CUBA BRIEF: Trump criticized for talking about keeping the military option open, while Raul Castro’s thousands of soldiers in Venezuela ignored

CubaBrief:  Additional details are now available on the targeting of American and Canadian diplomats by Cuban security services in Havana. Reuters said yesterday that “Cuba ‘incidents’ reportedly caused brain injury, nerve damage to diplomats.” As reported earlier, two Cuban diplomats were expelled as a result. While the investigation continues, several Americans working at the U.S. embassy have been evacuated for medical treatment.  Let’s hope that the Congress finds the time to hold hearings. The incidents were known by the State Department months before the end of the previous Administration, but out of “respect” for President Obama’s Cuba legacy the Congress was not informed.

A couple of days ago CubaBrief promised to send you the English version of Miami Herald’s Nora Gamez Torres article on a video circulated to Communist cadres on the island.  In the video, Miguel Díaz-Canel , the supposedly “moderate” Cuban vice president blasted the United States, Britain, Spain and other governments that according to him were financing and promoting counterrevolution in Cuba. Although the “elections” to select the successor to General Raul Castro have yet to be held, Díaz-Canel is preparing to assume the duties of Cuba’s president after General Raul Castro retires from that position. The general however, is not retiring from the all-powerful post of Cuba’s Communist Party Secretary General. Those who have been praising Díaz-Canel’s moderation should listen carefully.

This week marked the 78th anniversary of one of the most shameful diplomatic accords of the 20th century: the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. According to an article published in Canada’s Ottawa Citizen “Vladimir Putin continues to persecute Russians who dare to mention the historical facts about the Soviet-Nazi pact.  Also “The Guardian”  published another article on the subject: “Putin has defended the Nazi-Soviet pact. Time for the west to wake up.”

We include an informative article by Miami Herald’s  Patricia Mazzei on Vice President Mike Pence hinting at additional economic sanctions against the Maduro regime while speaking in Miami. Vice President Pence just returned from a visit to Latin America. According to the article “Pence’s trip was nevertheless complicated by President Trump’s offhand Aug. 11 suggestion that his administration has not ruled out a ‘military option’ against Venezuela.” According to Mazzei, “the presidents of Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama, speaking for jittery leaders across a region far too familiar with past U.S. interventions, were forced to publicly rebuke Trump in Pence’s presence.”  And yet no American troops have been deployed but Raul Castro has thousands of Cuban soldiers in Venezuela. Shouldn’t those concerned with Trump’s comment, say something about Havana’s military deployment currently repressing the Venezuelan people?

Finally, The Wall Street Journal reports that “U.S. Says It Is Preparing Sanctions Against More Venezuelan Officials”, August 23, 2017

Cuba ‘incidents’ reportedly caused brain injury, nerve damage to diplomats

WASHINGTON, Aug 23 (Reuters) – A doctor who evaluated American and Canadian diplomats working in Cuba diagnosed them with conditions as serious as mild traumatic brain injury and damage to the central nervous system, CBS News said on Wednesday, citing medical records it reviewed.

The diplomats had complained of symptoms including hearing loss, nausea, headaches and balance disorders after what were described as “incidents” that began affecting them in Havana beginning in late 2016, CBS News said.

Officials are investigating whether the diplomats were targets of some form of sonic attack directed at their homes, CBS reported, citing a source familiar with the incidents. The source said the incidents had continued to occur on the Communist-ruled island and that some U.S. diplomats had cut short their assignments there.

Asked about the CBS report, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said the department did not have “definitive answers” on the source or cause of the incidents.

“An investigation into the incidents is ongoing,” the spokeswoman said.

The department said earlier this month that a number of Americans serving in Cuba had returned to the United States for “medical reasons” that were not life-threatening.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said two weeks ago the State Department learned of incidents at its embassy in Havana in late 2016. She said they “caused a variety of physical symptoms” in U.S. government employees.

Several U.S. citizens at the embassy were evacuated over the past six months for treatment of a variety of complaints. Some subsequently received hearing aids.

Although Washington expelled two Cuban diplomats over the incidents, Cuba has said it was investigating the U.S. allegations and would never allow its territory to be used for any action against diplomatic personnel or their families.

