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11 Aug, 2022 08:46

Europeans must be willing to ‘pay’ to support Ukraine – top EU diplomat

Arming Ukraine and keeping Europe united comes at a cost, which Brussels needs to explain to citizens, Josep Borrell said
Europeans must be willing to ‘pay’ to support Ukraine – top EU diplomat

Helping Ukraine in its fight against Russia comes at a price, which EU citizens should be willing to pay, the bloc’s foreign policy chief has said.

A Russian victory would be defeat for Brussels, Josep Borrell believes.

“We must explain to our citizens that this is not someone else’s war,” the diplomat said in an interview published by newspaper El Pais on Thursday. “The public must be willing to pay the price of supporting Ukraine and for preserving the unity of the EU. 

“We are at war. These things are not free,” he added, acknowledging that the cost should be distributed “equitably.”

Borrell was referring to surging inflation and potential power shortages faced by European nations after deciding to punish Russia for attacking Ukraine by refusing to buy its energy. Brussels wants member states to cut consumption to be better prepared for peak demand this winter, but some countries have resisted the proposal.

Spain, Borrell’s home country, was among the dissenting voices. Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said last month that “imposing unfair sacrifices” was not the best way to deal with the crisis. She argued that, unlike people in some other nations, “Spaniards have not lived beyond our means from an energy point of view.”

Europeans “cannot show a lack of solidarity” with such squabbles, Borrell said in the interview. He admonished Madrid for not appreciating “what this war represents to countries closest to it,” like Poland. Spain may benefit from the EU’s decoupling from Russia in the long run by becoming a major hub for supplying liquified natural gas to Europe, he added.

Borrell warned that his bloc should be prepared for the conflict in Ukraine to continue for a long time. Commenting on the EU's goals in the conflict, he said that “if Russia wins this war and occupies part of the Ukrainian territory, then we Europeans will have lost and will face a much greater threat.”

The Ukrainian government says it will only talk to Russia after pushing its military to where it was before 2014, which would include capturing Crimea. Borrell said Western nations have a “moral imperative” to back Kiev. He said the US and the EU have been in “absolute cooperation” on the issue, and suggested that this would not have been the case if the conflict started with Donald Trump in power in Washington.

Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian president Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”

In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.