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WASHINGTON – Like Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled his expansionist intentions long before taking action but was wasn’t taken seriously, according to a European Union leader.
Stefan Fuele, EU commissioner-in-charge of enlargement and neighborhood policy, acknowledged in recent comments that the EU didn’t grasp Putin’s intentions.
Fuele was referring to a comment Putin made in 2005 that “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century was the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
In his annual state of the nation address at the time, Putin said the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 “became a real drama” for ethnic Russians.
“Tens of millions of our citizens,” he said, “found themselves outside the Russian Federation,” which was the largest of the 15 ethnically based republics that comprised the Soviet Union.
In remarks aimed principally at the United States at the time, Putin said that Russia would develop democracy but at its own pace and wouldn’t tolerate any outside interference.
Russia, he said, “will decide for itself the pace, terms and conditions of moving towards democracy.”
No longer laughing
Fuele is in charge of implementing plans to expand the EU to Russia’s neighborhood, which Putin sees as a provocation, prompting him to put some 30,000 troops opposite Ukraine.
Putin’s comments in 2005 followed “velvet revolutions,” or non-violent transfers of power, that had occurred some 18 months earlier in Ukraine and Georgia, both of which had been part of the Soviet Union.
Fuele said he was present at the 2008 Bucharest NATO-Russian summit when Putin said Ukraine was an “artificial country.”
“Half of us laughed, half of us didn’t understand. But we do understand now,” he said.
“We’re not laughing anymore.”
Russia has reclaimed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and is backing armed separatists in eastern Ukraine which held a referendum over the weekend that the West considers illegal and invalid.
Turning away from Europe
Fuele’s concerns about overlooking Putin’s comments regarding the fall of the Soviet Union and his outlook on Ukraine are reminiscent of how Hitler similarly was ignored.
Written in 1923 while Hitler was in a Munich jail for attempting a putsch, “Mein Kampf” is an autobiographical manifesto that outlined his political ideology and served as a blueprint for his plans for Europe.
Fuele lamented that Brussels, which is the headquarters of the 28-nation EU, had failed to convince Russia to look at closer ties with Europe as a “win-win.”
Analysts have told WND that Putin has decided to focus less on closer ties with Europe and use Moscow’s energy resources to make new friends in the East, particularly China. Putin wants to help develop energy and strategic resources in Africa and Latin America to increase Russia’s influence and limit U.S. power.
Fuele said it is apparent that Putin now is disregarding a number of international conventions, including the 1994 Budapest Memorandum that guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
“The most worrisome development in Europe since the Second World War is the fact that international law agreements like the Helsinki principles of 1975 do not have relevance anymore,” he said.
The Helsinki principles served as the basis for upholding territorial integrity and non-intervention in countries of Europe.
“We had a two-polar world before, with containment and the Iron Curtain,” Fuele said. “We have a multi-polar world now. What Putin has introduced is a zero-polar world, where the only rule is that there are no rules. This is terrible.”
Fuele cautioned that Europe needs to put up a united front against Russia, but economic interests make that difficult. He singled out Germany, the Mediterranean states, Hungary and Finland as putting economic ties with Russia ahead of a unified EU front.
“If we don’t stand clear and firm and united, the implication for our own countries is clear,” Fuele said. “Is it in the interest of Putin to have a strong European Union, expressing itself with one voice? No, it is not.”
New information reveals that Russia not only supplies more than 30 percent of Germany’s energy needs, but now Russian entrepreneurs have bought a fifth of Germany’s natural gas production and a quarter of its oil production.
The resultant dependency has made it difficult for Germany to press too hard for biting EU sanctions.