The Netherlands, Germany and Italy block a European project to help Ukraine’s military training. This is a modest project with an essentially symbolic value: a few instructors in a military academy in Ukraine. But in light of growing tensions with Russia, The Hague, Berlin and Rome find even that too provocative.
It’s amazing what Russian President Putin is able to do with a swollen throat. He roars, threatens, sends a hundred thousand men along the Ukrainian border. Meanwhile, “someone” mysteriously cuts the undersea data cables between NATO country Norway and Spitsbergen, and just as mysteriously, a quarter less Russian gas is entering European reservoirs – and There you go, he has us where he wants us: trembling in the highest tree.
If we want Putin to stop his bluffs and military threats, we must first examine our own behavior. And adjust that. Europe should not be so caught up in the curtains.
Putin has been saying for years that NATO is “surrounding” Russia. Bruno Maçaes, Portugal’s former minister for European Affairs, recently posted a map of Russia and its neighbors on Twitter. cynical legend“I didn’t know that NATO surrounded Russia like that. NATO borders marked in red. At the top left you see a small red line: border with Norway. Below is a red line: borders with Estonia and Latvia. Then there is Kaliningrad’s border with Poland and Lithuania. The sharpener can blame Maçaes for having forgotten a line at the very top right, where Russian waters border America. Judge for yourself, is it encircling?
No. Putin’s problem lies elsewhere. Russia was a great power under the tsars and the Soviets. Since then, it has only gone downhill. This is largely his own responsibility. The whole of the former eastern bloc ran west at the first opportunity, in 1989, and joined NATO as soon as possible and then the EU as soon as possible. Russian occupation? Never again. Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia and other former Soviet countries wanted to do the same. Russia abruptly put an end to it. It worked. But the more Putin threatens, the more anti-Russian they become.
Putin managed to twist it so it looks like we are the aggressors
It has nothing to do with EU or NATO expansionism. The EU is fed up with enlargement. Even the Balkan countries that are ready are no longer allowed to enter and are disappointed with Putin’s cart. And until recently, NATO hardly knew what it was for. The United States has only seen Chinese bears on the road, President Macron has called the alliance “brain dead”. But suddenly, just because of Putin and his threats, there’s a lot of Euro-American consultation again. Everyone calls everyone. The Americans are breaking down the European doors. In Geneva. In Vienna. In Brussels. Finland and Sweden are talking again about joining NATO – normally the elephant in their room. Even Hungary, which this week was the only EU country to declare solidarity with Kazakhstan, resisted (under US pressure) Putin’s demands to revise NATO’s statutes and stop expansion.
Putin has scored well in recent weeks. He scared Ukraine and the West into looking weaker than ever. And he managed to make it look like we’re the aggressors, not him. While we don’t even dare to send a few instructors to Ukraine. cheers.
It must be different. We need to stay calm – not this nervous wavering. Continue to support Ukraine, as before. Make it clear that Ukraine got rid of its nuclear weapons in 1994 in exchange for explicit promises from Russia not to invade the country and that Putin is breaking the agreements, not us. Demand that he withdraw his troops. And stop with this constant whining that “Europe is not heard”.
Finally, if Putin stops threatening and sabotaging, he may be able to have a one-on-one with the Americans. Only as a reward.
Caroline de Gruyter writes weekly on politics and Europe.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on January 15, 2022
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of January 15, 2022