“The Cuban government has assured us it is also investigating and taking appropriate measures,” the State Department spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for Canada’s foreign ministry said Canada likewise was working to determine the cause.

“At this time, we do not have any reason to believe Canadian tourists and other visitors could be affected,” spokeswoman Brianne Maxwell told Reuters. (Reporting by David Alexander; additional reporting by Yeganeh Torbati in Washington and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Dan Grebler and Tom Brown)


Miami Herald, August 23, 2017

Pence hints at economic sanctions against Venezuela: ‘Our resolve is unwavering’

By Patricia Mazzei

Vice President Mike Pence hinted Wednesday at soon-to-come economic sanctions against the Venezuelan government, but he offered little in the way of specifics of what a more robust U.S. response might look like or when it might come, choosing instead to deliver a broader message of hope to increasingly despondent Venezuelans.

Pence indicated the Trump administration intends to further punish Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his loyalists for undermining the South American country’s democracy. Economic sanctions, perhaps aimed at restricting trade in Venezuelan debt in dollars, could come as early as this week, the Miami Herald has learned. But Pence did not detail any potential penalties.

“Our resolve is unwavering; our conviction is clear” Pence told a few hundred people at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Doral, Miami’s Venezuelan immigrant hub. “You may be assured: Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the United States of America will continue to bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until democracy is restored in Venezuela.”


The crowd, which had waited hours for Pence, responded with enthusiastic bursts of applause. Women with the tricolor Venezuelan flag draped over their shoulders appeared to be channeling energy built up over months of worry about their country’s prolonged political crisis.
“¡Libertad!” they chanted.

Pence spent the day in Doral to bookend his recent swing through Latin America, where regional U.S. allies pledged to also pressure Maduro. The vice president noted with satisfaction that Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela announced Tuesdaythat Venezuelans will be soon be required to obtain travel visas into his country — a move denounced by Maduro’s government.

“Venezuelans’ contribution to the Panamanian economy is undisputed,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza wrote Tuesday on Twitter, “but after VP Pence’s visit, the order has been given.”

Pence’s trip last week was nevertheless complicated by President Trump’s offhand Aug. 11 suggestion that his administration has not ruled out a “military option” against Venezuela. The presidents of Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama, speaking for jittery leaders across a region far too familiar with past U.S. interventions, were forced to publicly rebuke Trump in Pence’s presence.

In Miami, Pence was eager to leave Trump’s cringeworthy remark behind. He spent about an hour Wednesday at the U.S. Southern Command, privately debriefing military commanders about his trip and thanking local service members.

“While President Trump has said that ‘We have many options for Venezuela,’” Pence said, in his only nod to the controversy, “we remain confident that working with all of our allies across Latin America, we can achieve a peaceable solution to the crisis facing the Venezuelan people.”

Before delivering his 25-minute speech, the vice president — joined by Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Gov. Rick Scott — spent more than an hour listening to 15 local Venezuelans who gathered in a church meeting room to tell Pence, often in vivid detail, about violence, repression and political persecution carried out by Maduro’s security forces or their allies.

María Eugenia Tovar fought back tears as she told Pence how her 22-year-old daughter, Génesis Cardona, was killed during a 2014 protest by a gunshot to the head. Francisco Márquez recounted the four months he spent as a political prisoner, in “what I can only describe as a putrid, mosquito-infested jungle.”

“I got dengue fever. I was made to run amid gunfire, just to mess with my head,” Márquez said. “I shared prison cells with people that talked about how they were beaten for hours. How they put a Ziploc bag over their head with insecticide. How women had been raped.”

Two exiled judges, Antonio Marval Jiménez and Alejandro Rebolledo, were present. So were three opposition mayors — Warner Jiménez of Maturín, Gustavo Marcano of Lechería and Ramón Muchacho of Chacao — who fled to Miami after courts sentenced them to prison for failing to curtail street protests. They urged Pence for further U.S. action to punish Venezuela for installing a new legislative assembly Aug. 4 that usurped the opposition-held parliament’s powers.

“We’re fighting against gangsters,” said Jiménez, who said he left the country by boat and got caught in a frightening storm off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago. “We’d like to ask for your help. Please don’t let Venezuela turn into another Cuba.”

