Estonian president in Munich: China overshadowing Russia

  • 2020-02-17
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Russia was hardly the main issue at the Munich Security Conference with China increasingly commanding attention, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, who participated in the forum over the weekend, told public broadcaster ERR. 

"It's not just Russia that were dealing with here," the president said, according to the English-language news portal of ERR.

"Every year, more and more business is being done with China. In fact, it is clear that the world has formed an opinion and we in Europe increasingly understand that there is a new global, major, unknown player... China," she added.

"In a way, Russia has become a regional risk which Europeans need to deal with on their own. And in that sense, French President Emmanuel Macron is right that Europe has to be able to speak to Russia from its own strong position. Indeed, [Russia] must be spoken to, but it has to be done from a strong position," the Estonian head of state said.

The president noted that while world leaders' positions differ with regard to how quickly relations with Russia can be normalized, the five principles the European Union agreed on at the start of the crisis in Ukraine should be adhered to in any case.

"There are different levels of optimism here and it is very important for us to be a part of these discussions -- that Estonia should participate in these discussions and disputes as one of the 27 [EU member states] involved in shaping our common European vision," Kaljulaid said.

Commenting on the Munich Security Conference's motto this year -- "Westlessness" -- the president said that Western states must in many aspects look inside themselves to locate the reasons for their current problems, such as the rise of the far-right political party Alternative for Germany (AfD).

"Many states are fighting -- we could put it this way -- their own inner demons; for instance, there is a debate here in Germany about whether AfD is a standard party or not. Many states are asking where they will end up with these political powers that are relying on their own media system and have broken away from the general political discussion. In that sense, I believe this was just the right place for this discussion, as we've been discussing for years here in Munich about Russia attempting to tear our societies apart, whereas today we may instead need to focus on what we ourselves are doing to our societies," Kaljulaid said.

"In this context, I fully support the theme of the conference picked by chair of the Munich Conference and [former German ambassador to the United States] Wolfgang Ischinger. I think the phrasing thereof comes very close; westlessness sounds about right -- we need to look into ourselves to find reasons to the issues we are struggling with today. In order to be strong together in the future, all of us. 'All together' is always the key phrase in Europe, just as [German President] Frank-Walter Steinmeier stressed yesterday," the president added.