Military drills in Belarus: tensions escalate

Tensions are growing in view of Russia and Belarus's massive joint military drills near the Polish and Ukrainian borders. US President Joe Biden has called on US citizens to leave Ukraine immediately, and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described this as a "dangerous moment" for Europe. Commentators examine Eastern European perspectives on the situation.

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Maaleht (EE) /

Oppressive atmosphere

Hindrek Riikoja, editor-in-chief of Maaleht, worries that the current tensions will weigh on Estonians in their daily lives:

“The worst thing is the waiting. ... Waiting is hard and often the one you are waiting for takes advantage of the situation. Waiting makes the one waiting nervous and weak. This is also the case with the potential war in Ukraine. However, it is not only Ukrainians who are waiting, but the whole world, including us. In Estonia, too, we feel the tension. We all know that just as Russia is unpredictable towards Ukraine, it can also be unpredictable towards us. And then you wonder: if the worst comes to the worst in Estonia too, can we really rely on the others? Will Nato's umbrella really work, or will there be nothing but fine words?”

Satori (LV) /

Don't forget the moral dimension

This is about more than just interests, Satori stresses:

“Democracy, human rights and sovereignty are not just words - they are universal values. Calling them 'individual interests' is immoral. Although Ukraine is still far from being a full-fledged democracy its course is clear, and the country is paying a much higher price for its freedom than other Eastern European countries have had to pay for theirs. ... Abandoning Ukrainians to their fate and complying with Russia's demands would mean not only putting a nail in the coffin of our values, but also giving Russia a mechanism with which it can consolidate its future geopolitical interests.”

Kronen Zeitung (AT) /

The neutrality proposition is a joke

Ukrainians know what Moscow's offers are worth, the Kronen Zeitung points out:

“When the Kremlin wants to fool the public in the West, it comes along with an agreement on Ukrainian neutrality. But the Ukrainians have had the worst possible experiences with neutrality: Ukraine was neutral in 2014, when Russia took control of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. ... What does Ukraine want? It doesn't want neutrality to be foisted on it, it wants to join Nato. Nato has so far failed to fulfil this - theoretical - promise because it only accepts members if they don't have border problems. And who is causing these problems in Ukraine? That's right! Putin.”

Eesti Ekspress (EE) /

Freedom really is at stake now

Eesti Ekspress editor Hans H. Luik calls on Eastern Europeans to protest in unison against Russia:

“Electricity prices are tough, yes. Covid is bad, but hopefully it will pass. Dear 'national conservatives', dear homos and lesbians, Estonians and Russians, free people, let's start with a real freedom march! ... In addition to protesting outside the Russian embassy the people of Eastern Europe should come up with a common method for expressing their desire for freedom. How long will Russia talk to great powers over our heads? It's time for action on the street or online. Through parliaments or directly. The will of the peoples of our neighbouring countries, which Putin does not mention in his ultimatum, should be proudly expressed.”

Club Z (BG) /

Lack of direction unworthy of the EU

European doesn't really have a position on the Ukraine crisis, and if it does it's an offshoot of the US's stance, Club Z criticises:

“There is a German and a French position. We don't even need to talk about the positions of the other 25 member states. Even if they were asked for their opinions, they'd be nothing but hot air. ... The EU, which is demographically and economically larger than the US, and compared to which Russia is an economic dwarf, is not the master of its own destiny. Questions of our security are resolved between Washington and Moscow. If Europe really has the ambition to be a global player, things cannot go on like this.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Putin using Judo tactics against the West

Ria Novosti believes it has Putin's tactics figured out:

“It's his beloved judo: Putin has decided to use the West's own weapons against it and to turn the energy and power of the Atlanticists against them. The West invented the idea of the 'terrible dictator and aggressor Putin' - and the real Putin is now playing with this image. ... He needs discord in the West and what the Atlanticists have already said: we won't fight Russia over Ukraine. ... That was already clear, but it had to be cemented publicly. This is an important line based on which we are continuing our strategy to take back Ukraine: by peaceful means, but also by exploiting all the West's myths and fears.”

Milliyet (TR) /

War is risky, so is peace

The price of a real war would be very high for Russia, Milliyet believes:

“The Russian economy could be hit by devastating and historically harsh sanctions. The Russian nation would isolate itself even more from the world. In the event of an invasion of Ukraine, the Russian army would suffer heavy losses. The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany would not be put into operation, causing huge losses of revenue for Russia. Personal sanctions could extend to the assets of key Russian figures including Putin. ... On the other hand, does it make any sense for him to withdraw his troops and accept a diplomatic defeat without having gained anything at this point?”

Independent Türkçe (TR) /

Staring down but still no fight

There are hardly any signs of imminent war so far, Independent Türkçe comments:

“Wars don't break out all of a sudden. ... First diplomatic tensions arise or are allowed to arise, then the diplomatic language gradually becomes harsher. ... As far as populations are concerned, queues can be observed in front of markets or ticket counters at airports. At a time when war is really breaking out, those in the highest positions - and their capital managers - are notified first. ... Thus, a sudden flight of capital from the country may become apparent. ... But until all of this money has left Ukraine, we can safely say that war will not start. ... In short, there's a lot of staring down but still no fight.”