Former President Kersti Kaljulaid said on the "Ukraina stuudio" talk show that Estonia's decision to cut in half the number of employees at the Russian embassy, to which Russia responded by asking the Estonian ambassador to pack up and leave, was less mature than Estonian diplomacy has been in the past year.
Kaljulaid admitted that she is no longer up to speed on all processes and does not know why Estonia decided to go after parity at that particular time.
"Why go through parity instead of just recalling our ambassador. What came next was quite predictable. I have not read the relevant memos and do not know the considerations behind them, but I maintain that we must not allow a situation to develop where the big players talk, while we get talked about. It is crucial to avoid such a situation," Kaljulaid remarked.
"Ambassador Margus Laidre has suggested that nothing can replace having eyes and ears on location. And it seems to me that this step was perhaps less mature than our foreign policy and diplomacy have been in the past year," the ex-president added.
She proceeded to compare Estonia's decision to Lithuania's move of "jumping out" of the 16+1 China and Eastern Europe cooperation format instead of letting it just fade away.
"It [the decision] makes our partners and allies wonder what it was specifically in that moment. And whether it could have something to do with elections in Estonia in five or six weeks' time. However, the decision itself is on the right side of history in principle," Kaljulaid offered.
Asked whether she would have done something differently, Kaljulaid said she does not have enough information to answer. "I'm in the echo box, just like everyone else," she said.
Estonia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) on January 11 said that the ministry summoned the Russian ambassador and handed over a diplomatic note based on which Estonia had decided to seek parity in diplomatic relations. This meant cutting the staff at the Russian embassy in Tallinn by more than half. On January 23, Russia in turn said it had summoned Ambassador Margus Laidre and given him until February 7 to leave the country, as well as that the level of diplomatic representation between the countries would be lowered to that of charge d'affaires.
Kaljulaid also commented on Germany's decision to send Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine and allow other countries to do the same. She suggested that it is high time for the Germans to understand that World War II is over, while publicly criticizing Germany every chance we get is not effective either.
"It is utterly incomprehensible for us when someone suggests it is weird for the Germans to see German tanks fighting Russian ones. Get over it, World War II ended a long time ago. However, if that is how German society is, the best tactic is to praise them for progress and decisions. It will help change what the German political elite fears quicker," she suggested.
Kersti Kaljulaid served as president of Estonia 2016-2021. She met with Vladimir Putin in Moscow in April 2019.
Editor: Anna Pihl, Marcus Turovski