Mart Helme: West sees Russia as a loser, yet it is steadily advancing

Mart Helme and Eva-Maria Liimets.
Mart Helme and Eva-Maria Liimets. Source: Gergey Lukecha/Ken Mürk/ERR

Former Minister of the Interior and former Estonian ambassador to Russia Mart Helme (EKRE), along with former Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center), appeared on Vikerraadio program "Välistund", talking about the Russia-Ukraine war. Helme said the West is becoming tired, and without a substantial increase in military aid, Ukraine could lose its statehood.

Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said that the West's miscalculations in relation to Russia began in 2008, when Russia attacked Georgia. "This [miscalculation] was the lack of an immediate, strong response."

Liimets said that even in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, western response was too weak.

Mart Helme (EKRE) said that it is erroneous to believe that Ukraine has been able to successfully withstand Russia.

"Russia is still at war with its peacetime armed forces. Yes, we have heard they are recruiting prisoners and [members of ethnic] minorities. Nonetheless, even with such a demographically and militarily weak contingent, Russia is making incremental advancements in Ukraine, which from Russia's perspective are perfectly adequate," Helme said.

Helme also said that there is a lurking perception that Russia has little chance of winning the war on the grounds it did not succeed in capturing Kyiv at the start of hostilities.

"Inaccurate estimation of Russia's toughness and strategic depth has been dearly paid for throughout history," Helme said. "In the West, Russia is already viewed as a loser, yet Russia is advancing steadily."

Helme continued that if the Ukraine wishes to preserve its sovereignty, the West should provide it with significantly more arms and training in the use of military systems.

"This is what the Ukrainians should insist on — defending the current front lines for as long as possible and preparing new well-equipped and trained units as soon as possible," Helme said.

The impact of sanctions on Russia

Regarding the impact of sanctions on Russia, Liimets said that there has clearly been one.

She said: "We should have a long-term perspective and for that purpose these extensive economic sanctions might have the right effect, as we will eventually need to think about how to restore a durable peace in Europe."

"We should also think about how to restore trust in international law, and in this respect, we should ensure that Russia has paid such a high price for its aggression that we will be able one day to trust Russia again in international relations," Liimets continued.

Mart Helme added, however, that sanctions are mostly harmful to the EU, but beneficial to China, the U.S., and even Russia itself. "These sanctions are a double-edged sword at least so for Europe. However for the U.S., China, and Russia these are a cynically-plotted business schemes."

"We may talk about bringing Russia to its knees with sanctions; however, sanctions are not driving Russia to its knees. This winter, the Russians will have no trouble heating their homes, whereas we may have this problem," Helme said.

Nevertheless, Helme also said that Russia must be penalized as an aggressor state. "Over the past few decades, Russia has consistently shifted back to its true nature, that of a violent empire that terrorizes, occupies, and often commits genocide against its weaker neighbors in the name of resolving security issues. This is what has been happening in Russia. And no sanctions will change that."

"I can see that western nations are getting tired. And when this cold winter arrives and industries shut down, unemployment rises, and people take to the streets, I'm not so confident that the governments in Germany, France, and other countries will be able to withstand the sway of populism and that no new governments emerge claiming that sanctions did not work and we should end them," Helme continued.

Liimets, for her part, said that sanctions are not the only factor influencing the soaring energy prices. She said that sanctions should be kept in place.

Hungary and Viktor Orban on the war in Ukraine

The program host Indrek Kiisler also asked for comments on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's actions, specifically his objection to imposing sanctions on Russia.

"Concerning sanctions, this rift with Hungary emerged early on when Hungary said that we could agree on certain sanctions, but not the sanctioning of energy carries," Liimets said.

However, in terms of decisions related to NATO and the defense of eastern countries, Liimets said that Hungary has been clearly in line with NATO allies.

Helme said that Orban has been depicted as a brute. "I've met Orban and he's a great man. Orban is one of the few Western statesmen who staunchly defends the sovereignty of his nation and the prosperity of his people," Helme said.

"Hungary is clearly opposed to Russian aggression but, nevertheless, Hungary and Orban have made it very clear that they support a peace negotiation path. In his recent speech, Orban made it very clear that the peace in Ukraine hinges on two major nations: Russia and the U.S. The U.S. and Russia must reach an agreement to resolve the war in Ukraine. This war will continue as long as the Washington does not take its own diplomatic initiative to end it," concluded Helme.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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