Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, attending the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2023 in Singapore, said she provided clarity in terms of the aftermath of Russian aggression [in Ukraine] and its broader effect on international security. She also shed light on Estonia's decision to join NATO.
"Because we are attending the most important security conference in Asia, it is clear the main topics are regional. But Russia's aggression in Ukraine is still a topic, and this is where we need to convince people that it is not NATO that caused this war, and that, instead, it's a case of one country invading another. The Russian narrative is widespread here, and we need to refute it," Kallas told ERR Sunday.
The PM said that the Asian view of the conflict is that both sides are to blame. Kallas said that her message to the participants was that, in reality, one is clearly the aggressor and the other the victim. "Ukraine is simply defending itself, and NATO members are helping the country defend itself. It comes down to the UN charter, according to which every country has the right to defend itself and no country should attack another."
"Russia is seeking the destruction of another UN member state. Russia is testing us all to see whether it can get away with conquering and colonizing an independent country in the 21st century," Kallas said via the government's press service.
Kallas told ERR that her messages also concentrated on overturning misunderstandings of NATO. She emphasized NATO's role as a strictly defensive alliance, saying that the bloc's expansion in no way threatens Russia's security, which is not the case when it comes to Russia's imperialistic narrative.
"Russia's full-scale war in Ukraine has once again made clear why Central and Eastern European countries wanted to join NATO post haste after throwing off the Soviet occupation. NATO does not exist as a threat to Russia, its purpose is to defend its members against the threat of Russia," Kallas said.
"I explained it using the example of my own country, how we did everything in our power to make sure nothing like that happens again after throwing off the occupation. This means never finding ourselves alone again. That joining NATO was the free will of the Estonian people, which no one forced on us. Here the narrative is of a NATO expansion that has nothing to do with the will of its members – that is what I am here to break down," she told ERR.
The Estonian premier also explained how those who accuse NATO of "expansion" and "escalation" are adopting the same imperialist use of language and ideology that Russia is promoting. "NATO is not a threat to Russian security, just Russian imperialism," Kallas said.
Broader effects of Russian aggression
"Secondly – I have also been emphasizing how Russia is acting as the last colonial power, trying to colonize territory and expand its empire. This sometimes resonates, is understood here."
"And the third important topic is that how we react to this war sends a message in terms of global security. If aggression is allowed to pay off, leave you with more territory or assets after a while, others with more power will also start using it. And that would no longer be a global order based on international law, rather seeing us return to might makes right," PM Kallas said.
The Estonian prime minister suggested that what's at stake in Ukraine are the core principles of the UN charter and international law, including the territorial integrity and sovereignty of countries. She added that Russia is reluctant to acknowledge the role of smaller countries in world politics, their independence and right to make their own decisions. "It is everyone's shared duty to stop Russia from realizing that imperialistic worldview, because otherwise we will all wake up in a much more dangerous world one day."
Kallas also emphasized the need to establish contacts and work with those who can be trusted. That is why it is necessary to further cooperation between EU and ASEAN members to jointly reduce dependencies on untrustworthy partners. Creating new and credible links must proceed hand in hand with cybersecurity. That is why there is great potential for closer cooperation with the ASEAN-Singapore Cybersecurity Centre for Excellence.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies' (IISS) Shangei-La Dialogue 2023 conference is taking place in Singapore June 2-4 and also features many Western leaders and foreign policy chiefs. This year marks the dialogue's 20th anniversary.
Editor: Marcus Turovski