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‘We told you so!’ How the West does not listen to the countries that know Russia best. – POLITICO

VILNIUS – For years, Western Europeans have weeded out politicians from Poland and the Baltic states every time they sounded the alarm about the expansionist threat posed by Russian President Putin.

They now realize that they should have listened to countries with far greater knowledge of the Kremlin and a bitter historical memory of the violence Moscow was willing to inflict in pursuit of its goals. me.

Instead, the West has taken the path of political and commercial appeasement of Putin, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has now counter-attacked with its invasion of Ukraine, bombarding its cities. and mass migration.

Radosław Sikorski, Poland’s former foreign minister, said: “Western Europeans have supported and patronized us for the past 30 years. “For several years [they] defended us about our attitude: “Oh, you know, those overly nervous, overly sensitive Central Europeans are prejudiced against Russia.”

Resurrectionists say they hit a brick wall as they plead for increased NATO deployments, draw attention to cyberattacks and urge Germany not to let the EU be captured. held hostage by giant pipelines that pump gas straight into Germany. The outspoken, tenacious Sikorski, then Minister of Defense, sparked outrage in fragile diplomatic circles in 2006 when he dared to compare Russia’s Nord Stream gas pipeline project to Germany’s. ignore Poland, with the divisive 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Poland between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

Polish and Baltic leaders see Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea as a definite threshold signaling that Putin needs to stop it with a real show of force from the West, or else he will continue. Hit more targets. However, during fruitless meetings in Brussels, Polish and Baltic diplomats found that much of the European Union was reluctant to impose heavy sanctions on Moscow despite its invade an EU ally. The anti-Putin group fiercely called the Italian-led opposition to the sanctions the “Club Med” group.

Their wariness toward Moscow has centuries-old roots.

Poland lost its independence in the 18th century to a coalition of Russian-led attackers, fought Russia in two bloody and failed uprisings in the 19th century, and won a stunning victory over the Soviet Union. Communist Soviet Union in 1920. Soviet revenge in 1939, taking over half of Poland and bloody punishment, execution of 20,000 prisoners of war and deportation of hundreds of thousands of civilians before making Poland post-apocalyptic suffered four decades of Communist dictatorship.

The Baltic states enjoyed two decades of independence between the wars before being annexed by the Soviet Union. Thousands of people were murdered and many more were deported deep into the Soviet Union. Their countries were colonized by Russian settlers, and they barely survived to regain their independence after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Russia’s most recent cycle of aggression has many roots in 2007. That year, Putin delivered a speech at the Munich Security Conference, laying the basis for many of the decisions that followed. In his speech, he criticized the US for creating a unipolar world “in which there is one master, one sovereign”, criticizing NATO’s eastward expansion and challenging the post-Cold War order in Asia. Europe.

Sikorski, who became Poland’s top diplomat the same year, began demanding more NATO forces in his country. After all, Germany has 35,000 American troops stationed there, and further efforts to rebalance power in the face of Russia’s military modernization campaigns seem to make sense.

Not everyone in NATO thought so at the time.

“When I ask on many occasions that our membership in NATO be done by physical presence – and I ask only for two brigades, which is 10,000 US troops – this is taken as is outrageous. Germany in particular, but so did others, surrounded for the first time in history by exclusively friendly nations. And they don’t feel our pain as a side country, on the edge of a world of democracy, the rule of law and security,” Sikorski said.

‘You don’t know anything’

Estonians remember another episode from 2007.

In April, the computer servers of the Baltic nation were affected by a large wave of DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks on public and private websites, essentially shutting down the entire country. digital for weeks. According to the defense minister at the time, nearly a million “zombie” computers were deployed shortly after the plan to move the Soviet “Estonia Liberators Monument” out of the city center of Tallinn.

While the Russian government has repeatedly denied involvement in the cyber attacks, Estonia remains unconvinced. But what was even more shocking to the officials in Tallinn was that they still did not follow through when they presented their case to the NATO nations.

