Mark Rutte and Amy Mackinnon shake hands while on-stage, with the American and Dutch flags in the background.
Category: Featured News, News, On Campus

Title: Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte Calls for Russia to Be Held Accountable for Acts in Ukraine at SFS Event

Author: Ula Ekmecic
Date Published: January 27, 2023

On January 17, 2023, SFS welcomed Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte to the Hilltop for a chance to engage with students and discuss the need for transatlantic cooperation in the face of rising global challenges — among them, growing Russian aggression and providing continued military support to Ukraine. The event was hosted by Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service in partnership with the Atlantic Council and moderated by Foreign Policy’s Amy Mackinnon. 

In opening the event, Jörn Fleck — Senior Director of the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center — emphasized the critical role of the Netherlands in international affairs. The country is both a founding member of NATO and a strong proponent of partnership across the Atlantic. 

SFS Dean Joel Hellman introduced the prime minister. He recognized Rutte’s commitment to deepening the transatlantic alliance by meeting with future potential global leaders, represented by the newest generation of students at Georgetown.

Countering Russian Aggression


Taking to the stage, Rutte highlighted how Ukrainian forces have primarily been successful in pushing back against Russian operations throughout the first phase of the war. However, he also recognized that the coming months may prove to be a greater test of Ukraine’s defenses.

“There is this worry that in six weeks to two months’ time, Russia might again organize a big attack on Ukraine. Given that fact, we probably have to do more,” Rutte said. “That’s why we are participating in this Patriot mission that Germany and the U.S. have brought together,” referencing the joint decision between the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands to send patriot missile batteries to Ukraine. 

Beyond coordinating military aid as a result of all three countries being NATO members, Rutte argued that the U.S. has a direct stake in the war in Ukraine — for if Russia were to gain a foothold in Europe, it would “immediately impact the collective security and safety of the United States.” 

Notably, Rutte believed that the target of Russian aggression would not be limited to states in Europe. “It’s not just the U.S. participating in NATO because this is something historically important…[from] the Second World War and this was the next step,” he said. “No, if Russia will be able to get control [in Europe]…it will be the springboard for Russia to get here [to the U.S.].”

Justice on the International Stage


Rutte also raised the issue of accountability in regards to how Russia, under the direction of Vladimir Putin, has intentionally violated international law through its invasion of Ukraine. 

“What Putin is doing is directly running against our values [and] what we stand for,” he stressed. “[This means] that you do not colonize another country…that you do not use force; that democracy, freedom of speech, [and] freedom of journalism…are all sacrosanct in the Western world.”

Contingency planning for Ukraine’s post-war period is another one of Europe’s top priorities. Alongside other efforts, Rutte explained how the Netherlands’ is currently working to organize tribunals to be held in The Hague, home of the United Nations’ International Court of Justice.

“The Hague is the international city of peace and justice,” Rutte remarked. “I could not accept that we would let this go by unpunished, so accordingly, we are working with Ukranians and others to set up an aggression tribunal…we will hold them accountable.”

Today’s Global Security Landscape


During the Q&A session, Rutte engaged with students on varied topics in international affairs, ranging from Russia’s use of cyberwarfare, Venezuelan refugees in the Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao (ABC) islands, and the impact of sanctions on Belarus.

Concerned over the shortfalls in the International Criminal Tribunal’s approach to sentencing war criminals following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, one student asked how the court will ensure that those incriminated in Ukraine will be duly convicted. 

While Rutte acknowledged that there remains significant frustration within former Yugoslvia over the prosecution of the war, he recognized some of the successes of the court. “I do think that the Yugoslav tribunal was able to at least get some of the key players in front of the judges and also then give a verdict,” he said. “With many of these cases it will never be perfect…but we have to keep aiming to get there and to show…[that such aggression] will be prosecuted.”

Rutte closed out the event by emphasizing the significance of ongoing global collaboration in relation to the invasion of Ukraine, recognizing the importance of NATO in coordinating support from across both Europe and the Atlantic.