Pence stared his guests intently, an interpreter translating into his ear. To each person, he offered words of solace and reiterated the administration’s commitment to doing more.

“The United States is helping,” Pence said. “And more help is on the way.”

Under consideration by the White House this week is banning any trades in U.S. dollars of Venezuelan debt, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. That’s the sort of financial sanction — short of prohibiting Venezuelan oil imports and exports — that Rubio and other South Florida politicians have pushed to starve Maduro of cash. The Treasury Department has already slapped individual financial and travel restrictions on 30 Venezuelans tied to the government.

Pence did not delve into any specifics about upcoming action. But Diaz-Balart and Rubio praised the White House for imposing four rounds of individual sanctions in seven months in office.

“I have 100 percent confidence that the president and vice president of the United States will take the appropriate measures,” Rubio said. “They will do it at the right time, and they will do it in the right way, but they will do it. It is going to happen.”

No one received a more raucous welcome than Rubio, who got an extended standing ovation at the church before he addressed Venezuelans in English and then Spanish from a lectern in front of the pulpit.

“I am confident that one day, in a Venezuela that is free, many of us will be able to gather in a setting such as this,” Rubio said.

“Amen!” a man yelled from a pew.


The Wall Street Journal, August 23, 2017

U.S. Says It Is Preparing Sanctions Against More Venezuelan Officials

Administration also confirms it could target Venezuelan bonds, warning U.S. entities risk sanction costs

By Ian Talley

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration will soon unveil a new package of Venezuelan sanctions that will hit officials in President Nicolás Maduro’s government and, potentially, targets in the financial sector, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

Administration officials plan to submit soon a broad portfolio of new punitive actions for President Donald Trump’s review, including proposals that could prohibit trading certain Venezuelan bonds, the senior official said. The person said the administration hopes to send a warning to anyone hoping to make a “quick buck out of the Maduro dictatorship.”

Vice President Mike Pence, in Doral, Fla., on Wednesday, said the U.S. will continue to “bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until democracy is restored in Venezuela.”

“The U.S. has already issued three rounds of targeted sanctions against Maduro and his inner circle. And there’s more to come,” he said at a church in the heart of the city’s Venezuelan community.

The senior administration official said that “because the Maduro regime has crossed a number of lines…It’s fair to say the U.S. will have to respond in kind.

“Our options are vast, we can escalate this in a number of ways,” the official said.

Washington has condemned Mr. Maduro’s move to rewrite the country’s constitution, the government’s imprisoning of political opposition leaders and the treatment of the former attorney general and her husband, a member of parliament, as evidence “Maduro has fully embraced dictatorship,” the official said.

Among the options under consideration are banning trade of new debt issuance by Venezuela or its state-owned entities, with exemptions for bonds issued under the authority of the Venezuelan legislature that Mr. Maduro stripped of powers earlier this month.

Such a move would be meant to encourage Caracas to return to a democratic government, the official said. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the U.S. was considering new restrictions on trades in Venezuelan debt. It could also mean targeting major bondholders in the Maduro regime, a strategy designed to weaken support of the president’s inner circle.

The Trump administration also is considering a ban on trading the debt of Venezuela’s state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela SA, the oil firm that provides the state with most of its funding. Analysts allege it now is being used by the regime to launder money.

One Venezuelan activist with ties to U.S. financial markets said the U.S. Treasury already had signaled the administration was moving in this direction earlier this month when it sanctioned three current and former top Venezuelan finance officials, including PDVSA’s vice president of finance. The U.S. also has sanctioned Mr. Maduro himself and other officials close to him.

“Dealers won’t pick up the phone,” the person said. “PdVSA basically has no access to the market.”

Interactive Brokers, a U.S.-based electronic brokerage firm, sent a note outWednesday to clients warning them they could only hold or sell the Venezuelan bonds, but couldn’t add to them to their portfolio. The firm didn’t immediately elaborate on exactly what Venezuelan bonds. The decision was based upon information that “significant liquidity providers in these assets will be stepping away from the market,” the brokerage said in its note. “This may result in a substantial or complete reduction in liquidity and presents risk-related concerns for IB,” the company said.

Diego Ferro, co-chief investment officer at Greylock Capital Management, said a move by Trump to ban some Venezuela bond trades would merely codify something that is already happening in bond markets.

