Since Thursday 24th February, when the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of the “special military operation” in Ukraine, the West has responded by announcing substantial sanctions against Russia.
In this article, the Dutch response to the crisis will be dysected. We will see how both the government and individuals responded.
Like every other European Union Member, the Netherlands has joined the round of international sanctions on Russia following the start of the crisis. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte denounced what he referred to as a “totally unprecedented” act of “Russian aggression”. He also appealed to the cabinet, urging the documentation of any possible human rights infringement. Rutte further complemented the countries of Poland and Moldova for their efforts in welcoming fleeing Ukrainian refugees. Additionally, the Dutch National Railway Line (NS) has announced that any Ukrainian refugee in the Netherlands will be able to collect a free day pass at any NS Ticket or Service Counter by presenting their identity papers.
On top of this, the Netherlands has been supporting the Ukrainian military. A week before the conflict broke out, the Netherlands sent “100 sniper rifles, 30,000 rounds of ammunition, 3,000 helmets, 2,000 bullet proof vests, and several weapon and mine detection systems to Ukraine”, according to DutchNews.nl. The government has also planned to send more equipment to Ukraine, including 400 anti-tank rockets, 50 rocket launchers, 400 German made rocket propelled grenades as well as 200 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles for Ukraine to “defend itself”, as the Cabinet said.
However, the Dutch political response hasn’t been unanimous. Thierry Baudet, one of the country’s most prominent right-wing politicians, has expressed an alternative view of the situation. Taking to Twitter, he called Putin an “amazing man”, and the “true leader of Europe”, as well as urged the Netherlands to “make friends with Russia!”. Admittedly, Baudet has since attempted to nuance his statements, admitting that Putin is “without a doubt a dictator”. Still, during the parliamentary debates, he has argued against Dutch involvement in the conflict, stating that otherwise the situation would “escalate into a Third World War”. Though Baudet’s comments have resulted in a significant loss of support for his party, this last comment is being echoed by many of his voters.
But the responses to the developments in Ukraine haven’t been only political and social. Culturally too, the Netherlands has been reacting. For instance, the pianist of the Dutch National Opera & Ballet (DNO&B) has been wearing a scarf with the Ukrainian flag during his performances. Though seemingly insignificant, this is a statement with power. The DNO&B is one of the world’s most prominent ballet/opera companies. Its ties to classical Russian ballet and its employment of Russian dancers, choreographers, and musicians are undeniable. To openly speak out against a country it owes so much to, whilst simultaneously bridging the divide between politics and culture, is a bold move by the pianist. His refusal to smile as his performance and bow were met by cheers is illustrative of the extent to which the events happening in Ukraine have shocked and angered people all over.
It is clear that the Dutch response to the deteriorating relations between Ukraine and Russia has been diverse, versatile, and far-reaching. More reactions are expected as the situation develops, with financial sanctions as announced by the U.S. and EU expected to go into effect later this month. Dutch parliamentary debates will continue, likely alongside the (student) protests. Evidently, though the country might be small, its response so far has been huge.
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Images from Unsplash
- ‘Made in Amsterdam’, performance by the Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Wednesday 2 March 2022.