Dutch Ambassador Calls for Accountability From Russia
WASHINGTON — Prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, went from a meeting with President Biden at the White House on Tuesday — where the Dutch leader said his country plans to join the U.S. and Germany’s efforts to train and arm Ukraine with advanced Patriot defense systems — to Georgetown University, where he followed up with a pledge to hold Russia accountable for its war crimes in Ukraine.
Before answering questions from students on topics ranging from military tribunals in the Hague to Chinese tech and economic concerns, Rutte joined Amy Mackinnon from Foreign Policy magazine in a conversation organized by the Atlantic Council about Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and the future of the TransAtlantic alliance.
He expressed a desire for peace talks with Russia, when Ukraine is ready, but insisted on accountability for any future relationship between the West and Russia.
“In real politic[al negotiations], there has to be something for everyone,” Rutte admitted, “but it’s so difficult for me to think about what gift we can give to Vladimir [Putin] so he will be less offended.”
The Netherlands, a founding member of NATO, plays a critical role in European affairs and the TransAtlantic partnership, and Rutte, one of the longest-serving statesmen in Europe, was keen to outline efforts to assist Ukraine that would not result in NATO boots on the ground or fighter jets, but still offer transatlantic cooperation and security.
“I’m impressed by what the world has been doing so far… and particularly the U.S.,” Rutte said. “But I’m really worried about the next two to three months. Anything we can do now… is crucial.”
“We have tried from the start to not start [a larger] war. Despite that, we have tried to do whatever we could and nudge others to give assistance… We all have to do more,” he argued for collective security.
“If we accept for one moment that Putin could be successful in Ukraine, it would not end there. He will continue. History has taught us this lesson.”
“It’s not just that the U.S. participates in NATO,” Rutte said. “If Russia was able to get control of large parts of Europe, it would immediately impact the security of large parts of the United States.”
On specific support for Ukraine, Rutte mentioned offering military strategy to approach the war in the most effective way, maintenance and repair of systems being worn out by the war effort, and air defense systems, like the Patriot defense systems that countries have pledged. He also brought up tanks, which he called a “sensitive political issue” that had to be decided as a coalition.
The Netherlands is one of a dozen countries that have the Leopard 2 tanks for which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been pleading.
“Zelenskyy is always very clear in his needs,” Rutte said. “But it’s all very sensitive. My experience in the last ten months is you are most effective when you only talk about things that have been realized. I’m not completely open [to talk about] this tank issue.”
He was more open to talking about the $2.5 billion his country has offered to the Ukrainian war effort, possible conditions for peace talks, and his interest in accountability for Russian war crimes.
Acknowledging Russia’s prominent history and culture as a nation, he admitted that even if Ukraine defeats Russia in this aggression, complications continue.
“Russia will not go away,” Rutte said. “[We] would have to somehow re-create peace talks with Russia. But there must be accountability. I cannot accept that we would let this go by unpunished.”
Kate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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