Words and deeds. How the Dutch government handles the Ukraine referendum result

On 15 December last a meeting of the European Council (the heads of state and government of the EU) was moved by Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte to add an appendix to its final communiqué concerning the outcome of the Dutch referendum on the EU Association Treaty with Ukraine on 6 April. Intended to do justice to the two-thirds majority against ratifying that treaty and in spite of the commitment of the Labour Party (in the Grand Coalition with Rutte's liberals) to honour the outcome of the (formally, advisory) referendum, what Rutte brought home was an empty bag. 

The Dutch LibLab government's deeds on the other hand leave no doubt as to how it interprets the concerns of the Dutch voters (also those who stayed at home) that the anti-Russian government of corrupt Ukraine may drag us into a major European war. Since a few days it has opened the military storage facility at Eygelshoven (in the southernmost province of Limburg) for an influx of 1,600 tanks and armoured vehicles shipped from the United States. As Dutch army commander Tom Middendorp declared, 'We want to make sure we are sending a clear signal to Russia that we will not accept any violation of NATO’s territorial integrity.'

The appendix to the European Council communiqué stresses that the Association agreement with Ukraine aims at close and enduring relations, but that this particular document does not convey aspirant membership status (item A). It never conveyed that status, so no news here. It also repeats the agreed security cooperation, short of a commitment to military assistance—that is, no obligation (B). Again, old hat. Mobility of Ukrainians is encouraged, but it is up to the member states to decide how many of them will be allowed in to work (C). And then of course, continuing 'reform' (D) , fight against corruption (under Poroshenko! E), and democracy and human rights (F).

One has to read it again to see what Rutte actually brought back that is new. Nothing, actually. It was never in the Association agreement that Ukraine was awarded candidate membership, neither was there a commitment to military assistance. So it is all words, empty words, a brutal insult to those concerned about the provocative extension of EU and NATO influence into the historic heartland of Russian civilisation.

And now the deeds.

The security situation in Europe is entering an acutely dangerous stage now that the Obama administration appears poised to create as many flash points as possible before Trump takes over. People still laughed when Angela Merkel advised German households to store provisions for ten days, without specifying why. Last week the Swedish government wrote to all municipalities to prepare for war; obviously no laughing matter any more. Aren't there politicians who express concern about NATO aggressiveness then? Well, usually not for long. The German foreign minister, F.-W. Steinmeier, soon after complaining about the alliance's 'sabre-rattling', apparently decided he rather be president of the Federal Republic (a purely ceremonial office). He will be succeeded by the sabre-rattling Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament. (One can also think back of UK foreign secretary Jack Straw, who soon after declaring Britain would not also invade Iran, developed an irresistible urge to become speaker of the House of Commons).

And now the Dutch government has signalled its subservience to the NATO war party by allowing the US to begin moving 1,600 armoured vehicles to storage in the southern Netherlands, next to the German border.

Abrams Tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Paladin artillery have already started arriving under a $3.4 billion Congress-approved scheme to increase NATO military preparedness in Europe. Storage sites are also planned to be reopened in Poland, Belgium and Germany.

Eygelshoven was opened in 1985 to prepare for a Soviet attack. That was the year Gorbachev took over in the USSR and began, as we can now see, the process that against his intentions, led to the capitulation which in turn has brought NATO to the Russian border. The Dutch army commander cited above indeed states, 'When visiting the Baltic states, … near the Russian border, you could feel the tense atmosphere'.

Yes, what else can you expect? What if the Russians stood near Eygelshoven?

And isn't this the key to explaining the situation: When West-Germany in 1985 sensed that there was an opportunity to trade reunification with East-Germany with a conciliatory government in Moscow, the US stepped up preparations to resist a 'Soviet invasion'.

Now that a maverick US presiden, about whom we should not have any illusions in any other field, may be on the verge of switching to a businesslike approach to Russia, appointing an Exxon executive as secretary of state, the 'Russian threat' becomes acute again.

The government of the Netherlands has given Washington its consent to a dangerous stepping up of the preparation for war in Europe. Those are its deeds.

It has also presented the meaningless appendix on Ukraine to the European Council communiqué as a sign it takes the Dutch voters serious. But those are just words.

It is time this government is held to account for what it actually does.

Kees van der Pijl

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