The markets are pricing in a likely default in Venezuela in the next year and some traders are betting that a new regime would be unlikely to prioritize the restructuring or payment of any debt issued under the new Maduro-controlled government or that was sold off from the Central Bank’s coffers under that regime.

Targeting a country’s debt isn’t unprecedented. In 2014, the U.S. Treasury prohibited trading new short-term debt issued by some Russian banks over the country’s role in Ukraine. That effort ratcheted up the economic pressure on the petrostate at a time when oil prices were in the dump, helping send the ruble falling. But, some analysts note, the broader sanctions regime didn’t get Moscow to stop its support of Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine fighting the government or pull out of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.

“But there are numerous other options, both in the financial sector and in other sectors,” the U.S. official said, referring to its Venezuelan sanctions regime. “We have a whole package that we’re going to be presenting to the president,” the U.S. official said. The administration previously has said some type of petroleum-sector sanctions are also on the table, a move that could hurt the oil-reliant state.

Robert Kahn, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former emerging-market debt economist at the International Monetary Fund, said if the Trump administration’s sanctions regime finally tips Venezuela into default, it could further erode Mr. Maduro’s political credibility among his supporters. Mr. Maduro has prioritized debt payments at the expense of domestic arrears, Mr. Kahn said. “It has become a domestic symbol of the government’s authority and a default would signal loss of authority,” he added.

With bond prices in the gutter, it could also weaken support within the Maduro regime because many top officials hold government bonds.

Even though the administration said it wants to avoid actions that might harm the Venezuelan people, Washington said the next set of actions could still cause economic pain in the short term. Still, the official said, Venezuelan opposition leaders and regional governments have told the administration that tougher sanctions should yield medium- and long-term gains for Venezuelans, especially with the potential for more economic pain under the Maduro government.

The Trump administration says U.S. firms also have been forewarned, with American individuals and firms also at risk of sanction costs.

“We’ve cautioned for many months now that choosing to do business, as an American or otherwise, with the Maduro regime, you’re taking a risk,” the official said. “As some large companies have found out, it’s a reputational risk.”

Goldman Sachs Group came under fire in May for $2.8 billion in Venezuelan bonds it bought. The bank has said it bought the securities from a broker and didn’t interact with the Venezuelan government. For fear of sanctions risk, Credit Suisse Group has prohibited trading of certain Venezuelan bonds.

Siobhan Morden, managing director at Nomura, said reputational risk has already deterred banks from buying $5 billion worth of bonds that Venezuela issued in December through a Chinese brokerage and is attempting to shop in a transaction similar to that of the Goldman deal.

“But as some others may soon find out, it’s more than a reputational risk, it could be an actual financial risk,” the official said. “Those trying to make a quick buck out of the Maduro dictatorship should be warned.”

Write to Ian Talley at

August 23, 2017

Miami Herald, August 23, 2017

Video offers rare glimpse of hardline ideology from presumed next leader of Cuba

By Nora Gámez Torres

In a videotaped private meeting with Communist Party members, Cuban Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel — often portrayed as a moderate politician with a quiet disposition — took on an all too familiar hardline tone that offered a rare glimpse into his ideology.

In the video, which has quickly spread across social media platforms, Díaz-Canel lashed out against Cuban dissidents, independent media and embassies of several European countries, accusing them all of supporting subversive projects.

For the United States, he had this message: Cuba will not make any concessions.


“The U.S. government… invaded Cuba, put the blockade [embargo] in place, imposed restrictive measures. Cuba did not do any of that, so in return for nothing they have to solve those asymmetries if they want relations and if they want normalization of the relations,” Díaz-Canel said in the February meeting captured on video and published by Cuban dissident Antonio Rodiles on YouTube this week.

“We do not have to give anything in return,” Díaz-Canel said.

The vice president and presumed successor to Raúl Castro, who has said he will retire in 2018, also warned of the existence of an “American design” aimed at the “political and economic conquest” of Cuba. He also noted that the process of normalization of relations initiated by former President Barack Obama was just a different way of attempting “the destruction of the revolution.”

