The time really has come for Europe to take action against Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the Dutch former Secretary-General of NATO Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. “The Union’s credibility is at stake here,” he says in an interview with New Year‘s Eve.
“We are not used to leading as Europe, but it really must be made clear to Putin now that he cannot do this sort of thing with impunity
De Hoop Scheffer refers to the poisoning of the Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny. Moscow denies any involvement, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among others, sees a link.
“He had to be silenced,” Merkel said. She and the French President, Emmanuel Macron, asked Putin for an explanation.
However, in addition to strong words, will there also be sanctions against Russia, such as stopping the Nord Stream 2 project, the gas pipeline between Russia and Germany? That is complicated.
“The EU has a problem,” said De Hoop Scheffer. “In such a crisis, it was always the Americans who acted. The Americans brought world leaders together and looked at what sanctions we were going to impose. We became addicted to American leadership. We have to get rid of that as Europeans, because Trump does not want anything negative with Putin’
Hope Scheffer believes that the EU should fill the vacuum left by the United States on the world stage. “In principle, Angela Merkel could do that. But she sits, and we sit, with a divided Europe. In Italy or Hungary you hear something completely different about Russia than in Poland or the Baltic States’
Putin called the end of the Soviet Union a disaster’
If Europe is to get something done, Merkel Macron must be brought along. He recently showed that he wants closer relations with Russia, but “he doesn‘t say that after Navalny and Belarus either”, says De Hoop Scheffer.
In Belarus, also called Belarus by its people, demonstrators have been demonstrating for weeks against President Aleksandr Lukashenko. The opposition, as well as the European Union and the United States, are convinced that he won the recent elections only through fraud.
Putin acknowledged the election results immediately. He later helped Lukashenko by saying that he had a police force on hand to intervene in Belarus if necessary.
At a meeting between the two Presidents today, Putin said that he supports Lukashenko and that the current crisis must be resolved without foreign interference. De Hoop Scheffer: ‘You saw Lukashenko sitting there as the little nephew with a notebook sitting next to Uncle Vladimir, writing down what he said
Putin cannot afford a freer Belarus‘
As Foreign Minister and Secretary-General of NATO, De Hoop met with Scheffer Putin on a regular basis. “In our talks, he called the demise of the Soviet Union the greatest geopolitical disaster of the twentieth century. And that for a leader of a country that lost many millions of civilians and soldiers in the Second World War. That is in his dna
The desire for a strong Russia is reflected in Putin’s decisions, according to De Hoop Scheffer. Putin wants to keep Belarus within Russia’s sphere of influence. “His interest is everywhere to prevent a change of authority. You see it in Syria, you see it in Georgia, you see it in Ukraine. Lukashenko may well be dismissed, but Putin decides who will sit there
De Hoop Scheffer sees a clear connection with the poisoning of Navalny. “Putin cannot afford a freer Belarus, nor can he afford Navalny. Navalny is doing what could lead in Russia to what is now threatening to happen in Belarus. Namely, that people want more freedom