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Estonia's 0.25 percent GDP aid to Ukraine proposal needs support of Western states

Volodymyr Zelenskyy met Kaja Kallas at Stenbock House on January 11, 2023.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy met Kaja Kallas at Stenbock House on January 11, 2023. Source: riigikantselei/Raul Mee

The prospects of success for an Estonian initiative which would provide 0.25 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year as military aid to Ukraine depends on the willingness of other Western nations to sign up, and on the United States in particular, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Sunday.

Security expert, Eesti 200 MP and chair of the Riigikogu's foreign affairs committee Kalev Stoicescu told AK that: "It isn't known at this point whether any other ally has clearly made a decision like this. In Estonia's case, the decision was made ahead even of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit last week."

"This in any cases sends a strong message to Ukraine that the aid is to continued. continue," he added.

Estonia's initiative entails allocating 0.25 percent of GDP towards military aid to Ukraine through to 2027, but the effectiveness of the move hinges on whether other Western powers follow suit – which would in turn require them to demonstrate a greater willingness to pledge support for and to Ukraine than they have done hitherto, AK reported.

Many European countries have been making changes in their defense industry production already, "but there has been some hesitation," Stoicescu said, noting that the industry has not received clear signals.

"No guarantee has been given to defense industry companies," he added.

"The main issues certainly do not relate to volumes, but to the uncertainty and indecision in certain Western allies' capitals," he noted.

As to which certain Western capitals this may concern, Stoicescu said: "Unfortunately, the U.S. plays the biggest part here."

Indrek Kannik, head of think-tank the International Center for Defense and Security  (ICDS) concurred, telling AK that if the U.S. made decisions more strongly, these would follow from many European countries.

At the same time, there is something of a vicious circle here in that while European nations are looking to the U.S. to act first, the reverse is also the case, Kannik said, and European countries joining Estonia in its initiative could also prompt the U.S. to act.

However, Stoicescu said that there are signs of progress coming from Brussels on the planned €50 billion Ukraine aid package, which Hungary has presented "certain conditions" on.

Estonia's own defense ministry has some points on how to mitigate Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine, a little over a month ahead of its second anniversary.

One of these points notes that the Ramstein Group (named after the air base in Germany where the Ukraine Defense Contact Group met, almost a year ago – ed.) has a combined total GDP of €47 trillion, ie. a GDP 13 times that of Russia's.

The Ramstein Group comprises 54 nations; all 31 NATO countries plus 24 others.

Thus, 0.25 percent of each of these Western nations' GDP per annum going towards helping Ukraine would resolve the issue of Russia's ability to continue to wage war on and in Ukraine, it is argued.

However, the success of this hinges on continued U.S. military aid; Estonia's 0.25 percent alone is insufficient to make a difference.

Indrek Kannik noted that: "If the U.S. military and financial support to Ukraine drops completely, I think that Estonia will have to review its figures. /.../ This is primarily a question for the larger countries. If the big European [nations] talk, but don't actually act, then unfortunately our hike alone won't help much."

This remains the case at a time when "war fatigue" continues to be talked about.

On the other hand, Britain's prime minister, Rishi Sunak, singed a defensive partnership agreement worth £2.5 billion during his official visit to Ukraine last week, the day after Volodymyr Zelenskyy had been in Tallinn.

With it, the U.K. was the first to fulfill its commitments as taken at the NATO summits in Madrid in summer 2022 and in Vilnius last summer.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Vahur Lauri.

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