Ukrainian embassy staff can voluntarily return to the Netherlands

Staff of the Dutch embassy in Ukraine who wish to return to the Netherlands will be allowed to do so. But the Netherlands, unlike the United States and the United Kingdom, still sees no reason to evacuate employees, said Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra.

The choice of evacuation “is a huge dilemma,” Hoekstra said. Recalling personnel too soon could fuel the already heated conflict between Russia and the West. But too late is terrifying, with the chaotic evacuation of the Afghan capital of Kabul last summer still fresh in our minds.

Like France and Germany, the Netherlands does not yet consider Ukraine too dangerous for its personnel. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who joined the meeting of EU foreign ministers via video link on Monday, also did not change his mind. But “we have indicated that if the employees themselves or their families want to go to the Netherlands, they of course have the possibility to do so,” Hoekstra said afterwards. A spokesperson could not immediately say if anyone had already made the request.

The United States and the United Kingdom have much larger embassies that cannot be easily moved to safety. But they aren’t shutting down completely either, Hoekstra said.

Hoekstra asked other Dutch people in Ukraine to consider whether it was really necessary to be there and to pay close attention to the situation in case it suddenly deteriorates. He pointed out that the fall of Kabul and the subsequent evacuation were “really different”. Unlike Afghanistan at the time, Dutch residents can leave Ukraine “without restrictions” at this time. The country shares a border and good relations with EU and NATO countries like Poland and Romania.

EU foreign ministers have asked EU foreign chief Josep Borrell to devise sanctions if Russia attacks Ukraine. But they will not speculate on what act Russia can expect what punitive measure. Hoekstra did not rule out possible sanctions but also did not want to say whether it is therefore conceivable that Russia would be excluded from international payment transactions, for example. The answer will be “big” and “fast”, that’s all he meant. What he especially noticed during his first meeting with EU foreign ministers was their unanimity, he said.

It is precisely the crafting of sanctions that regularly seems to divide EU countries. Heavy Germany is hesitant, while Eastern Member States are invariably in favor of a hard line.