Former Estonian defense chief: Decisiveness needed on Ukraine support

Riho Terras and Kersti Kaljulaid appearing on Monday's 'Ukraina stuudios.'
Riho Terras and Kersti Kaljulaid appearing on Monday's 'Ukraina stuudios.' Source: ERR

Western nations need to support Ukraine with far more weaponry and other supplies than has been the case up to now, while the United States in particularly needs to act more decisively – if avoiding a long and protracted war is desired, a former Estonian defense chief finds.

Speaking to ETV show "Ukraina stuudio" Monday, Isamaa MEP and former Estonian Defense Forces commander Gen. Riho Terras said that since NATO did not carry this out, he could not be satisfied with the outcome of Vilnius.

In his opinion, the final text of the NATO summit is confusing, while the alliance could have established more concretely to what extent Ukraine could be supported militarily.

Terras said. "I would have hoped that if this text had been seriously formulated, then there would be a major, clear message about how to continue to support Ukraine militarily."

"Perhaps if you can't give such a message from NATO, which was probably difficult to achieve at that point in time, then issue a message that we will increase military support to Ukraine, tenfold," the MEP continued.

"The G7 countries went on to state something similar, but again via a very unclear text, where we support Ukraine greatly, while the numbers relating to that support still being very modest."

"Some 20 or 40 tanks – this all ridiculous. Even the one million shells that the EU is jointly providing is not enough to win this war - if they were available today. Perhaps neither Europe nor, in particular, the U.S., can understand that this war can be won for Ukraine if it is provided with weaponry that can break through the 40km-wide minefield and then progress beyond that rapidly; that is not the case today, which means that in fact air supremacy is what is holding up the war today, and in which the Ukrainian offensive is also mired," Terras went on.

Ahead of the summit, Terras, together with the former military leaders of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and the U.S., issued an open letter calling for concrete steps towards a road map for Ukrainian accession to NATO.

Terras also said that decisions on giving weapons should be made quickly, yet defense industries in Western countries have not even raised their production levels.

"Why does it have to be dragged out for so long? Make these decisions now, start hitting, deliver," he said.

"Yet today of we look at the European defense industry we see that in fact its production has not risen whatsoever, not even to the extent of replenishing its own stocks. In other words, they aren't thinking seriously. They can talk, but they don't think seriously," he went on, citing by way of example the fact that the U.S. spent US$300 million each and every day during in the war in Afghanistan, over a 20-year period, yet its support for Ukraine has come to US$800 million in total so far.

"And Ukraine is involved in an intense conflict, not an anti-terrorist war as with the war in Afghanistan. So these figures are far from adequate," Terras added.

Also appearing on the show was former president Kersti Kaljulaid, who had returned from Ukraine a few days ago.

Kaljulaid said that on meeting with Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv, she had gotten the impression of less desperation when compared with the situation last summer.

She said: "They most likely perceive that they have been able to arm themselves, to set up brigades. But what they really appreciated was the training provided by the U.K./.../ They have many arguments in their favor besides standing for the right thing, hence why they believe that they can still win this war, even by fighting with one hand tied behind their back, as it were."

Kaljulaid said she agreed with Terras' view that the U.S. has been too cautious in supporting Ukraine.

"Going into the summit in Vilnius, perhaps a few months beforehand, but most recently at the conference in Bratislava, which French President Emmanuel Macron had visited, it was clear that the French were with us. /.../ But it is clear, since the Americans did not forge ahead, then the Germans didn't need to move either, so that's how we got there [to the situation in Vilnius]. This then had to be compensated via a powerful G7 package," Kaljulaid continued.

Both agreed that what Ukraine currently lacks most is war planes.

Terras said: "Certainly Europe should understand itself that maybe the production of 155mm artillery projectiles has to start working according to the rules as they are in wartime, not in peacetime, Terras said, adding that these rules mean replacement as ammunition is used up."

Terras added that heavily mined zones the Russians have had time to sow make control of the skies all the more important.

Kaljulaid said that she, too, had gotten the impression during here recent visit that a lack of air power was the most strongly-felt lack, even as F-16 pilot training is getting underway.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Ukraina stuudios', interviewer Epp Ehand.

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