Europe

'Russia still behaving as empire': EU foreign policy chief

'We have to improve capacity of our armies, of our defence, not as an alternative to NATO but to make NATO stronger and to share burden,' says Josep Borrell

Serdar Dincel  | 10.07.2024 - Update : 11.07.2024
'Russia still behaving as empire': EU foreign policy chief

ISTANBUL

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Wednesday that "Russia is still behaving as an empire," during his speech at the EU Defense Night event, on the margins of the NATO summit in Washington.

Borrell is in Washington for a meeting of the heads of state and government of the 32 members of NATO, their partner countries, and the EU. The summit takes place on July 9-11. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the alliance.

"Russia is still behaving as an empire, and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin wants to rebuild the empire. In February 2022, when they started bombing Kyiv, we woke up to this unhappy reality, and we found ourselves poorly prepared.

"We realised that we were not prepared to face this challenge. Yes, the history rhymes. 75 years ago, the Soviet Union emerged as a threat to freedom and democracy in Europe, and we responded with unity and strength. And today, the only thing that we can do is to follow the same path," said Borrell.

Stressing that the total defense spending in Europe has increased by 30% in the last three years, Borrell said they "will be reaching almost – on average, all together – 2% (of the EU GDP), 1.9%.

"It is not enough, but it is much better, and it is growing," he added.

Borrell noted that "it is a matter of strategic responsibility," and said: "We have to improve the capacity of our armies, of our defence, in order to be able to defend ourselves."

"Not as an alternative to NATO - there is no alternative to NATO for the territorial defence of Europe - but to make NATO stronger and to share the burden," he highlighted.

Borrell stressed that the EU started to attach more importance to increasing defense investments following the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war.

"If we allow Putin’s Russia to turn Ukraine into a second Belarus, and to put a ‘puppet government’ in Kyiv, we will pay a much higher price later. That Ukraine prevails is existential. (It) is a requirement for our security," said Borrell.

He further said they will open an EU Innovation Office in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

Referring to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's recent visit to Moscow after Hungary took over the rotating EU Presidency as of July 1, Borrell said: "I know that someone says that he is looking for peace. Well, all of us want peace and, in particular, the Ukrainians. They want peace more than anyone else."

He continued: "But what kind of peace? If we stop supporting Ukraine, the war will be over very quickly. The war will stop, yes. But how?

"Which will be the result of this story if Ukraine has to surrender? Putin will not stop in Kyiv."

Stating that it is Putin who started the war, Borrell said: "Looking for peace does not make us forget that there is an aggressor and an aggressed. We cannot put both of them on the same level.

"Yes, we want peace, how not? But only a peace that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and provides security guarantees. Only that would be a real peace. Peace is something more than the absence of war. Everything else - a ceasefire - will only allow Russia to rearm and attack again."

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