The morning hours of 24 February 2022 were a watershed moment in European history. Russia’s attack had no precedent since World War II. A year later Russia’s brutal war of aggression is still raging against Ukraine. A sovereign country is being destroyed, its people being killed and made homeless. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has made it clear that there are no signs of President Putin preparing for peace. On the contrary, he is preparing for more war, for new offensives and new attacks.
The fight that Ukraine is fighting, is also a fight for Europe. What is under attack is nothing less than our freedom and our way of life.
Much has been done, but much more is needed.
Last week, a broad majority of the Norwegian parliament, the Storting, launched a support program for Ukraine of unprecedented proportions. The program has been named after Nobel Peace Prize laureate Fridtjof Nansen, in commemoration of his outstanding humanitarian efforts in Ukraine a hundred years ago. The program has a total scope of NOK 75 billion (EUR 7 billion) and encompasses military support for Ukraine’s self-defense, short-term civilian humanitarian aid and funding to support the reconstruction of Ukrainian society.
We are thinking long term. The support program will extend over five years, from 2023 to 2027. In the first year, roughly half of the donations will be in the form of military equipment. In successive years, the nature of the donations will depend on the developments on the ground.
Furthermore, we are thinking globally. This war affects all countries. Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is an assault on the very legal order on which international relations are built. If Russia succeeds in Ukraine, the message to aggressive states all over the world will be that aggression pays off and rules do not apply. This is dangerous for small countries like Norway and Estonia, but it is also a potential danger for countries with aggressive neighbors on other continents.
We need to support countries in the Global South and show them that this is not solely Ukraine’s or Europe’s war. In addition to the support package for Ukraine, Norway has added an allocation of NOK 5 billion for developing countries in the Global South that are particularly severely affected by the ramifications of the war. This is about the rights of all smaller countries and their sovereign right to defend themselves against aggression, be they European, African, or Asian. For small countries, international law is our first line of defense. Our security, prosperity and freedom all rest on a rules-based order.
Therefore, Ukraine’s battle is our battle and Ukraine’s freedom is inextricably linked to our own. Both Norway and Estonia share borders with Russia. As allies we are prepared to defend each other if need be. And right now, defending ourselves and each other mean defending the world order by helping Ukraine defend itself.
On 24 February, Estonia will celebrate the independence that was declared in 1918. We remember Estonia’s fight for that independence. At the same time, we will honor the courage and bravery of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters and pledge to help them ensure the same freedom for their country.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen’s presence on this special day in Estonia is a clear signal that both institutions are committed to standing up for freedom, independence and prosperity in Europe, in Ukraine, in Estonia and beyond.
We cannot allow ourselves to be complacent. The Russian war machine is churning on, and we must make good on our pledge to stay with Ukraine for the long haul. Norway’s 5-year package is one step in that direction, but much more is needed from all of us.
Estonia has been at the forefront of offering support to Ukraine. The Estonian government has provided military equipment and civilian support at an unprecedented rate. Equally important, Estonia has deployed all its political energy and moral force into leveraging support to Ukraine from other countries and increasing the cost of Russia’s aggression by leading the quest for sanctioning and isolating Russia on the international scene, from the UN to international sports. Estonia has shown real leadership in Europe and acted as a beacon of moral courage in the face of Russia’s ruthless aggression.
The war has brought us - Estonia, Norway, and the broader international community – closer together. We have worked together and coordinated our support to Ukraine. We have been able to implement jointly the strongest sanctions ever seen against Russia. One example is that Estonia, the Netherlands, and Norway, acting jointly, recently donated a military field hospital to Ukraine, strengthening cooperation between our countries, and bolstering Ukraine’s ability to care for its wounded soldiers.
Together, we must defend and celebrate the freedom and democracy that we have. Together, we must help Ukraine defend that same freedom. Congratulations Estonia, and Slava Ukraini!