‘Don’t worry about Putin’s feelings’

TALLINN, Estonia — Sitting in her office in Steinbock House, a well-appointed neoclassical building in the heart of Tallinn’s medieval Old Town, Prime Minister Kaja Kallis wanted to discuss the past 80 years of European history but her Passes were only 20 minutes.

Kelis, a lawyer by training and former member of the European Parliament, was so vulnerable when she met with OlxPraca on July 8, to the point that she almost had to cancel her interview. “It’s a chance that I’m not here tomorrow,” he said, referring to around-the-clock negotiations to end his coalition government and assemble a new one a few days ago. organized To be done on July 18 after briefly resigning.

Despite the turmoil within her own government, Callas was intent on sending a message to the rest of the world about accepting Russian demands on Ukraine.

“I think a fundamental mistake was made after World War II,” Callas said, sitting beneath a painting of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments. “While the crimes of the Nazis were widely condemned, the crimes of the Communists never were. So we are currently seeing a strong revival of Stalinism in Russia. Seventy percent of Russians support Stalin, despite That he killed 20 million people, despite deportations, prison camps, war, everything. History books in Estonia were rewritten after communism, while Russians are still being taught the same history we are. In the Soviet era, you had to study, which was absolutely crap.”

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallis Answers Questions From Reporters As She Arrives In Brussels Ahead Of An Extraordinary Meeting Of Eu Leaders To Discuss Ukraine, Defense And Energy In May.  (Kenzo Treboillard/Afp Via Getty Images)

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallis answers questions from reporters as she arrives in Brussels ahead of an extraordinary meeting of EU leaders to discuss Ukraine, defense and energy in May. (Kenzo Treboillard/AFP via Getty Images)

Kalas is Estonia’s 13th prime minister since the Baltic country declared independence in 1991, although the 45-year-old, who was 12 when the Berlin Wall fell, is already one of Moscow’s biggest worries. have been proven.

His government has been strongly supporting Ukraine since the February 24 invasion by Russia. In fact, the smallest of the three Baltic states, with a population of just 1.3 million, Estonia has so far sent more than $270 million worth of military aid. For Ukraine, the equivalent of more than 30 percent of its annual defense budget.

In addition to armored personnel carriers, anti-tank mines and a wide variety of small arms, Estonia has been an eager supplier of the US-made Javelin anti-tank missile system, one of the most effective shoulder-launched weapons ever deployed. Helped Ukraine. The initial thrust of the Russian attack

Now that Ukraine has moved from a mobile defense strategy to an artillery war against the Russians, Estonia, a NATO member since 2004, has helped Kyiv modernize its arsenal, including several FH70 155mm howitzers. Besides there are MAN cats. 6×6 heavy trucks to pack them. When considered with their humanitarian and financial aid, Estonians donated the equivalent of 0.81% of their gross domestic product to another nation during the war, a staggering metric.

Callas is keen to stress that security aid is not charity. “I was asked by our far-right party in parliament why we are doing this,” he told OlxPraca. “And I replied that Ukraine is literally fighting for us. While Russia is at war with them, they are not at war with us. And we have peace here.”

Keeping that peace is an existential imperative for Estonians, who share a 182-mile border with a resurgent power that currently occupies 20% of Ukraine and threatens to annex the territory permanently. Giving. In 1940, when Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler agreed to the mutual carve-out of Eastern Europe under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Estonia itself was annexed by the Soviet Union. It was then invaded and occupied by the Nazis when Hitler double-crossed Stalin and launched Operation Barbarossa in 1941, his devastating World War II invasion of the Soviet Union that included modern-day Ukraine.

Germany'S Invasion Of The Soviet Union Was Decided In July 1940 And Was Produced Under The Same Name.  Germany'S Invasion Of The Soviet Union Was Decided In July 1940 And Was Produced Under The Same Name.

The German invasion of the Soviet Union was decided in July 1940 and was codenamed “Operation Barbarossa”. (Berliner Verlag / Archiv / Image courtesy of Getty Images)

Until 1991, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania remained under Soviet rule. Tens of thousands were killed, imprisoned or deported to Siberia. Among those deported in 1949 was Kallas’ mother, then only 6 months old, who was sent to the Russian tundra in a cattle car with Kallas’ grandmother and raised in exile until she was 10 years old. .

Kallas’ great-grandfather, Eduard Allor, was the commander of the Estonian Defense League during the Estonian War of Independence of 1918–1920, which led to the country’s first independence from Russia. His father, Siem Kallis, served as both Estonia’s foreign minister and prime minister in the 1990s, when the country gained independence for a second time.

Since then, Estonia has often found itself struggling against geographical fate. One can drive the length of the country in just two hours and be quickly overwhelmed again by its much larger next-door Russian neighbor. In 2004, Estonia joined the EU and NATO to remain firmly in the Western camp and impervious to a repeat of past victimization — something Ukrainians are dying to achieve on local soil.

Calais’ sense of history is tied to its own genealogy. His family’s grief can be read in every bullet and flak jacket his government has sent to Ukraine.

