“Amanpour: Estonia’s Prime Minister, Kaja Kallas”, CNN


Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.

It is painful and it is tough and it’s where Ukraine’s future will be determined, so says, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about the brutal fighting in the east of his country. He promised that we need to destroy the enemies’ military power and we will. But as anyone can see, it is a very tough slog. Russians and Ukrainians are essentially locked in a war of attrition. Each side rapidly losing troops, something Russia has in much  bigger supply.

Europe and America are still promising to back Kyiv for as long as the takes, but there are questions about whether their weapon shipments are too late, too little. And now, the likely Republican presidential hopeful in the United States, Ron DeSantis, is making news by saying, getting involved in Ukraine is actually not in America’s vital national interest. Calling it a territorial dispute between the parties, rather than the fight to protect freedom and democracy from tyranny.

No one knows this more than Ukraine’s loudest backers, Putin’s neighbors. Like the Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas. Indeed, her fierce support of Ukraine helps secure an overwhelming re-election victory just last week.

When she joined me from Tallinn, she sounded the alarm against any idea of appeasing Putin amid worries that steadfast allied support of Kyiv might waver this second year of war.


AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, welcome back to our program.


AMANPOUR: So, the world really did watch, particularly in this moment of Ukraine and NATO and an alliance. The election in your country and seemed to be breathing a sigh of relief. You did score a decisive victory. So, is that it? Job done or what next?

KALLAS: Well, we have a system that is in favor of coalition government. So, although we won a landslide victory, we also have to form a government and put together a coalition. And right now, we have the talks going on. And, of course, everybody has very many ideas and you have to get, you  know, the compromises together. So, it takes time still.

AMANPOUR: So, you are known as one of the strongest, if not the strongest, voice in support of having to back Ukraine to victory. Your coalition, could it define what you do next as Estonia regarding this continued support?

KALLAS: We already agreed upon Ukraine and everything related to that. And we share with our new partners the same views that we should help Ukraine as long as it takes. So, we should give the military but we also should talk about accountability and a special tribunal on the international level. We should also talk about boosting the defense industry so that we would have enough ammunition to send to Ukraine so that they can defend themselves. So, in that regard, the new government will hold the same line as so far.

AMANPOUR: So, let me just talk about the latest reports from the front line. There is a very alarming interview and report from “The Washington Post” on the eastern front.


Quoting a Ukrainian, I believe a lieutenant or a colonel, basically, saying that we do not have enough people. We do not have enough trained troops anymore. We’re losing our best people. We are not getting all that’s being promised by you all in the west in time for right now. How — have you  heard this? And how alarmed does that make you feel?

KALLAS: That is frustrating and we have heard that as well. And that’s why some weeks ago I made the proposal on the European level to do this, you know, use this same mechanism as we did with the vaccines that we provide the funds and European Commission will directly procure the ammunition. So, that the defense industry could also boost their production.

What is the problem is that, you know, the military industry in Russia is working in three shifts, whereas the defense industry in Europe has not  boosted its production. And they have to do that. If you talk to the defense industry, as I have done, they say, we don’t have orders. Although, you know, everybody’s pledging on increasing the defense expenditure and also sending arms and ammunition to Ukraine. So, I was just thinking how to boost that and get that ammunition and equipment to Ukraine as fast as possible because the price goes up with every delay.

AMANPOUR: So, are you — you know, we’ve all been hearing about a much- wanted Ukrainian counteroffensive. From what you know, do you believe they’re in a position to be able to wage that? And if they don’t, what does that mean for the course of this war?

KALLAS: We have to look at the Russian side, and the Russian army’s not happy at all as well. So, I think there are two sides. On one side is Ukraine and we have to help them as much as we can, as fast as we can. But on the other side, there is also, you know, Russia and the parts there how the armies feeling there. And they are not happy either with their equipment, with their, you know, ways that they are treated. But definitely, it is critical that Ukraine does not lose the spirit and the force to defend themselves.

AMANPOUR: And how do you propose to change that? Look, I’ve heard you quoted as saying that even now many in Europe are still not there yet when it comes to understanding that you have to confront Putin, as you view it in your, you know, frontline state. You’ve said that you are concerned that a, sort of, maybe a sort of an atmosphere of appeasement is settling over the alliance now. Is that correct? Is that what you’re worried about?

KALLAS: I am worried about this. And not on the leaders’ level, but I’m also reading the media in different countries, which are allied countries.

And I hear the moods that are there. And there is the fatigue with the war, that is understandable. There are worries like high inflation and other domestic problems kicking in everywhere. And it is a bit coming from here and there that, you know, let’s just do something to stop this war.

But the question is what is stopping this war, really? So, if we just say to Ukraine that, you know, sit down and agree, give some territories away, and then we have peace and we can go on continuing our business as usual, then the outcome is that we don’t have a peace that is lasting. We might have a peace or a truce for two years or four years but then it will continue in a much broader scale. And that is a threat to the European security architecture.

The other possibilities to really give everything to Ukraine. That they can defend themselves. That they can also defend the U.N. Charter that says that every country has the right, you know, sovereign right to exist and also defend itself. So — that we will be by this. We will really be united behind Ukraine, and Russia gets the message that you can’t win this war. And the war will stop when the Russia understands that it is a mistake and they will back off, like they did with Afghanistan, for example.

