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Borrell says EU must ramp up support for Ukraine

Josep Borrell (European Parliament/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The European Union must continue and speed up its support for Ukraine as it fights to defends itself against the full-scale invasion that Russia launched one year ago, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told RFE/RL in an interview.

Borrell said the EU should back Ukraine with “more of the same…and quicker” across the board. This includes economic support, military support, training of soldiers, humanitarian aid, diplomatic outreach to third countries, and sanctions to disable Russia’s ability to finance the war.

“This is what we have been trying to do, and this is what we have to continue doing,” he said, acknowledging that the approach has cost Europeans in terms of inflation, especially in the prices of energy and food.

“It has a cost for us, but much less than the cost that the Ukrainians and, sorry to say, also the Russian people are paying for it,” said Borrell, who spoke with RFE/RL on February 18 at the Munich Security Conference.

Borrell also said multiple sanctions packages imposed by the European Union on Moscow are starting to take effect, but acknowledged that Russia was able to make money last year. He said, however, that Russia lost its main client for natural gas and is now losing money.

He pointed to the country’s budget deficit in January, which was 14 times bigger than in January 2022, and to the decrease in income from oil due to a cap on the price it can charge engineered by Western governments. But he said that while these measures have damaged the economy, achieving the desired effect takes time.

He also noted Russian losses on the battlefield, including an estimated 1,600 tanks destroyed, saying this was something Russian President Vladimir Putin could never have imagined before launching the invasion on February 24, 2022.

Borrell said he did not know how long the war would last nor what the relationship with Russia would be like after the war ends. The EU will one day have to start thinking about how peace and security in Europe can be rebuilt, but for now he is focused on maintaining unity within the EU on sanctions, military support, and diplomacy.

He noted that EU members states have taken Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s request for fighter jets into consideration, but Ukraine’s EU partners should focus on quickly sending the battle tanks that have been promised to defend against a Russian offensive that he said has already begun.

Russia has sent 300,000 soldiers to the front line — twice the number it had at the border before the war — to try to break the resistance of the Ukrainians.

The EU therefore must continue supporting Ukraine while “keeping a door open for any peace process that someone could be able to trigger,” he said.