Kallas: I'm unlikely to be NATO leader because I'm from the eastern flank

Kaja Kallas.
Kaja Kallas. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) believes she is unlikely to be handed the NATO top job because she comes from the alliance's eastern flank and other countries are seen as more "eligible."

Kallas' name has been mentioned along with several others, such as the UK's Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, in recent months to replace current General Secretary Jens Stoltenburg when he steps down later this year.

Speaking to the BBC's Newsnight current affairs show on Tuesday evening, Kallas was asked if she would like to do the job.

"It is highly unlikely that I will be offered such a job," she said, batting away the interviewer's question, and stressing it is most important to have a leader from a country that meets the 2 percent spending pledge set in 2014.

But when pushed about her unsuitability, Kallas replied: "It is highly unlikely, I would say. There are many reasons and one of them is that I have been very vocal about these issues [Russia, Ukraine, defense spending] and I come from the eastern flank and although we have been in NATO for 20 years I think there are still some countries that are considered to be more [pauses]... eligible." 

She laughed when asked again if she would accept the job if it was offered.

"If I would be offered then I would have to think about this but so far there is no reason to get yourself sweaty over this," she joked.  

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria are countries situated on NATO's eastern flank. They all joined the alliance after 1999, and the Baltic states in 2004.

Last year, only seven of the 30 member countries met NATO's 2 percent of GDP spending goal: Greece, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Kallas also discussed Russia's "terror tactics" in Ukraine and the drone attacks on Moscow.

"What is going on in Kyiv is Moscow's terror tactics that they do all the time to terrorize the people of Ukraine and show that they are not safe. And these are war crimes, meaning that targeting civilians is a war crime," she said.  

The Ukrainian military "has its hands full" the prime minister said when asked who may have carried out the attacks in the Russian capital. She also suggested the drone attacks could have been staged by Russia.

"[But] There is not enough evidence to say it is definitely a false flag operation by Russia. But if you look back in history, what they have done in order to justify even bigger steps or [military] mobilization, for example, then it could be very logical that they want to show we are being attacked and we have to declare mobilization," she said.

The prime minister said that NATO's collective defense is working and keeps alliance members safe: "I think if we weren't part of NATO we would be living through some really dark times right now, but we are."


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Editor: Helen Wright

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