Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris did not mince words when expressing his thoughts on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Asked by CNBC’s Hadley Gamble if he expected civil unrest in Egypt due to food shortages triggered by the war, Sawiris, the chairman and CEO of Orascom Investment Holding, said he did not — he argued that people would know the crisis was caused by Putin and not their own government.
“I don’t think so,” Sawiris said Wednesday, “Because people understand that this crisis is not of our own making. I mean, it’s the making of a crazy man that woke up one day and decided to invade a peaceful country with no warning.”
Sawiris then referenced French President Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to continue diplomatic engagement with Putin, more than three months into the war that has killed thousands of civilians and flattened several Ukrainian cities.
Macron stressed in May that Putin must not be humiliated and that the door must be left open to improve diplomatic relations. The call echoed that of some Western analysts who say Putin should be able to “save face” amid this war in order to achieve a diplomatic settlement.
“Contrary to what Mr. Macron is saying, we shouldn’t care about his feelings, to hurt his feelings. We should be winning this war, because it’s another Hitler in the making.”
“It’s the same story in the Second World War,” he continued. “It started like that, we appeased Hitler by giving him a piece of Czechoslovakia. So then he walks into Poland, he occupies the whole thing, and he continues and he continues — it’s not going to stop there.
To appease or not to appease?
Putin claims his aim is to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine, a sovereign democratic country with a Jewish president. The Kremlin insists it is not targeting civilians, despite mounting and well-documented evidence to the contrary, including bombarded residential areas and the discovery of mass graves in cities and towns attacked and occupied by Russian troops.
Russian forces now occupy about 20% of Ukraine, and bloody fighting rages in the eastern Donbas region, which the Kremlin has described as an “unconditional priority.”
“Trying to avoid a confrontation can be always perceived as weakness, and will not be a deterrent,” Sawiris said. “And then the end, what are we going to do? We see all these Ukrainians dying in front of our eyes, are we going to be watching that? No? So, I am not in favor of appeasing this man.”
Several critics of Putin have likened the Russian president to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who in the lead up to World War II invaded the Sudetenland, a swathe of the former Czechoslovakia that was at the time inhabited by Sudeten Germans. Historians highlight the failed attempts of some European leaders then to appease Hitler, which did nothing to slow his military push across the continent.
Some Ukrainian and Western officials and analysts now warn that other countries like Moldova, Georgia, or the Baltic states could be next if Putin is not stopped.