AMANPOUR: Yes. So, let me play — I’m sure you agree with the foreign minister from a neighboring Lithuania who spoke to me from Washington. He was trying to say the same thing that you are saying to Secretary of State and in Congress.


And this is what he said about rising thoughts about negotiations.

GABRIELIUS LANDSBERGIS, LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: If somebody suggests that we should be negotiating with Putin, and I think, how do we reconcile that with the idea of a special tribunal? You cannot have both. You cannot have somebody who is actually guilty for act of aggression, for ordering his generals and troops committed war crimes and then sitting at the same table to negotiate, you know, ceasefire or seizing territories. You have to decide.

AMANPOUR: Your commentary?

KALLAS: I agree. That’s why we’ve been pushing for the accountability, really. I mean, when we look at how we can cut this historical cycle that Russia will attack its neighbors then it is the question of accountability, really. And of course, when we are putting together the tribunals to process and prosecute the crimes of aggression and the war crimes, then it is clear that, you know, you can’t sit down with the criminals, the war criminals or the criminals that have really put-up genocide and the war of aggression, really. So, this is true.

But to cut this historical cycle, accountability is a key. And not the hybrid tribunal that will leave out Putin and Lavrov or the leaders of Russia. But actual tribunal to prosecute the crimes of aggression which is a leadership crime. Because without this leadership crime, there wouldn’t be any more crimes either.

And when we look at the history again, Germany, for example, one of the effects of Nuremberg (ph) tribunal was that the German people got to know about the crimes that were committed by the Nazis and the whole world, as well, condemned the crimes of the Nazis. That was never the case for the communist crimes that were committed here or in Ukraine by the Russians.

AMANPOUR: And of course, you talk about the historic and illegal annexation of parts of Estonia by the Soviet Union way back when. I want to, again, ask you, again, you know, Foreign Minister Landsbergis was in the United States. And this is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Fox News, of course, he’s probably heading, he hasn’t fully declared yet, for a presidential bid. And this is what he saying, while the U.S. has many vital national interests, becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them.

He has previously called Zelenskyy an anti-hero. And you know what’s going on in the right wing of the Republican Party. Does this concern you or is that just electioneering?

KALLAS: Of course, it concerns us because what we are talking about here is the rules based international order. We have agreed, all the countries that are members of the United Nations. There is the U.N. Charter and the United Nations was put together in order to have peace in the world. And in that charter, there are rules that, you know, you can’t — you cannot attack another country. And if you do, there should be a punishment as well.

If we say that, you know, let’s look away and this is nothing, then the aggression really pays off. And all the aggressors or would be aggressors

in the world are watching very carefully and taking notes how we deal with Russia in this case. Because, you know, if aggression pays off, then, you know, there is — there are no limits. And that is also the threat to international rule space order but also security because, you know, we have to think about completely discrediting the tool of aggression as a policy tool. It can’t — it has to have a higher price than not to attack another country.

AMANPOUR: And I’m really interested — I’m really internalizing what you said. You have to break the historical cycle of Russian invasion and aggression. So, you know, what you are saying seems to be proven right because Russia is still, even now, trying to weaken democracies on its borders. This past Sunday, police in Moldova have arrested men with ties to Russia who were trying to whip-up antigovernment statement — sentiment against the government of, obviously, the pro-EU President, Maia Sandu.

This is what the White House said, as Moldova continues to integrate with Europe, we believe Russia is pursuing options to weaken the Moldovan government, probably with the eventual goal of seeing a more Russian friendly administration in the capital. Do you agree with that and isn’t that the answer to Ron DeSantis?


KALLAS: Yes, exactly. What is Russia afraid of is democracy is expanding. Not — he’s — I mean, Russia is not afraid that somebody is actually attacking them military — I mean, their territory or trying to you know, get a piece of their territory. Nobody has plans to do that and nobody has said anything about this.

But what Russia is afraid is democracy. And because in democracy, you are held accountable for your decisions. When you start a war, you have soldiers’ mothers on the streets demonstrating. And you can’t do these things that will cement your power the way it is done in autocracies. And that’s why — I mean, Russian Kremlin are very much interested in this democracy European values not going anyway further because then they might also reach Russia. And that is already a threat to the powers of Kremlin and Putin.

AMANPOUR: And finally, then, in trying to get an end to this, do you have any faith and President Xi Jinping and China who plans to visit Moscow, apparently, next week and then to talk to President Zelenskyy, I guess via remote. What do you hope would be the outcome?

KALLAS: Well, first of all, I hope that China, who’s also part of U.N., United Nations, and has agreed to the United Nations Charter, also accepts and respects the principles of that Charter. And that is that in this war, there’s one aggressor and one victim. One has not done anything to cause this really.

So, it can’t be that if you preach the U.N. Charter, if you attack another country, you walk away free and you walk away with actually more territories. I think this is also important for China that they are part of the International Community and also respecting the rule of law, the international rules-based order that is there in the world. So, I hope that they understand what is at stake here.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, thank you so much indeed for joining us.

KALLAS: Thank you.