Although many Cuba watchers have speculated about Díaz-Canel’s moderate views, in the video he threatens to shut down the OnCuba website, criticizes the Cuba Possible centrist think tank as well as a training program for entrepreneurs, Cuba Emprende, which is run by the Catholic Church and has links to the Miami-based Cuba Study Group.

According to Díaz-Canel, the OnCuba website, a Miami-based media company which also publishes a magazine, “is very aggressive against the revolution. We will shut it down it,” he said. “We are going to close its digital platform. And let the scandal ensue. Let them say we censure, it’s fine.”

“Everyone censors,” he added.

For Rodiles, the vice president’s statements “confirm…that he is an individual who does not propose any change, is another pawn in the transfer of power.”

Díaz-Canel’s told Community Party members that he was personally involved in designing strategies to counteract the opposition and the independent civil society on the island.

“I always tell the comrades of the Interior [Ministry] with whom I work together in this whole confrontation with the counterrevolution: [that] the day we could cut the money, the counterrevolution ends,” said Díaz-Canel. The Cuban government has labeled dissidents as “mercenaries” because they receive financial support from abroad, mostly from Cuban exile organizations and the U.S. government.

He also accused the U.S. embassy in Havana and those of Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom of participating in “subversion” activities and providing support to the opposition.

The long list of “subversive projects” at times showed in a Power Point presentation in the video, includes Obama’s visit to Cuba in 2016, private businesses whose marketing exploits the nostalgia of 1950’s Havana and even the celebration of Halloween in the island.

Follow Nora Gámez Torres in Twitter: @ngameztorres 

Ottawa Citizen, August 23, 2017


Kolga: Vladimir Putin’s manufactured history

By Marcus Kolga Marcus Kolga

In many ways, Aug. 23 marks the 78th anniversary of the start of the Second World War.

On this day, in 1939, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin signed a friendship pact that included a secret protocol carving up Central and Eastern Europe between them. The treaty, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, formally triggered the start of the Second World War as it facilitated a collaborative joint Nazi-Soviet attack and occupation of Poland and later the illegal Soviet annexation of the Baltic States.

Anyone mentioning these historical facts in Russia today risks a fine and even imprisonment in the repressive reality that historians and journalists living in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, are forced to endure.

In 2014, Putin signed a Russian law that criminalizes “the denial of the facts” and anything the Kremlin determines as the “dissemination of deliberately false information on the activities of the Soviet Union during the Second World War.”

In 2016, a courageous Russian blogger named Vladimir Luzgin was fined $3,887 by a regional court in Perm for having violated the law that criminalizes anything but the Kremlin’s version of history. Luzhin’s crime? Stating that “the communists and Germany jointly invaded Poland.”

Last week, the Russian ministry of foreign affairs accused Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski, of historical “forgery” and “insulting remarks” when he commented about Soviet and Nazi collaboration when the two regimes attacked his country in 1939. Like Luzgin, the Polish minister could also be charged with speaking the truth about Hitler’s and Stalin’s cooperation and the terrifying darkness of Soviet occupation that most of Central and Eastern Europe was kept under until 1991.

Any mention of Soviet-Nazi collaboration conflicts with Putin’s version of Russian history. In Putin’s world, Stalin was the hero who liberated Europe and under whose leadership, the occupied Baltic States, Ukraine, Belarus and other Soviet satellites, prospered thanks to Soviet benevolence. Putin has crafted himself as Stalin’s heir, and as such, there’s little room for the “truth” about the 30 million who were murdered by Stalin’s regime, let alone any other inconvenient fact about Soviet occupation or mass repression.

The core historical truths that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is central to represent the greatest threats to Putin’s manufactured history. From it follow the coordinated Nazi and Soviet invasions of Poland in September 1939 and, shortly thereafter, the Soviet military occupation of the Baltic States. After staging referendums in the Baltic States to join the Soviet Union in August 1940, all three were swallowed into the Soviet Union without a single shot being fired.

The Soviet occupation dealt a devastating blow to Estonia’s ethnic minorities, whose rights were enshrined in its uniquely progressive constitution that gave minorities broad autonomous rights. Under Soviet occupation, ethnic and religious minorities, including Jews, were no longer allowed an independent voice; they pre-empted the future Nazi occupiers by liquidating and banning culturally autonomous groups and their organizations.

