Confrontation on every front: how to deal with Russia?

With Russian troops concentrated on the border with Ukraine, the leading Russian opposition figure imprisoned and his health rapidly deteriorating, and the Czech leadership now accusing Moscow of being behind a terrorist attack in the Czech Republic, commentators look at how the West should react to the mounting tensions in its relations with Russia.

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Denik (CZ) /

We are now an enemy

Denik demands a re-evaluation of the Czech view of the regime in Moscow:

“Prague's view of the Russians is much too naive. We think it has nothing to do with us if Russia occupies Ukrainian territory, if it tries to undermine democracy and freedom and to influence elections and life in Western states. ... The Russian regime is literally prepared to kill, also in the Czech Republic - as in the attack in 2014, which left two people dead. To Russia, we are a target and an enemy. That is the new reality.”

Új Szó (SK) /

Not everyone understands Moscow's hybrid war

Vaccine distribution is one of the fronts on which Russia is fighting, and Slovakian politicians are happy to help, Új Szó criticises:

“The expulsion of the 18 diplomats is no joke. ... The evidence against them must be very solid since the expulsion was initiated by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and approved by President Miloš Zeman - even though neither of them can otherwise be accused of hostility towards Russia. Putin's opponent Alexei Navalny is dying in prison and tens of thousands of Russian soldiers are gathering on the Ukrainian border. ... Despite all this it is even more disturbing that [former Slovak prime minister] Igor Matovič travelled to Moscow without the knowledge of his own government in order to negotiate the delivery of vaccines. ... How could Matovič have been aware of the Russian hybrid war when he himself is assisting it?”

Turun Sanomat (FI) /

Biden-Putin meeting needed

Turun Sanomat is counting on a diplomatic solution to the dispute:

“Biden has taken a harder line vis-à-vis Russia than Trump. ... But there is a willingness to negotiate. Biden has invited Putin to meet in a third country. ... So far Russia hasn't officially responded to the invitation, but the new sanctions are hardly likely to be beneficial. Russia just can't let go of its dreams of being a superpower, even though it hasn't been a serious counterpart to the US for a long time. But it is strong enough to cause its neighbours and the whole world many problems. A diplomatic solution is needed. A meeting between the two presidents could be a first step in this direction.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

No one wants to mess up business relations

Rzeczpospolita criticises the Western governments' indecisiveness when it comes to imposing real sanctions:

“Despite the current crisis every Nato country, and above all the US, is playing its own game with the Russians. Biden offered Putin a summit meeting in the coming months. He suspended the deployment of US ships to the Black Sea and prohibited US investors from buying Russian bonds directly, but not from buying through intermediaries. The Europeans are playing this game, too. Chancellor Merkel is standing by Nord Stream 2, Prime Minister Draghi has his eye on developing Italian trade with Russia, and President Macron doesn't want to give up his 'reset' of contacts with Moscow. That leaves only Poland, which has special relations with Russia because of its history and location, but has not nurtured them for a long time.”

Expressen (SE) /

Stop Nord Stream 2

Expressen agrees that the West must react more harshly to make Russia understand the gravity of the situation:

“The only language Putin understands is the language of power. So the aggression of the Putin regime should be countered by stopping Nord Stream 2. [That] would be a severe blow to the Kremlin in terms of both prestige and money. ... The EU Parliament, Paris, Washington, Kyiv, Warsaw and the Baltic states have called for the project to be stopped, but Berlin is resisting the pressure. Sweden should explain to Germany in a friendly but firm manner that the gas pipeline could also damage the relations between good friends. Stopping Nord Stream 2 is the best thing we can do for peace in Europe.”