Op-ed by Ambassador Kristjan Prikk: helping Ukraine is morally right thing to do

Op-ed by Ambassador Kristjan Prikk in the Cleveland newspaper The Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com news portal

Ambassador Prikk will visit Cleveland this week for the induction of Erika Puussaar into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame, the first person of Estonian heritage to receive that honor. Ambassador wrote in a guest column of the Cleveland main news outlet The Plain Dealer on April 21 about the existential threat Russia will pose to other nations, including Estonia, if Ukraine’s allies don’t marshal the resources now to help Ukraine resist Russia’s aggression.

As a teenager in 1991, I witnessed my homeland Estonia to regain its independence after 51 years of Soviet occupation. This was made possible by the victory of the United States and its allies in the Cold War. Estonians are deeply grateful for America’s bipartisan, principled stand during the dark years of Soviet occupation. We are also grateful to the Estonian community in the US, most of whom come from the families who escaped the Soviet terror in 1944. They were firmly standing for restoration of Estonia´s freedom and independence. This week, I have the privilege to attend the induction ceremony of Ms. Erika Puussaar into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame. She will be the first person of Estonian heritage to receive this recognition, a highly valued expression of appreciation to the entire Estonian community.

Estonia, where I spent the first 14 years of my life, was proverbially in ruins after decades of oppression and Communist Party rule. Since then, my country has undergone a remarkable transformation. Today’s Estonia is known as the country of Skype where 99.5% of all public services are online; and that tops global rankings for freedom of press, rule of law, or lack of corruption. This miracle was made possible not only by the hard work of the Estonian people, but also by the support of our friends, especially the transatlantic framework for peace. The Baltic Sea countries have progressed from being recipients of American aid to countries that buy major U.S. capital goods, serve side by side with Americans around the world, and, as members of NATO, spend substantially on their defense.

Today all this progress is at risk. This is the reason I am using every opportunity to go to the states outside the Beltway with the message to American people: the Russian war against Ukraine threatens the existence of Ukraine. But not only. Putin has clearly indicated that his designs go beyond Ukraine and that he is intent on taking down the transatlantic security architecture that has kept war out of the NATO countries since WWII.

Estonians know all too well what the Russian imperialism means. Every Estonian family knows firsthand what happens when some of these campaigns succeed. We collectively have to help Ukraine to defeat the Russian military and push them back to Russia. That should not be a controversial proposal. Helping the victim of this horrible aggression is a morally right thing to do.

  • In 1994, Ukraine gave up world 3rd largest nuclear arsenal in exchange for security assurances from the US and other nuclear powers. If these assurances turn out empty, it will degrade the credibility of the signatories and create the risk of sudden global nuclear race.
  • Putin’s global sympathizers do take cues from Ukraine. Unless we help Ukraine to win, the message to other members of this anti-Western axis will be that you can get away with violation of every rule pertaining to international peace and security.
  • And finally, NATO will collectively be in very rough waters if Russia exits this war with territories that they did not legally possess in the past. Their rhetoric and military plans send a clear signal of the intent to continue the bloody expansion of Russian borders.

Estonia has a feasible plan to help Ukraine to victory. These steps should deliver Vladimir Putin the message that by every day he continues this war Russia will lose more in people, equipment, finances etc. Execution of this plan would require roughly 0.25% of GDP worth of military assistance annually from Ukraine’s supporters. It’s less than one day’s worth of GDP and thus a modest ask to avoid a wider war. If we fail in that goal, the costs may go up exponentially though. This is why we have to do the right thing and help Ukraine.