April 26, 2021

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former President of Estonia, and Keir Giles, Senior Consulting Fellow at Chatham House, wrote for Chatham House, “The disclosure of a direct attack by Russia on a NATO and EU member state – a massive explosion in an ammunition depot in the Czech Republic back in 2014 –  is an action to which a failure to respond assertively would be both inexcusable and highly dangerous.


As Tom Tugendhat – chair of the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs committee and a British Army reservist with operational experience – says, ‘if that is not a war-like act, frankly I don’t know what one is.’


Continued failure by Europe to respond adequately to the long-term deterioration of its security serves only to convince Russia it can carry out these attacks with no fear of retribution. It is hard to overstate the significance of this action if Russia has indeed sent serving military officers to carry out a deadly sabotage attack against munitions stores in the heart of Europe.


Russia is proceeding confident in two notions – that it is already in a state of conflict, and can continue its current course without suffering serious consequence. And it has been proved entirely correct. It is now up to the EU and individual states acting in concert to challenge both these ideas. Senior-level expressions of ‘concern’ in this respect are worthless and serve only to indicate that those who are genuinely concerned are not directing Europe’s responses, and those directing the responses have decided not to be genuinely concerned.


Concern costs nothing and is limitless, whereas meaningful action costs economic and political capital, which is not. But these costs are minor compared to the costs of inaction, with the inevitable result of continuing the present course whereby Russia is not only undeterred but emboldened to wage its undeclared war on the West. The bill for that could be not just economic and political, but for some, existential.”