war machine. And I have proposed that we create a separate escrow account to funnel the money to rebuild Ukraine. This is money for Russian gas, but we will pay that money there [instead]."

Kallas aded that proposals to do so had been rejected by Germany initially, but that if the European Commission tables them, German support may be forthcoming, given that President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, a former defense minister, is favorable towards the idea, Kallas said.

In respect of the reelection of French President Emmanuel Macron to a second term, Kallas said that he could now operate much more freely. "He has also been a very clear supporter of strong sanctions. I do believe that France is on board to help Ukraine and end this war."


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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