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NATO member backs ‘boots on the ground’ in Ukraine

Estonia wants all options on the table, PM Kaja Kallas has said

Estonia is “not afraid” of Russia and thinks sending NATO ground troops to Ukraine ought to be under consideration, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has told Sky News in an interview aired on Wednesday. 

So far, only Estonia and Lithuania have expressed any enthusiasm for the idea of escalating NATO support to Kiev beyond deliveries of weapons, ammunition, and money. 

“We shouldn’t be afraid of our own power. Russia is saying this or that step is escalation, but defense is not escalation,” Kallas told Sky. “I’m saying we should have all options on the table. What more can we do in order to really help Ukraine win?”

Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron argued that the US-led bloc should not rule out sending troops to Ukraine, or any other options. Most members of the bloc have since distanced themselves from the idea – except two of the former Soviet Baltic republics. 

On Tuesday, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis urged NATO to “think outside the box.” Meanwhile, the country’s ambassador to Sweden, Linas Linkevicius, said the bloc would “neutralize” the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad if Moscow “dares to challenge NATO.”

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Kallas echoed those sentiments to Sky, arguing that Russia “wants to intimidate us” and make the West “refrain from the decisions that we would otherwise make to be advocates for supporting Ukraine, the Western unity, everything that really annoys them a great deal.”

“They want us to be afraid. And the only response is that we are not afraid. We act on what is right,” she told the UK outlet.

Estonia has a force of about 4,200 active-duty troops, which can theoretically be expanded into a wartime army of 43,000. [source] Ukraine suffered 125,000 casualties during the six months of its counteroffensive in 2023, according to Russian estimates. The government in Kiev has hidden or downplayed its losses, but President Vladimir Zelensky said in December that 500,000 more troops were needed at the front.

The US and its allies have sent over $200 billion worth of financial, military, and material aid to the Ukrainian government since the conflict with Russia escalated in February 2022, vowing to inflict a “strategic defeat” on Moscow while insisting they are not actually a party to the hostilities. 

Kiev has demanded ever more money, weapons, and ammunition – from anti-tank missiles to artillery, rocket launchers, air defense systems, tanks and most recently, advanced fighter jets. Russia has drawn a “red line” at the deployment of F-16 fighters, as they can be armed with nuclear bombs. NATO has persistently ignored Moscow’s previous warnings about the risk of a direct confrontation, however.

February 29, 2024 at 09:29PM

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