I am writing to you as a Dutch citizen who has no ‘special’ knowledge whatsoever about the whole political and military situation in your and your neighbouring country and the involvement of your military therein.

It is doubtful that the national and international press can deliver me, or anyone else, an accurate picture of the continuously evolving situation in the Ukraine and in Russia.

Not to mention the political and historical connotations that go along with it.

Mr. Putin, I can only understand with my own mind that you and your military decided to advance into a neighbouring country. With clear intentions:

“I will begin with what I said in my address on February 21, 2022. I spoke about our biggest concerns and worries, and about the fundamental threats which irresponsible Western politicians created for Russia consistently, rudely and unceremoniously from year to year. I am referring to the eastward expansion of NATO, which is moving its military infrastructure ever closer to the Russian border.

…Any further expansion of the North Atlantic Alliance’s infrastructure or the ongoing efforts to gain a military foothold of the Ukrainian territory are unacceptable for us. Of course, the question is not about NATO itself. It merely serves as a tool of US foreign policy. The problem is that in Russia’s neighbouring territory, which I have to note is our historical land, a hostile “anti-Russia” is taking shape. Fully controlled from the outside, it is doing everything to attract NATO armed forces and obtain cutting-edge weapons.

For the United States and its allies, it is a policy of containing Russia, with obvious geopolitical dividends. For our country, it is a matter of life and death, a matter of our historical future as a nation. This is not an exaggeration; this is a fact. It is not only a very real threat to our interests but to the very existence of our state and to its sovereignty. It is the red line which we have spoken about on numerous occasions. They have crossed it. …”

No doubt the context of your words needs further explication, and your address on the the 24th of February gives that, to a certain extent, that is.

If I read your statements of the 24th of February as straightforwardly as I can, you surmise that your country is threatened by the West, by NATO, and the US:

“… In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union grew weaker and subsequently broke apart. That experience should serve as a good lesson for us, because it has shown us that the paralysis of power and will is the first step towards complete degradation and oblivion. … they sought to destroy our traditional values and force on us their false values that would erode us, our people from within, the attitudes they have been aggressively imposing on their countries, attitudes that are directly leading to degradation and degeneration, because they are contrary to human nature. This is not going to happen. No one has ever succeeded in doing this, nor will they succeed now.”

It is interesting to note that you, Mr. Putin, specifically refers to Russia’s traditional values, as you envision them, versus the ‘false values’ of those who you think oppose Russia, historically and at this very moment in time.

And, perhaps, in one sense you are right.

We in the West, myself included, worry most about our income, the next house we might buy, a new car coming on the market, the latest mobile gadget. This is not a pretty sight, I admit, and as far as I am concerned cannot be excused.

In your mind, you offer your fellow citizens values that transcend the mundane materialistic perspective the West panders to anyone who can be goaded into submission.

And, as is your conviction, which I do not doubt seeing your Russian military attempting to take over Ukraine, those values need to be defended; peacefully by preference, by (military) force if necessary.

However, I do believe you, partly, dropped your facade when you claim that “in 1940 and early 1941 the Soviet Union went to great lengths to prevent war or at least delay its outbreak”, as you state further:

“To this end, the USSR sought not to provoke the potential aggressor until the very end by refraining or postponing the most urgent and obvious preparations it had to make to defend itself from an imminent attack. When it finally acted, it was too late. As a result, the country was not prepared to counter the invasion by Nazi Germany, which attacked our Motherland on June 22, 1941, without declaring war. The country stopped the enemy and went on to defeat it, but this came at a tremendous cost. The attempt to appease the aggressor ahead of the Great Patriotic War proved to be a mistake which came at a high cost for our people. In the first months after the hostilities broke out, we lost vast territories of strategic importance, as well as millions of lives. We will not make this mistake the second time. We have no right to do so.”

To compare the West, including the Netherlands as part of NATO, to Nazi Germany is inglorious in every respect. It is tragically simpleminded and false to compare you, Mr Putin, to the Nazi leader of the 1930s and 40s.

Both comparisons thus are preposterously unjustified and shoddy, and do little to no justice to 20th century European history, including Sovjet history shaped by Stalin’s reign.

If you take Russian values truly seriously, then you must know, and I am not trying to belittle you in any way, that the highest of these values, as to be found in the orthodox Church of Russia, will ultimately adjudicate us all.

You and I, Mr Putin, although vastly different on a human level, stand as equals on invariable orthodox Christian soil.

How is that?

God created us and the world we live in for Himself and we stand in judgement if we do not take care of it and its peoples. Your words:

“It is not our plan to occupy the Ukrainian territory. We do not intend to impose anything on anyone by force. …”

Your ‘referral’ to Russia’s undoubtedly grand nuclear potential stands in stark contrast to these remarks about Ukraine, its peoples and how you view their future.

Over and above that, the values you wholeheartedly wish to defend, stand diametrically opposed to your ‘nuclear hand’. As a reminder, Mr Putin, these values emanate from the Creator itself, who will judge the both of us in love.

Yours very respectfully,

Jaap C. Hanekamp