PVV-frontman Geert Wilders views Russia as an ally, accuses others of raising spectres of enmity, but refuses donations. ‘There are no rubles coming our way.’
Not everything Moscow does is beneficent, admits Geert Wilders. Yet he is on his way to the Russian embassy in The Hague, located along the Andries Bickerweg. He wants to ‘counterbalance the hysterical Russophobia that exists in places.’
There are no rubles coming our way
Is the PVV-frontman perhaps considering imitating the French Front National? Party leader Marine Le Pen, who is, according to Wilders, an ally in ‘the European Patriotic Spring’, in 2014 accepted loans worth 14 million Euros from Russia, of which 11 million belonged to a Kremlin-connected bank, as reported by the BBC.
‘No,’ says Wilders (54) moments before entering the Russian embassy. ‘I accept no loans or gifts from Russia. I never have and never will. There are no rubles coming the way of the PVV.’
Wilders is unsure whether Russophobia is a word, but the Russians know exactly what he is hinting at, because they themselves use the term roesofobiija to describe the increasing dislike and arrogance that they experience in Western countries.
The interior of the embassy looks like a set piece from a film on the Cold War. Decent, sober, somewhat dark. It is surprising to see how professionally the diplomats compose themselves and how eloquently some of them express themselves in Dutch. Ambassador Alexander Shulgin and Wilders converse in English.
The ambassador receives him in a room where another diplomat is already present, who maintains his silence.
Russian embassy in The Hague, where PVV-frontman Geert Wilders met ambassador Shulgin and another diplomat, who never spoke
Russians are people too
The PVV-frontman took the initiative. He invited the ambassador for a work visit to his party’s quarters in parliament. But since 2014 – the annexation of Crimea and the disastrous take-down of MH17 – the embassy has noticed that the barriers have been higher than before and that appointments have been more often postponed. This was most likely the reason for Shulgin to invite Wilders to the embassy.
The PVV-frontman knows that these relations are politically sensitive. D66-Minister Kasja Ollongren of Interior Affairs warned a couple of days earlier against the fake news that Russia allegedly uses to influence democratic processes. But it is quite common for politicians to meet with ambassadors, and Wilders has been upfront to Elsevier Weekly Magazine: ‘Nothing secretive is going on.’
In a previous lifetime working for the VVD, Wilders learnt from the party leader at the time, Frits Bolkestein, that you have treat Russians as people, and that you have to respect their geopolitical sphere of influence.He repeatedly visited Moscow – the last time was ten years ago – and has been explained on a map with coloured lights how this great country has been surrounded by an eastwardly advancing NATO.
‘I am a big fan of NATO and the Americans, but this time the Russians are in the right,’ says Wilders. That is exactly the kind of talk that ambassador Shulgin knows how to appreciate.
Flight and stay will be paid out of pocket
‘Do not underestimate how important the relations with elected representatives are for the relations between countries’, says Geert Wilders. Years ago he visited Iran and found in their Assembly representatives who spoke openly about what what happening on the ground. ‘Such meetings give me more insight than Laboru Party member Bert Koenders gets from ten Ministerial work visits. In 2018 Wilders would like to visit the Parliament in Moscow. ‘I am going alone, on behalf of the PVV, but in the role of elected representative. Flight and stay will be paid out of pocket.’
Wilders: we have to realise that Russia is our ally
Wilders claims to remain critical of Russia. He believes that the perpetrators of the take-down of MH17 need to appear before court, and he rejects the Russian annexation of Crimea, contrary to Le Pen. Despite these differences, he likes to focus on the common interests.
After the meeting, Wilders says that ‘we have much to learn from Russia in terms of patriotism. This is not all rainbows and sunshine, and I shall be critical of every misstep. But I do not dislike the Russians.’
Wilders: ‘Instead of criticising, we should realise that Russia is our ally in the fight against terror and mass immigration from Africa. They are just as exposed to these things as we. I treat the Russians as equals and as friends.’
What is his explanation for the alleged Russophobia in The Hague? Have politicians any interest in fanning the flames of the Cold War? Are they guilty of the same accusation they level against Wilders, namely that they embolden the baser instincts of the voters?
‘Russia is not an enemy and should not be made out as one,’ says Wilders. ‘I do not know what possesses D66-frontman Alexander Pechtold to ridicule president Donald Trump and to mock Russia. It is totally inapproriate.’
‘I suspect that such politicians are pointing at these supposed enemies to conceal what is truly important, namely our struggle against islam.’It occurred to him that Shulgin never mentioned islam. Russia has 142 million inhabitants, of which at least a 100 million consider themselves Christian. Early next year, Wilders will travel to Moscow to ‘show that there are patriots over there too’. He believes it necessary because: ‘Russia is on our side.’
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