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Â Hawkish language was heard at a hearing organised by the centre-right EPP political group in the European Parliament on Tuesday 21st April, withÂ lawmakers arguing that the best deterrence was to be ready for war.
MEP Tunne Kelam, who chaired the meeting, said that Russia had become the EU's adversary and that its next target would be the Baltic states. When this happens, the West's credibility would be put to the test, he warned.
Kelam appeared to echo remarks from Estonian President Toomas Ilves, who recently said that the lack of commitment from NATO to defend hisÂÂ country could mean the death of the alliance.
As Romanian MEP Cristian Dan Preda remarked, a majority of Romanians believe Putin will not stop until he unites Russia with Transnistria, in Moldova, via the southern territories of Ukraine. Dan Preda is political coordinator for the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the EPP group.
Roland Freudenstein, Deputy Director and Head of Research of the Martens Centre, the EPP think tank, went even further, saying that Putin wantedÂÂ to destroy, at least morally and politically, the two decisive euro-Atlantic institutions, the EU and NATO.
Such hawkish language from the European People's Party (EPP) is significant because of the party's deep roots within Europe's corridors of power. The EPP is the largest political group in the European Parliament, and the party behind the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission. It has the support of some of Europe's most powerful leaders, including Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor.
Renaissance of the West
Freudenstein, who recently co-authored a booklet published by theÂÂ Martens Centre, The Renaissance of the West, regrettedÂÂ that with all of the awareness of the new Russian threat, Europe'sÂÂ readiness to go to war had not been properly discussed in public.
"That needs to change [...] We have to make clear that yes, we areÂÂ willing to go to war, for what we consider existential principles ofÂÂ Europe's future," he said.
Freudenstein further argued that the West should resume its deterrence,ÂÂ adding that the concept included nuclear deterrence.
"In Germany at the moment, nuclear deterrence by NATO consists of 20ÂÂ rusting free-fall bombs, of the B-61 type, that can be wiped out withÂÂ one strike of the Russian forces. These are things where we have toÂÂ change, we have to shape up," he said, admitting that those were atÂÂ the same time issues extremely difficult to be sold publically.
According to Freudenstein, Western leaders should tell the RussiansÂÂ "Yes we hear you, we understand what you are saying, we just believeÂÂ it's completely wrong."
Russian diplomacy parodied
Illustrating his point, Freudenstein cited an international conferenceÂÂ held three years ago, where several speakers criticised Russia'sÂÂ aggressive stance towards Georgia. Moscow and Tbilisi waged a brief warÂÂ in August 2008.
Displaying unexpected theatrical skills, Freudenstein mimicked Russia'sÂÂ envoy to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, whom he parodied with a heavy RussianÂÂ accent, saying, "Please, my friends, we have so much in common, weÂÂ were together. Remember our common past." A Georgian speaker, whom heÂÂ imitated with perfect English, reportedly responded: "We do, MrÂÂ Ambassador, we do, every day."
For Freudenstein, "What was striking was that Mr Chizhov could notÂÂ even comprehend that someone, a non-Russian, would think that there wasÂÂ anything terrible about this common past [under the Soviet Union].ÂÂ That's the thing that we have to try to make clear to them. I don'tÂÂ know whether we will succeed but we have to."
In a stark warning to Europe's doves, Freudenstein said those who stillÂÂ expected a return to "business as usual" with Russia were deluded. HeÂÂ repeated an idea from his booklet The Renaissance of the West, that theÂÂ conflict with Russia will be over only when Vladimir Putin "leaves theÂÂ Kremlin in whatever shape".
"This is a zero-sum game," Freudenstein warned, announcing that theÂÂ Martens Centre had prepared another publication, on how to respond toÂÂ Russian propaganda, bearing the title, Muzzling the Bear.
MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a Polish MEP who is a vice chair of the EPPÂÂ group, joked that with "so many hawks" in the session, he did notÂÂ need to speak.
The remaining "hawks" included MEP Elmar Brok (CDU, Germany), theÂÂ chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, MEP Sandra Kalniete (Latvia),ÂÂ Vice-Chair of the EPP Group, responsible for Neighbourhood Policy, andÂÂ MEP Gabrielius Landsbergis (Lithuania), rapporteur of the EuropeanÂÂ Parliament on the State of EU-Russia relations, among others.
Saryusz-Wolski argued that Central and Eastern European EU countries hadÂÂ long ago warned about the real intentions of Putin, but those warningsÂÂ had been rejected by Western partners as anti-Russian. "Those who wereÂÂ wrong should acknowledge it," he said.
He also argued that Russia was not only about Putin, but was the countryÂÂ of people like Boris Nemtsov, Andrei Sakharov, and Anna Politkovskaya.
"Our best way to influence the Russian society is to show that thereÂÂ is a different life possible also in the post-Soviet sphere. If we winÂÂ with Ukraine, we will win one day with Russia. If we fail with Ukraine,ÂÂ Putin will win," he said.
Message to EU leaders
"Time of talk and persuasion [vis-à-vis Russia] is over. Now it'sÂÂ time for tough policy, realistic policy, and concentration on defenceÂÂ and security, because the eastern flank of the EU feels vitally,ÂÂ existentially threatened," he said, and added, apparently as a messageÂÂ to EU leaders who will hold an extraordinary summit tomorrow:
"And a final word to those absent in this room. The southern flank ofÂÂ the Union will not enjoy (the) understanding of (the) EU's easternÂÂ flank on immigration, which is the subject of the special summit, if itÂÂ continues not to understand, or to refuse to understand, the easternÂÂ existential threats. "