Ex-PM of Estonia: Kremlin wants to break the unity of Europe

Author : Serhiy Sydorenko

Respondent : Taavi Rõivas

Source : 112 Ukraine

Taavi Rõivas on hybrid war, European unity, and opposing Russian aggression
15:24, 2 June 2017

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Although Estonia is an unconditional friend of Ukraine in the EU, Estonian politicians (except maybe the ex-President Toomas Hendrik Ilves) are not very well known in Ukraine. But the former prime minister of Estonia Taavi Rõivas is noteworthy for several reasons. Three years ago, this 35-year-old politician was the youngest one among the current European Heads of State and Governments and the youngest in the history of their country.

For us it is important that he headed the Estonian government in March 2014 and has been working in that office until November 2016. He has witnessed how Europe is responding to Russian aggression against Ukraine.

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Does Ukraine succeed in confronting Moscow? Should we significantly change our behavior?

Ukraine has faced a difficult situation, in which you can do only one thing – the thing that you are doing now: protecting yourselves. And at the same time, it is important to continue reforms. It is not easy to combine them, but I see that Kyiv has a clear desire for reform.

Would the EU continue to support us? Too often we hear about Ukraine fatigue.

Ukraine fatigue? Not in Estonia. For us it is important what is happening in Ukraine, we follow the events, as well as global issues such as the conflict in Syria, do not take our attention away from Ukraine. We support the preservation of sanctions against Russia until full implementation of Minsk II. Moreover, I believe that this is the only way for Europe. It refers to the aggression of Russia against Ukraine. We should call a spade a spade.

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So maybe it makes sense for the EU to move away from fuzzy language and call it a war?

There are also complex legal issues here. The EU leaders understand that it is all about Russian aggression. And if at the beginning some countries had some doubts about the origin of the "green men," now the whole world understands that this is pure aggression.

Therefore, everyone knows what is happening. And Ukraine has presented sufficient evidence that the Russian weapons and it is the Russian soldiers are used in Donbas.

Estonia has a border with Russia. Is it possible that your country will be the next victim of the Russian aggression?

Extremely unlikely. Since 2004, Estonia is a member of NATO and I have no doubt about the principle of collective defense alliance. So I do not think that any type of Russia’s aggression against Estonia is possible.

Even hybrid war? Estonia has a large Russian minority that watches Russian TV.

Russia actually uses hybrid instruments to destabilize the situation not only in the neighboring countries but also in many other European countries. And in Western Europe, they are even more aggressive. We know that there were attempts of financing the political parties. There were deceptive campaigns and cyber attacks.

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So you mean that today we witness Russia’s hybrid war against the European countries?

No, I have not said that. Russia tries to destabilize the situation in Europe – that is what it does. Such destabilization meets the interests of the Kremlin - above all, it wants to break the unity of Europe. And this is not a secret for no one in Europe.

The relations between Estonia and Russia had a special conflict history – case of Kohver, who was stolen by the Russians from the border area. Might this kind of aggression take place again?

I would not resort to speculation about some specific actions of the Russians. I would like to talk about the strategic objective aim of the Kremlin; and strategically, it is trying to increase its influence in the EU and undermine the European unity.

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Why is it important to speak about strategic things, not the particular cases? Because understanding of the strategy is extremely important in order to find effective ways to combat the hybrid Russian aggression. Russian strategic task is to undermine European unity. And to achieve it the Russians are willing to play without rules and resort to unexpected steps.

The destruction of European unity it is not a goal but a tool to achieve some other goals.

If we look at the bigger picture of the goal, we will see that Russia’s goal is to increase its influence, increase the sphere of the influence. I try to put myself in the place of an ordinary Frenchman or Dutchman. If Russia is not a direct threat, but merely wants to get some more influence on Ukraine or other remote states, why should I quarrel with Russia?

Such thoughts are completely immoral and fundamentally dangerous!

If you put a blind eye to aggression against one country, the result might be aggression against the other one. Second, even countries that are geographically removed from Ukraine and Russia should understand the danger of Russia’s current attempts of their impact on domestic politics, as it is threatening democracy in their homes. Traditional war is just one of the methods of aggression. Therefore, I am convinced that the military threat is just one of the factors that must be weighed when deciding how to counter Russia.

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Recently, former Prime Minister of Lithuania Andrius Kubilius has presented the project "Marshall Plan for Ukraine", which refers to multi-funding reform. Do you think this plan is realistic?

It is realistic. This is the way in which we move. But its future depends on the two sides. First, determination of the Ukrainian leadership, the willingness to act on reforming the country. Second, the willingness of the EU leadership to allocate significantly larger amounts of money. Of course, the scheme should be well revised, but it is real.

Do you think that the EU, US, Canada are willing to provide their taxpayers' money?

I hope so. I truly believe that a peaceful and prosperous Ukraine meets the interests of the European Community. And I hope that they would agree in case of valid justification.

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Are you satisfied with how Ukraine implements its reforms?

Ukraine is in a very complicated situation. Reform is a very difficult task. But it would be too easy to say that many problems have not disappeared (like corruption and so on), thus the European countries are afraid of them and do not support Ukraine.

Speaking about the key areas of reform, I would not call something new, everything is listed in the memorandum with the IMF and in your agreement with the EU. So the best advice: just follow the agreement. I understand that you are fulfilling the reforms not "for the European Commission" but for his country.

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