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Estonian PM Kallas awarded prestigious Marion Dönhoff Prize in Hamburg

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas receives the Marion Dönhof Prize in Hamburg.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas receives the Marion Dönhof Prize in Hamburg. Source: Andreas Henn

On Sunday, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) was awarded the prestigious Marion Dönhoff Prize in Hamburg. The award was given in recognition of Kallas' commitment to democratic values and the unity of the European Union and NATO in response to Russia's aggression against Ukraine.

In her speech upon receiving the award, Kallas recalled former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's delight at the 1938 Munich agreement, which in reality led to the annexation of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany.

"History has proven over and over again that accommodating Russia will not make it less dangerous. The decisions we take now will either lead to our own Chamberlain moment or will provide a historic moment towards finally breaking Russia's cycle of aggression. It is our responsibility to know better, and to do better," Kallas said.

According to Kallas, the situation in Ukraine is a battle of wills. "In this battle, we should not be afraid of our own power. And we shouldn't fall into the trap of Russia's disinformation as if supporting Ukraine is a lost cause," she said.

The Estonian PM also stressed that Russia remains confident it will be able to split the unity of the free world in support of Ukraine and win this war.

"In fact, it is we who have the upper hand in this fight. The combined defense budgets of the Ramstein coalition are more than 13 times greater than Russia's. The European Union's GDP is seven times higher than Russia's. The military spending of EU Member States is already nearly three times larger than that of Russia's. The sheer size of our collective political, economic, and military power could guarantee Ukraine's victory over Russia," said Kallas. "The stronger Ukraine is, the sooner the breaking point for Russia can be reached," she added.

Kallas also pointed out that it is not only battlefield success that will decide the outcome of the war against Ukraine.

"The enforcement of sanctions can deplete Russia's war resources. Allocating Russia's frozen assets for the benefit of Ukraine can decisively raise the cost of the war for Russia," she said.

According to the prime minister, the European Union and NATO need a clear plan for how to deal with Russia in a situation where all the masks have come off and we can see what kind of country we are dealing with.

"Any such plan needs to avoid the wishful thinking that giving Putin what he wants will somehow make Russia less dangerous," Kallas said.

"There should be no step back to business as usual, no lifting of sanctions unless Russia has returned back to Russia and compensated for the damage done," she added.

Kallas also explained how Russia's war against Ukraine has opened up old wounds in many European countries. "The stories of kidnapped Ukrainian kids deported to Russia open the wounds of those 75-year-old Estonians who returned from Siberia after being deported there as kids by the Soviet regime. Almost every Estonian has a family story of Soviet crimes and terror," said the prime minister. She went on to say, that what happened during the Soviet occupation makes it clear why accountability for Russia's war crimes must be front and center now. "Unless unpunished, it will continue over and over again," she said.

The Marion Dönhoff Prize is one of the most prestigious awards in Germany. The prize, which was established in 2003, is named after Marion Dönhoff, one of the most influential journalists in post-war Germany and founder of the newspaper Die Zeit. Previous winners of the same award include Donald Tusk, Desmond Tutu, Margrethe Vestager, and the New York Times.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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