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Jaak Madison: Idealism on Ukraine should not be conflated with reality

Jaak Madison (EKRE).
Jaak Madison (EKRE). Source: MEP's personal collection.

All those concerned about the future of Estonia and of Europe as a whole naturally considers the optimal outcome from Russia's war on Ukraine to be a Ukrainian victory and a maximal weakening of Russia. However, it si also well worth discriminating between that ideal, and objective reality – even in the taxing situation of wartime, Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) MEP Jaak Madison writes.

When flying back to Brussels last Thursday, I had the pleasure of seeing the Ukrainian presidential plane, which had transported Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Tallinn for his visit, on the apron at Tallinn Airport.

Estonia fully supported Ukraine even before the beginning of the current phase of the war began on February 24, 2022, and this country has firmly remained Ukrainian supporters' camp right throughout this war.

Estonia's rationale remains clear: Russia is a clear and present security threat to us. Historically, Russia has been an empire only when this included Ukrainian territory, and the loss of these areas to Russia would thus equate to the rebirth of that empire, and which in turn would intensify the risk of war in Estonia.

Nonetheless, the press conference featuring the heads of state of Estonia and Ukraine did not pass without a divergence of views. While President Alar Karis conceded that, behind closed doors, the major powers are discussing a possible peace deal or an armistice between Russia and Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy categorically denied that this was the case.

It is perfectly understandable that the president of Ukraine may not be able to admit what is happening behind the scenes, since his main task is to maintain the will to fight in Ukraine.

However, this does not mean the public should blinker themselves to the facts.

For me, it was still more surprising to see statements from Estonian ministers and MPs about how the only solution is a Ukrainian victory, while Ukraine itself sets the conditions for that victory.

Needless to say, every interested party, concerned about the future of Estonia and of Europe as a whole, would say the best possible of all outcomes would be victory for Ukraine and the concomitant weakening of Russia, to the greatest extent possible, yet it is important to distinguish between ideals and objective reality, even during the hardest times.

The objective reality, then, is that military aid from the Western countries has been a case of too little, too late, over the past two years, at least to alter the course of the war in favor of Ukraine.

The U.S. is now preparing for its presidential elections in November, while the global focus is increasingly falling on China. A mindset that "what happens in Europe, stays in Europe" is also propagating with the American public.

The objective reality is that Europe even now has not kick-started its defense industry, while in the first year of the war, Germany, quite knowingly, blocked the supply of urgently needed armaments to Ukraine.

Given that the further course of this war hinges principally on weapons aid from not only the U.S. but also of the European powers, we have entered a period when greater and greater pressure can be put on Ukraine to conclude a peace deal with Russia.

In the Western countries, the citizens' perception is however that financing the war is being done at the expense of their own well-being, yet in democracies, politicians have to listen to citizens, if they want to get re-elected.

Of course, the best-case scenario would be for the Germans, the French, the British and the Americans to start to understand that a ceasefire in Ukraine would mean a period of pause which would help Russia regain its military strength more quickly, and which in turn would boost the likelihood of a new military conflict in the next three to five years.

However, we should not delude ourselves into thinking that Western Europeans and Americans perceive security threats in the same way as we do in Estonia.

Without a doubt, it is the duty of our state's leadership and its diplomats to do lobby for Ukraine and for increasing Europe's defensive capabilities. The question is how convincing Estonia's prime minister, Kaja Kallas, is in performing this task; a person whose family has benefited financially from business activities in Russia during the course of the war, and has been caught lying to the public on this.

On top of that, how credible is a Europe that has naively been demilitarizing itself for the last 30 years, when viewed by Americans?

Are we ourselves credible when we tell one story to the outside world, but another at home; those same storytellers have been focusing on a balanced state budget, but cannot find the funds to build up civil defense sufficiently, even as €200 million were needed for the next four years?

Political slogans on their own will not make any tanks or fighter jets come to Ukraine's aid, nor will they help strengthen Estonia's national defense.

Estonia needs a clear plan and a stance, in case anything about peace talks come out officially. So what do we say in that case? Do we resolutely say "no way," even as we ourselves don't have a single tank or plane to provide to Ukraine?

My suggestion is the following: Estonia can demand from its allies continued assistance to Ukraine, but this has to be done by a new prime minister, one who is not saddled with lies.

Estonia must also have a clear contingency position to take in case the great powers decide to impose a peace deal on Ukraine in any case.

So for instance, okay, you want a peace deal, but the prerequisite for this must be a European defense industry output which outstrips Russia's, as a peace deal alone won't curb Russian aggression in the coming years. A peace deal is rational only if it is useful for Ukraine, Estonia and for Europe in general, and to allow it to strengthen its defense capabilities more rapidly.

Domestically speaking, it is viable to maintain public support for Ukraine and boost society's will to defend it only if society has sufficient trust in the government and in the Riigikogu.

This is not, and will not be, with the current government. The prime minister can go around the world accepting honors as much as she wants, but none of this conceals the fact that at a time when Europe is in the midst of its biggest armed conflict since World War Two, the government's priorities have been same-sex marriage, the car tax, tax hikes and taking money away from larger families.

My prediction is that this crisis of confidence will deepen as economic problems accumulate. People will come to no longer have the capacity to live fit what is happening in Ukraine alongside their primary concern, which is to manage themselves and their families.

In order for this eventuality not to transpire, and for the will to defend and provide aid to remain in place, that hypocritical Kaja Kallas-led government, which has lost the public's trust, needs to be replaced.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Kaupo Meiel

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