“We’ve been told by some of our NATO allies in Europe, ‘Oh, you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re just Russophobic’ – and this comes at a time this by people who don’t know computers from a toaster while we were then part of the most advanced digital equipment [country] in Europe,” said Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the president of Estonia at the time of the cyberattacks. He was born in Sweden after his parents fled the Soviet occupation. Finally, NATO conducted an internal review

For linguistic and historical reasons – as well as a pure fear of transboundary danger – the Baltic states often have excellent intelligence and analysis on Russian activities, but can be ignored. ignore. Rihard Kols, chair of the Latvian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said Riga had joined NATO in warning about Russia’s ambitions ahead of the 2008 invasion of Georgia.

But Kols said he often finds it difficult to convince his Western counterparts of how dangerous Putin is.

“Overall, the Baltics have warned our colleagues in the West to be wary and not fall into naivety based on wishful thinking. The constant willingness to restart relations with Russia, regardless of its violations, is unfortunately what has brought us to this day,” he said.

The United States, under the administration of Barack Obama, also chose to “reset” with Russia in 2009. The gesture famously began to malfunction when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov with a large colored button. red, but with the wrong Russian word written on it.

Regardless of how bad the Russians were, it was a decision that Ilves called “catastrophic”.

One European leader who always “surprises” him is Merkel. She’s been raised behind the Iron Curtain, but it’s a mystery as to whether she really grasps the risk. “Privately,” said Ilves, “she seemed to have little illusions, but I guess she saw it publicly, which is what she needed to do. Or is she telling me things that she doesn’t believe, I don’t know. I can not tell. ”

Now, everyone’s eyes are open to the true nature of Putin.

“As of February 24, there was a powerful revolution and all of this. But it really takes an invasion, a brutal invasion of Ukraine to make people sit up. With their previous behavior, with their invasion of Crimea and invasion of Georgia… but now, this, I guess, has gone beyond their response,” Ilves continued.

Unity is at stake

In August 2014, several months after Russia annexed Crimea, EU foreign ministers heatedly debated how far to go to punish the Kremlin. The Baltic states, as usual, sided with Poland, Great Britain and Sweden in calling for tougher sanctions. The opposition comes from the former communist countries of Hungary and Slovakia – both run by pro-Kremlin populists.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said: “The policy of sanctions pursued by the West … harms us more than Russia. “In politics, this is called shooting yourself in the foot.”

The then Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius responded by saying that he would rather shoot himself in the foot than have himself shot in the head. The message was clear. If Putin is allowed to leave Crimea, he will continue his war of expansion.

In an interview in Vilnius, Linkevičius lamented the West’s lack of action over the past 15 years to deal with Putin’s expansionism. He recalled the 2008 NATO Russia Council meeting in Romania, where Putin described Ukraine as “an artificial construction”. This term goes unnoticed. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister before becoming NATO secretary general, responded to Putin by saying that this is not the way to talk about partners.

Linkevičius said: “Putin means what he says. “And now to pretend that we are surprised that something [went] wrong, it’s too much”.

When Putin’s troops gathered around Ukraine a month ago, French President Emmanuel Macron was among the leaders of Western Europe who flew to Moscow to try to talk to Putin.

Linkevičius was not impressed. “This is like psychotherapy. All this talk so far has been an illusion.”

He stressed that the West is not responsible for what is happening in Ukraine today, because it is entirely Russia’s own doing. However, he said, if “those who had the opportunity to do something in time, didn’t [do anything]they have to share the responsibility”.

Ilves says the war currently raging in Ukraine should teach Western Europe a lesson: “Don’t implement Russian policy without consulting people who know more about Russia than you do. Don’t rely on people who have been trained as diplomats but have no real understanding of Russian behavior patterns.”

Cristina Gallardo contributed reporting

https://www.politico.eu/article/western-europe-listen-to-the-baltic-countries-that-know-russia-best-ukraine-poland/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication 'We told you so!' How the West does not listen to the countries that know Russia best. - POLITICO

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