Callas caused a moderate stir in late June, just before a NATO summit in Madrid, when he told reporters that the alliance was to revamp its plans to strengthen its eastern flank. Under the current strategy, NATO sees Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Trip wire conditions which can be occupied for 180 days before the coalition moves in to defend them. As Callas points out, at that point Ukraine was only 100 days into its defensive campaign against Russia and thousands of civilians had been killed, millions displaced (including most 1.6 million Ukrainians who were deported to Russia.) and cities like Mariupol were reduced to rubble. Kallas’ point was clear: Given that Estonia is one-thirteenth the size of Ukraine, Kallas may not have a country to lead after 180 days of occupation. Wasn’t it to prevent NATO membership in an emergency?

“When I was in Paris, driving, I saw all those monuments to Napoleon and it made me think: for a small country war always means destruction, pain,” she told Yahoo! told the News. But this is not always the case for a large country. War also means glory, new wealth.

His allusion to France hardly seems accidental. Callas has been an outspoken critic of French President Emmanuel Macron’s insistence that the West not “humiliate” Vladimir Putin, whom she sees as a dangerous intransigent. In a March 24 op-ed in The New York Times, he wrotePutin cannot win this war. He can’t imagine he’s won, or that he’ll be hungry.

People Hold A Portrait Of Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin On May 9, 2015, To Mark The 70Th Anniversary Of The End Of World War Ii.  (Max Vetrov/Afp Via Getty Images)People Hold A Portrait Of Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin On May 9, 2015, To Mark The 70Th Anniversary Of The End Of World War Ii.  (Max Vetrov/Afp Via Getty Images)

People hold a portrait of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin on May 9, 2015, to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. (Max Vetrov/AFP via Getty Images)

“I keep reminding my colleagues who want to pick up the phone and talk to Putin,” she said in another pointed reference to Macron. “Okay, okay – talk to him. But don’t forget he’s a war criminal. Right now he’s stealing Ukraine’s grain and threatening famine to get sanctions lifted. His state propagandists, Russia. openly talk about starvation as the last hope. That’s what you’re dealing with.”

The prime minister wholeheartedly agrees with historian Timothy Snyder’s argument that Putin needs no face-saving concessions to withdraw from Ukraine. He said he rules in “virtual reality,” and since Russia’s information ecosystem is his game, he can pack up his army and go home whenever he wants, turning military defeat into popular victory. can prepare as “His people will believe him,” Callas said. “Don’t worry about Putin’s feelings.”

The flip side of Putin’s charming failsafe is that he can drag out the war as long as he wants and face no domestic setbacks, Kallas added.

“In the Western world, we want to recover every one of our soldiers on a foreign battlefield. Our instinct is not to leave anyone behind,” Callas said. As they do in democracies.”

To drive these points home, at a recent meeting with a top foreign diplomat, Callas presented a copy of “The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics,” as a gift. by political scientists Bruce Bueno de Mesquita And Alastair Smith. The basic message of the book is quite clear: you cannot stop or outrun the czar by assuming that he would act as you would in similar circumstances.

Although debate has raged in Estonia over how much money and weapons the government should send to Ukraine, Kallas still has strong domestic support for his handling of the situation. “We were thinking that eventually people would get tired and start asking, ‘Why do you do all this for Ukraine when we need help here?'” he said. “But if you look at the survey we did, it’s something like 91% of Estonians say we have to support Ukraine, we have to help refugees. It’s very clear.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin Meets With Energy Minister Outside Moscow On July 21, 2022.Russian President Vladimir Putin Meets With Energy Minister Outside Moscow On July 21, 2022.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Energy Minister outside Moscow on July 21, 2022.

He is clearly less confident that the rest of Europe agrees with him. Over the past five months, the European Union has managed to move closer to an alliance on sanctions against Russia and aid to Ukraine, even as the coming winter is made especially difficult by Russian energy blackmail. It is cold. Putin may be fighting one war on the battlefield, but he is fighting another against the longevity of European commitment.

“I won’t name anyone, but the leader of a major country who is very pro-Ukraine told me, ‘My political position back home is that the whole war is NATO’s fault.'” Callus said. “It’s hard to continue to support him because the public pressure is ‘give up, stop it’.”

Callas is particularly sensitive to the moral ambiguities and geopolitical contradictions the West has been trafficking in since the war began. “It’s very interesting. We went from saying, ‘Ukraine must not lose’ to saying, ‘Ukraine must win and Russia must lose,'” he said. “But let’s be clear about something: If we stop helping the Ukrainians militarily, they won’t be able to defend themselves. So on the one hand, we say it’s up to them to decide their fate, but on the other On the other hand, we are making this decision for them with our policies.

Another concern for Callas is what will happen politically in the United States – both at the congressional and presidential levels. Should Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and the United Kingdom — with a broad domestic consensus on the issue — along with other strong defenders of Ukraine — provide sufficient arms and ammunition to Kyiv on their own, should Washington’s patronage end? be done

“Probably not,” he said.