The fact is that Russian President Putin‘s escalation in Ukraine cannot go unanswered, says Prime Minister Rutte in response to Putin’s recognition of Donetsk and Lugansk people‘s republics last night. This means that sanctions are being taken anyway. If there is a Russian invasion into Ukraine, which Rutte says is now being picked out, that sanction package becomes heavier.
“This is a direct violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” said Rutte. “That‘s an escalation.” The Prime Minister says there is intense international consultations on the precise sanctions that are now going to be taken. More about this will become clear in the coming hours or days. “That’s what they‘re going to feel, I can assure you,” he says.
Furthermore, according to Rutte, there are still “all kinds of unconfirmed reports” about a military invasion by the Russians in Ukraine. He emphasizes that it is important to first know for sure what exactly is going on, and to align the sanctions package accordingly. “The Russians know what we can do and they’re really concerned about it.”
‘Russia used to sanctions’
From Russia, earlier today, there was already a response to the upcoming sanctions and there was not much to hear about the concerns that Rutte says. Foreign Minister Lavrov said that sanctions were already expected and the country is used to sanctions by now.
“Our European, American and British colleagues will not stop until they have exhausted all the possibilities for their so-called ‘punishment for Russia’. They are already threatening us with all kinds of sanctions, or – as they call it now – the mother of all sanctions,” says Lavrov. “We know that sanctions are imposed anyway. With or for no reason.”
Whether a military invasion is underway or not, the consequences of the Russian escalation are significant, according to Rutte. According to Rutte, the recognition of the people‘s republics alone touches on stability “in our part of the world”. “A military move would be even more serious. There must be stability in this part of the world, and this is not good news for the economy either.”
The Prime Minister also denounces what the Kremlin’s move means for the diplomatic process that has been going on for years. “In fact, this is Putin‘s blowing up the Minsk accords,” says Rutte, referring to the agreements with which, under the leadership of France and Germany, agreed between Ukraine and Russia in 2014 and 2015 on Donetsk and Lugansk status.
recent weeks, French President Macron, currently President of the European Union, has been trying to revive these agreements in order to re-escalate the conflict at the border. “Scholz and Macron’s many work has not been appreciated by the Russians as it should have. This comes down to the side laying. It‘s serious,” says Rutte.
‘Massive retaliation with sanctions‘
Speaking with journalists, Rutte went on to say that it is not obvious to send soldiers to Ukraine, because that country is not a member of NATO and Article 5 of the NATO Convention (an attack on one Member State is seen as an attack on all Member States) does not take effect. However, he sees opportunities to assist Ukraine in other ways, for example by supplying training and goods. On Friday, the cabinet announced arms deliveries to Ukraine.
Last night, Prime Minister Rutte briefly responded to the developments in Ukraine at talk show Jinek. Before leaving the studio, he called Putin “of course total paranoia”. He said he feared a raid in the Donbas region and said that such a move should lead to a “massive retaliation with sanctions”, so retaliation in the form a heavy package of sanctions to Putin and his supporters.
Last night it became clear that Rutte consulted with German Chancellor Scholz and EC President Von der Leyen in the evening, in addition to discussions with ministers Hoekstra of Foreign Affairs and Ollongren of Defence. The estimate then was that Rutte’s response would depend on what the “peacekeeping mission” – as Putin calls the troop stakes – would mean in practice.