Alar Karis: National leaders must be influenced on Ukraine NATO membership

Alar Karis appearing on Monday's 'Ukraina stuudio'.
Alar Karis appearing on Monday's 'Ukraina stuudio'. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will not be attending next month's NATO summit in Vilnius, if he can't expect to be offered anything concrete, according to Estonian head of state Alar Karis.

President Karis was in Kyiv last week on an official visit, meeting with President Zelenskyy and discussing the major goals for the forthcoming summit.

The Estonian president managed only to get around seven hours' sleep throughout the entire three-day trip, thanks to air raid warnings as Russia continues to launch missile strikes on the Ukrainian capital.

Appearing on ETV show "Ukraina stuudio" Monday, Karis said: The NATO [membership] topic is particularly acute, ahead of the Vilnius summit; President Zelenskyy told me that if there was no clear path for Ukraine presented at the summit, he will not be attending."

"Merely stating that 'NATO's doors are open' is no longer sufficient," he went on.

This means that more work is to be done in respect of potential waverers on Ukrainian membership of the alliance, Karis said.

"We are also working to influence those people who do not yet have a clear picture of the situation. The only way to Ukrainian security is in NATO. We have to work with national leaders," he went on.

"After all, Estonia also started talking about NATO when Russian troops were still on our soil," the president went on.

The last Russian troops left Estonian soil in August 1994, three years after the restoration of independence.

At the same time, this does not mean Ukraine joining NATO the very next day the current war is over, the president added.

"There are various 'buts'. Security guarantees must also be set up for the interim period, which will also encourage investment [into Ukraine]," he went on.

Alar Karis with Volodymyr Zelenskyy during the Estonian President's recent visit to Kyiv. Source: Raigo Pajula

As reported by ERR News, the Estonian president had also visited a memorial to children killed in the course of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, something which left a deep impression on him, reflecting on a visit he had made to Kyiv a year ago, and saw children playing in the rubble of destroyed buildings.

This was in his mind when attending the memorial, as well as "all the acts of brutality the Russians have been committing there, with impunity."

While many of those culpable are known and have been addressed by letter, this cannot have made much of an impression, Karis went on, if the perpetrators are then granted state honors in Russia.

"These atrocities still need their just reward, so that specific culprits can be held accountable, and to show that noone can act with impunity," he went on.

We still need to find a reward for these atrocities, so that these specific perpetrators can be held accountable and that no one is immune from their actions," said Karis.

Nevertheless, there was some cause for hope, the president added.

"If you looked out of the car window in Kiev, then you could see a sort of normality going on. I didn't get to ask people how they felt there, but it seemed that they had hope that it would all end and that they would do everything to accomplish that end."

As for his night spent in the bunker, the president said he did not feel afraid, noting that for many Ukrainians this was a normal, nightly situation.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel

Source: 'Ukraina stuudio', interviewer Anna Pihl.

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