🇪🇪 Why is Kaja Kallas currently European Union's toughest politician?
The history of the Soviet Union has shaped Kaja Kallas' family history.
Her mother Kristi, six months old at the time, was deported to Siberia with her mother and grandmother in a cattle car and lived there until she was ten years old. This was during the Soviet deportations from Estonia, a series of mass deportations by the Soviet Union in 1941 and from 1945 to 1951 with Moscow's effort to wipe out Estonia's elite.
Maybe that is why Kaja Kallas was one of the first European politicians to try to prevent Ukraine from being erased from the map.
In January 2022, before Russia invaded Ukraine, Kallas committed Estonia to donate the artillery equipment "Howitzers" to Ukraine to assist in its defence against a possible invasion. When Germany delayed approval (the Howitzers were originally purchased from Germany), Estonia sent American-made Javelin anti-tank missiles instead in the first weeks of February 2022.
By April 2022, 0.8 per cent of Estonia's GDP per capita in military equipment had been handed over to Ukraine. No country in the world has achieved more in comparison.
"New Statesman", a British political and cultural magazine, lately called Kaja Kallas "Europe's New Iron Lady".
Kallas' career began at the Estonian University of Tartu, where, in 1999, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in law. She then lived in France and Finland briefly while training in European law. From 2007, she attended the Estonian Business School, earning an EMBA (Executive Master of Business Administration) in economics in 2010.
In the same year, Kallas decided to pursue a political career. She joined the Estonian Reform Party, which her prominent father, Siim Kallas, had founded (he was prime minister of Estonia from 2002 to 2003).
From 2015 to 2018, Kallas was a member of the European Parliament. And in January 2018, after the leader of the Reform Party had announced that he would no longer run for the party leadership, she took over. She became the first female leader of a major political party in Estonia.
Her last career step so far: On 25 January 2021, after the resignation of Jüri Ratas as prime minister following a scandal, Kallas formed a Reform-led coalition government with the Centre Party, making her the first female prime minister in Estonia's history.
Kallas had a tough first year as prime minister.
The global energy crisis also disrupted the Estonian economy. Businesses were forced to temporarily shut down, while the public requested government aid to pay for the high electricity and heating prices. But Kallas initially resisted calls for government aid, suggesting instead that the government should search for long-term solutions rather than handing out government benefits. She also argued that a free market should not require consistent government intervention to keep people afloat.
Then came the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Which further exacerbated the energy crisis. In April, the government announced that Estonia will stop importing Russian gas by the end of 2022. Liquified natural gas (LNG) storage capacity in the form of a floating terminal shall be created in Northern Estonia in the fall.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine also has brought Estonia and Kaja Kalla onto the world stage.
As a result of the history of her country and of her family, she has her own perspective on the war. She says phrases like: "Peace can't be the ultimate goal." That may sound strange. But it becomes understandable through her experience. "We had peace after the Second World War," she is quoted in the NYT, "but the atrocities for our people started or continued then," when mass deportations and killings of the elite should erase Estonia's culture and language. In the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine, "we will see all of this, so a peace that allows aggression to pay off," while the threat remains of more conflict down the road, is unacceptable, she said.
What the people of Estonia had to experience should not happen to the Ukrainians.
This drives Kaja Kallas.
And this is why Estonia was one of the first countries to provide military support to Ukraine. And it may continue to do so until Russia is completely expelled from Ukraine territory.