In June 1941, Soviet authorities rounded up tens of thousands of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians and deported them to distant Gulag slave labour camps. Thousands died in inhumane conditions as they were transported for weeks with little food or water across the vast Russian interior.

When Nazi forces invaded the Baltics and eastern Poland in 1941, the murderous repression that the Soviet-Nazi pact had imposed took on new symbols: the swaztika and iron cross, but little else changed.

As Stalin’s armies forced the Nazi retreat in 1944, hundreds of thousands of Europeans fled west, fearing the return of Soviet occupation. Nearly every family in the Baltic States was touched by Nazi or Soviet terror – many by both. The unbearable possibility of arbitrary detention, deportation, torture and even execution forced hundreds of thousands to flee to Sweden and areas in Germany, temporarily occupied by the Western Allies.

Unlike the western European nations that were liberated by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and their Allies, Eastern and Central Europe were forced to endure nearly 50 additional years of occupation, repression and terror at the hands of the Soviet Union.

Throughout the 1950s, hundreds of thousands of war refugees, fleeing Soviet and Nazi terror, found safety in Canada, where they and their families continue to make important contributions to the Canada we know today.

In Canada and the entire free world, we must fortify our resolve to recognize the Kremlin’s relentless attacks on facts and truth. On Aug. 23, we must reject Putin’s ongoing falsification of history and never allow the victims of Soviet and Nazi occupation and terror to be forgotten.

Marcus Kolga is a documentary filmmaker and a human rights advocate. An expert on Baltic Sea region and Russian foreign policy, he is the publisher of and is a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Foreign Policy Centre.

The Guardian, August 23, 2017


Putin has defended the Nazi-Soviet pact. Time for the west to wake up

By Linas Linkevičius

Many historic anniversaries are being celebrated this year in a rather grim security environment. They invoke spooky allusions to the past and invite us to draw lessons from them. But not everyone, obviously.

Vladimir Putin has stated that there was nothing wrong with the Nazi-Soviet Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which was made 75 years ago on 23 August 1939. The Soviet Union simply did not want to go to war, Putin added.

Two tiny details seem to be ignored in this evaluation: the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact merely enslaved eastern Europe (by the Soviet Union, incidentally). Second, the pact led to the second world war. It was not an escape route by the Soviet Union, but instead a cold-blooded calculation to ignore Hitler’s growing appetite for territories.

Leaving history to historians, I would like to draw attention to the western responsibility here. We cannot let such statements go unnoticed because they are part of a bigger narrative, under which the Russian leadership now seeks endorsement for its aggressive and revisionist foreign policy.

Otherwise we, the western democracies, risk becoming part of a similar pact. Not by consciously entering into dirty deals with the aggressor, but by not doing enough to prevent it, and leaving the impression that anything is possible. True, the western response solidified recently, albeit a bit late. However, notions of the need to appease Russia are gaining speed.

The confidence with which Russia is acting now comes partly from our inability to stand by our values and principles. Russia applied similar tactics in the case of Georgia in 2008. We searched for ways to get back to normal quickly, hoping that “normal” was also the intention of the Russian regime. It turned out it was not. So unwillingly, we became part of their plan. History repeats itself now.

The current conflict is not a simple divergence of views, but a major breach of rules by Russia – grabbing pieces of land and keeping them (not to be confused with peacekeeping), exercising aggression against a sovereign country (Ukraine) with full use of military, economic, energy and political means, including brutal info-warfare. Add to this the fuelling of separatism and terrorism, including the supply of weapons.

It is high time to put values ahead of a strategic partnership in our relations with Russia. Time to be more vocal rebuffing lies sold as “alternative truth” by the Russian leadership. Returning to normal is impossible without renewing pledges of basic rules and commitments – maybe renewing the Helsinki accords (the same as those that guided us out of the cold war, but including real enforcement mechanisms this time). It is also time to provide Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia with a clear European perspective – we need them stable and prosperous no less than they need us.

The Russian regime did not abandon its adversarial mentality towards the west – it is well testified in their security doctrine. We must stand firm, showing that we are neither following suit with aggression nor turning a blind eye to their deeds. By being steadfast in our values we can impel Russia to rethink its ambitions; by being mild we can encourage their cruellest actions.