The internal political scandal, directly related to Russia, flares up in the Netherlands. The acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of the country for a long time retold Putin's words, allegedly said with him personally - and now it turned out that this personal meeting was simply not there. However, this lie will not have any serious consequences for the politician. Why?
The Dutch Foreign Minister, Halbe Zailstra, unexpectedly admitted on Monday that he was lying. Refuting his own memories, he said that he was not actually present at the meeting with Vladimir Putin at his dacha in 2006. Earlier, Zailstra claimed that he himself had heard from the lips of the Russian leader about claims to the territory of other countries.
The scandal around Zailstra has been developing for a long time. Former Shell CEO (which the future Foreign Minister was working for in 2006), Jeroen van der Veer had previously publicly questioned the fact that Zielstra was present at the meeting. On Monday, the Minister inadvertently agreed to give an interview to the newspaper de Volkskrant, who did not fail to ask about this discrepancy in the testimony. Being pinned to the wall, Zailstra waved his hand and agreed that Vir was right, he was not at the meeting, he just sat and waited in the next room. And there he heard from some source this allegedly quoted Putin.
In this case, Zailstra confuses and contradicts himself. He claims that it was just a joke, abandoned after the meeting by one of its participants. From the words of Zailstra in the end can not be understood, when he realized that a fleeting jocular remark is of fundamental importance.
"I decided that this is an important geopolitical story, which can have serious consequences," the TASS quotes. "So I decided to tell her from my face, so as not to reveal the identity of the person who was actually there." Because it could have consequences for him or his company. " Now the head of the diplomatic department with a sigh admitted: "it was an unreasonable decision" on his part, adding that he had to "act differently".
This recognition for the very Zailstra happened at the most inconvenient moment. He gave an interview on the eve of a visit to Moscow, where his conversation with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov is scheduled on Tuesday. As expected, it will be about investigating the death of the Malaysian Boeing in the summer of 2014.
It should be noted that Zalstra's lies did not once or twice. Since 2014, since the beginning of the dispute between Russia and the West, he regularly and willingly publicly repeated how he was at the Russian president's dacha in 2006 and allegedly heard Putin classifying Belarus, Ukraine, the Baltic states and Kazakhstan as parts of "Great Russia". In his interpretation, this implied Russia's territorial claims to its neighbors.
In any case, the minister will not be able to hush up the story any more. "The Netherlands media are very actively discussing this news, they have today this is the number one theme - as for leading, high-quality publications, and for the yellow press," Anastasia Nevskaya, an expert of the IMEMO RAS, told the newspaper VIEW. "And most media criticize the minister sharply."
What will be the consequences for the minister in the end? Can we talk about his resignation?
"The minister has the support of colleagues in the cabinet of ministers, support for the party and partners in the ruling coalition. And in general, Russia's theme allows the countries of the West to use undisguised double standards: there are topics that can be lied to, and there are topics that can not be lied to. Thus, Zailstra will come out of the water ", - suggested Nevskaya, adding that in the negotiations with Lavrov this scandal is unlikely to significantly affect.
Indeed, the parties of the ruling coalition decided not to give the minister offense. They slightly scoffed at Zielstra for lack of common sense, but urged "not to forget about the threats" that supposedly come from Russia anyway. None of his colleagues even advised Zaelstra to apologize.
The immediate boss of the liar, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was even more lenient - in his opinion, Zailstra did not lie at all. "This was an unreasonable approach," the prime minister said, but added: "It's not about false news, because he wanted to protect the source. I think he is trustworthy, the content of the story is not disputed. " In general, the confused interview of Foreign Minister Rutte suggested interpreting in this way: the information was really serious, and Zielstra simply covered his authority with this source.
A few hours after the publication, the Dutch opposition began a scandal. Leader of the Freedom Party Gert Wilders noted: Zailstra personally deals with disinformation, although the Netherlands is accused of spreading fake news to Russia.
"The minister has serious problems. At stake is the confidence not only of Zielstra, but of all the Netherlands. The whole world community is now talking about this, and this clearly does not go into the plus of our reputation, "- complained MP from the Labor Party Lilianne Plumen. "It's incredible that such people rule our country," Thierry Bode, the head of the Forum for Democracy party, was perplexed in his turn.
The Labor Party and the Freedom Party demanded debate in parliament on this issue, and urgently - even before Zailstra goes to Moscow.
Will the scandal have consequences for the Russian-Dutch relations? It is not excluded.
"Perhaps this situation will make the Dutch authorities more accommodating in the dispute over the Malaysian" Boeing ", - said Nevskaya newspaper VZGLYAD. "And we have a good counterargument: they accuse Russia of spreading disinformation, although not everything is so smooth on this issue." In the opinion of the expert, as a result of the scandal, the probability of compromises between The Hague and Moscow even grew.
Nevskaya believes that the self-exposure of Zailstra was not an improvisation, it was agreed in advance with Mark Rutte. "A certain position was worked out. The man, they say, stumbled, behaved wrongly, but the main thing is not how, but what he said, what quote he quoted Putin, - says Nevskaya. "Therefore, claims to the minister allegedly may not be."
A convenient myth about the "Russian invasion"
Let's note, the western politicians for a long time and seriously discuss a question on, whether Russia prepares to intruder on territory of the western neighbors - Ukraine, Belarus and Baltic. The last time a broad campaign about the "imminent invasion" was launched last summer, on the eve of the "West-2017" exercises.
Putin himself has repeatedly had to refute such rumors. When Western correspondents try to find out from him "plans for an invasion," Putin sometimes does not hide his surprise. In September 2016, the editor-in-chief of the American agency Bloomberg, John Mikletveit, asked Putin in an interview to "reassure" Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, in which, as the journalist put it, "nervousness" is felt.
"Listen, I think that all sensible people who are really engaged in politics understand that references to threats from Russia in relation to, say, the Baltic States are complete nonsense. Are we going to fight with NATO, or what? How many people live in NATO countries? Somewhere 600 million, right? And in Russia - 146 million. Yes, we are the largest nuclear power. But do you really think that we are going to conquer the Baltic States using nuclear weapons, or what? What kind of nonsense? "- said Putin.