Estonia has no reason to be ashamed and can confidently look President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people in the eye, while I am worried by the attitude of some other Western countries when it comes to helping Ukraine, Ester Karuse writes.
Life can take peculiar twists and turns at times. One moment you are portraying a journalist turned teacher who accidentally becomes the president of Ukraine in a sitcom, the next you find yourself in that very role for real. That is what happened to President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy who recently visited Estonia. Whereas it happened during a time full-scale war is raging.
Zelenskyy was elected president of Ukraine at the age of 41. It is difficult to imagine someone becoming president at such a young age even in progressive Estonia. While people often use the term "snowflake" to refer to the younger generations, Zelenskyy has demonstrated that everything depends on the person. After all, he was offered the chance to leave the country when the war started, while he just confidently shook his head. Comedians aren't to be trifled with.
We have not seen the same level of courage from the West. While everyone is behind Ukraine all the way in words, a game of dodgeball and political horse trading starts as soon as the time comes to take action. I kept a close eye on President Zelenskyy's press conferences, which betrayed concern for weapons aid and funding. Estonia has no reason to feel ashamed and we can confidently look President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people in the eye.
But I am worried about the lukewarm attitude of several European countries, less so when it comes to the U.S. I met with congressmen and other politicians during a recent work visit to the USA, with the situation in Ukraine one of the main topics of discussion. At least there one does not have to explain the seriousness of the situation as people who are up to speed on world politics no full well that once Ukraine falls, the Baltics will become Putin's next target. And this means a head-on collision with NATO and U.S. troops being forced to intervene.
One topic that directly concerns Estonia is whether we will have to extradite mobilization-aged men to Ukraine. President Zelenskyy talked at length about how Ukraine needs support from every citizen, whether as soldiers or taxpayers, but did not answer the question directly. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, sitting next to him at the press conference, had nothing to add.
We will probably soon learn whether Estonia plans to take any steps here. I believe that defending Ukraine is first and foremost the obligation of the people of Ukraine who must do everything they can to keep their country free.
Those who watched the Ukrainian and Estonian presidents' joint press conference learned that pressure on Ukraine to launch talks with Russia is not journalistic fiction. Both presidents emphasized that a break in the fighting would only serve Russia's interests and a quick look at history books tells us that our eastern neighbor is not in the habit of sticking to agreements. Therefore, tyrants do not belong at the table.
President Barack Obama, when he visited Estonia a decade ago, quoted both Heinz Valk and Marie Under in his speech. President Zelenskyy was less full of pathos, his words, "dear Estonian people" coming across both sincere and powerful. Hopefully, the president will get the chance to say those words again after winning the war.
Editor: Marcus Turovski