On the night Russian troops entered Donetsk and Luhansk, Monday, February 21, the VVD had just started its campaign for the municipal elections. Mark Rutte was with Jinek and talked about his old Saab – it had a flat tire. He only left after the commercial break and on social media you saw photos of George W. Bush hearing about the attacks on 9/11. He is in a class with children and continues to participate in the lesson for several minutes.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz lashed out at Putin on Sunday, saying his government is helping anyone who is struggling due to high energy prices. Emmanuel Macron said in August that the French had to prepare for a tough winter. That was “the price of freedom.” And Ruth? He must, said Member of Parliament Sjoerd Sjoerdsma (D66) last week at BNR, also say what is “at stake” for the Netherlands, and that “sacrifices” must be made. How many press conferences had there been in the corona crisis? And now, about the war? Zero, said Sjoerdsma.
Only the group of journalists in the room of Nieuwspoort and political junkies who watch online knows that Rutte has been talking about “that terrible war in Ukraine” every week since Friday 25 February, at his press conference after the Council of Ministers. He often says that the fight against “Putin’s aggression” is also “ours” and sometimes what is at stake: “Our freedom, our way of life.”
Officials from Rutte’s ministry always put the war in Ukraine in his text, I hear, because it means so much: prices are rising, the asylum reception is fuller. But if it barely makes it into a newspaper or TV broadcast, aren’t you doing something wrong?
There was one press conference, in June, at which Rutte talked about Ukraine for minutes. Almost as if he was addressing the Netherlands from the Torentje. He opened up about people’s concerns “in this uncertain time” and said that the effects of the war would remain “among us” for a while. It was not noticed, because it was the introduction to the news that the Netherlands supported Ukraine’s candidate for EU membership, although Rutte had first said not. That’s what the questions were about.
At Rutte’s ministry I also hear that the Dutch are not waiting for big words like Macron’s. They want solutions, plans on Budget Day.
So the prime minister is talking about the war week after week, but nobody needs to hear it?
Last Friday, Rutte says that there will be a “balanced package of purchasing power measures”, things are going better in Ter Apel and the farmers are talking with the cabinet again. “Progress in three areas. We are certainly not there yet.”
The officials had talked about it beforehand. Ukraine again, so four subjects? It just got a little too much.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of September 6, 2022