VideoThis morning, senior European leaders once again urged President Putin to refrain from further aggression against Ukraine. Both Council President Michel and Commission President von der Leyen did so in a debate in the European Parliament that had just begun.
“You have the choice between a war with many casualties and political courage,” Michel said. “We are obliged to show it to the Europeans, and to the Russian people.” Von der Leyen: “Choose to collaborate.”
According to Michel, Russia has shown in the past two days that it “may be open to diplomacy after all,” according to von der Leyen, Russia continues to send mixed signals. Announcing the withdrawal of forces, but according to “NATO,” without them being visible on the ground. At the same time, a vote was taken in the State Duma to establish two independent republics in eastern Ukraine.
The two leaders also assured the Ukrainian people of their support. Michel wants to convene a donors’ conference to raise additional funds on top of the 1.2 billion macroeconomic aid that Europe is releasing.
air raid shelters
In their speeches, Michel and von der Leyen made clear that Putin’s aggression against Ukraine has thus far essentially achieved that Euro-Atlantic cooperation is closer than ever. “Lavrov (Russian Foreign Minister) sent 36 letters to individual countries and received two responses: one from Head of Foreign Affairs Borrell on behalf of the European Union and the other from Jens Stoltenberg on behalf of NATO,” said von der Leyen, who demonstrated the courage and resilience of the Ukrainian people. As a German, she used a catchy image: “Europe was founded to outlaw war, but the people there are ready to flee, stock up on food and set up air-raid shelters. Not in 1940, but in 2022.”
Around this time, NATO defense ministers also meet. On their agenda: a further strengthening of the Western military presence in Eastern Europe and an order to the NATO Commander-in-Chief to prepare for “all possible scenarios”.
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According to General Secretary Stoltenberg (mentioned at quarter past ten), it remains to be seen what the Russians really want and the West still does not see any withdrawal of Russian troops. On the contrary, there are more forces on the way. While withdrawal will remain the best evidence of de-escalation.”
According to Stoltenberg, if the Russians are serious about their choice to continue the dialogue, they should also heed the invitation to speak to NATO again. This has not happened yet.
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