The Estonian prime minister called on NATO allies to uphold the alliance’s standards for producing ammunition and weapons for their own defense and partners’ security and to speed deliveries to Ukraine in its struggle with Russia.
Speaking Tuesday at an Atlantic Council security event, Kaja Kallas said the European Union, NATO countries and the United States “are very technologically advanced, we can use this” standardization to keep up with Ukrainian arms and ammunition needs and rebuild national stockpiles.
The situation now, she added, often comes down to having to “tweak” arms like 155-mm shells before they can be fired from artillery pieces because the munitions and tubes were manufactured to different standards.
She pointed out holding to standards proved vital in speeding development and sending medicines to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. That same principle should be used in defense manufacturing.
Kallas said the 50 “Ramstein nations” supporting Ukraine have 13 times the gross domestic product (GDP) of Russia. “There should be no doubt who had the resources” to prevail in a long war. Ramstein nations is a reference to the countries that usually meet monthly at the airbase in Germany under U.S. sponsorship to discuss ways and means to assist Ukraine.
Pressure from sanctions imposed by the EU, the United States and other nations backing Ukraine must continue “to dry up the Kremlin’s resources.”
“Russia understands quantity” assists quality in a war of attrition, said Kallas, who has been prime minister of the Baltic nation since 2021. Moscow’s industrial base “is gearing up” for a long conflict in Ukraine.
She said the EU must step up its defense spending; member nations must rebuild their defense industrial bases and continue to support Kyiv with military and economic aid. Kallas pointed to Estonia’s spending 3 percent of its GDP on security, above NATO’s minimum of 2%. In addition, she said Estonia has committed to spending 1 percent of its GDP to support Ukraine on the battlefield and homefront.
Kallas agreed with the defense industry that “pledges are not orders” that would allow those manufacturers to ramp up production and modernize facilities.
“There’s a lot of room where we can move faster,” she said. Kallas suggested that one avenue to speed production, cut costs and standardize could come through regional buys, as Estonia and Latvia are now doing to upgrade air defenses.
“What we are seeing in Ukraine is the playbook of aggressors,” she said. In 2014, when the Russians seized control of Crimea and sent arms, ammunition and support forces to separatists in Ukraine’s eastern provinces, they saw “aggression pays off,” Kallas said. Citing the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and Hamas’ strike against Israel and its response Oct. 7, she added, “conventional warfare is not going to fade away.”
Looking ahead to the U.S. 2024 presidential election , she said, “elections are always turbulent times.” Kallas added, “Russia is waiting for that [time] when there are lots of tensions” it can exploit. In the end because the U.S. and Estonia are democracies, “we have to work with the leaders you elect.”