Kallas: There can be no way back to business as usual with Putin's Russia
Countries' aim should not be to do business with war criminals, and there can be no way back to business as usual with [President Vladimir] Putin's Russia, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said during a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Stockholm on Wednesday.
Kallas is in Sweden for a two-day official visit together with representatives of Estonian businesses. She met with Andersson on Wednesday afternoon, following which the two heads of government delivered a joint press conference.
Andersson opened by acknowledging the impressive business delegation Kallas had brought with her to Sweden, noting the several places they have been able to visit on this trip and highlighting that many investment and business opportunities that exist between Estonia and Sweden.
She also thanked the Estonian government for its support of Sweden and Finland joining NATO, adding that in times like these, it is important to strengthen security together.
"We want to be a constructive partner in NATO," the Swedish prime minister said. "We want to be a security provider in NATO — particularly, of course, here in the Baltic region. And I appreciate the dialogue that we have had during the last months, and also greatly appreciate the steps that the Estonian government has taken to prepare for — to support our NATO application. And those actions cannot be understated; it is an important signal to the world."
Kallas noted that her visit, which was actually planned as a business visit well in advance, was taking place just as Sweden had taken the historic step of applying for NATO membership, adding that she really admired Andersson's leadership in this regard.
"As I've said before, we as the government already made this decision, and also the ratification process — we are ready to do it as fast as possible," she said. "Estonia will, throughout the process, support Sweden and Finland in this accession process. This is very important to us."
The Estonian prime minister said she is also committed to working toward the deeper integration of the region, adding that digital and green transition are keywords in that regard, and that sustainable and green technologies are points where Estonia and Sweden could strengthen cooperation.
"What is also important is to send the message that the entire Baltic Sea region is a very safe and innovative and forward-looking region," she said. "It is easy to do business here, and I'm convinced that the Nordic and the Baltic countries can lead the way in Europe and be one of the most integrated, sustainable and digitized regions in the world."
Long-term challenges must be addressed as well
Also inevitably to be discussed on Wednesday, Kallas continued, was the "pushback of aggression in Ukraine and how to dry up the war machine. For that we need the oil and gas embargo that we're gonna discuss next week in Brussels."
She also stressed that other countries must continue engaging with Ukraine, and that Ukraine continues to need military help in order to fight back the aggressor.
"It is also important that there can be no way back to business as usual with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's Russia," Kallas said. "Our aim should not be to do business with war criminals."
The Estonian head of government noted that very high on the agenda was cooperation regarding energy and climate policy, adding that while it is important to focus on the short-term crisis, Estonia and Sweden also have to focus on the long-term goals and long-term challenges being faced by the region, by Europe and by the world.
Estonia had 'already done the thinking'
Following the two prime ministers' statements, a journalist asked whether NATO member state Turkey's concerns regarding Sweden and Finland's accession bids were "valid concerns" or rather bargaining tools.
"I can't speak for Turkey; I can only speak for Estonia," Kallas replied. "And of course in NATO, we have 30 allies, and different allies have different times to reflect and really address the concerns that they have. For us, we had already done the thinking regarding Sweden and Finland, and there were no questions. But I guess in some countries it just takes a longer time. For us, the accession process was approximately ten years; for you, it's going to be much, much shorter, so I am certain that we we will overcome all the obstacles on the way."
Andersson said that Sweden is currently in bilateral and trilateral discussions with Turkey right now, and is eager to sort out any questions or issues at hand from the Turkish side. Pressed again by a journalist regarding whether Turkey's concerns were "real," the Swedish prime minister responded that that is a question that only the Turkish government and president can answer.
Asked whether alleged inaccuracies in Turkey's list of demands make it easier somehow for Sweden to meet Turkey, the Swedish prime minister noted that one reason for current dialogues with Turkey is to sort out any misunderstandings first.
"Number one is to sort out any misunderstandings," Andersson said. "Then you can start talking further."
Watch the Estonian and Swedish prime ministers' press conference in full below.
Discussed security issues today @FolkochForsvar in Stockholm.— Kaja Kallas (@kajakallas) May 25, 2022
I warned about premature calls for a ceasefire and peace. We cannot give anything to the aggressor that it didn't have before – or the aggression will sooner or later return. 1/4 pic.twitter.com/nKF3Lkdhhh
Click here to read Kallas' full remarks delivered at the opening of the Estonian-Swedish business seminar "The Future of Mobility and Transport" in Gothenburg on Tuesday.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla