The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs gives an interview to the AFP news agency Josep Borrell said that V. Putin sees “the fatigue of Europe and the reluctance of its citizens to accept the consequences for supporting Ukraine.”
“We have to hold back, split the price for the entire EU,” added Mr. Borrell and warned that the effort to maintain the unity of the 27 Community countries is a task carried out “day by day.”
Mr Borrell will meet EU foreign and defense ministers in Prague next week, hoping to strengthen what has so far been a surprisingly united diplomatic front against Russian aggression.
EU members, most of whom are also NATO allies, agreed on several sanctions packages targeting members of Putin’s inner circle and economic sectors, including crucial oil exports.
But now energy costs and inflation are rising in the Community, and several countries, including economic powerhouse Germany, are on the verge of a deep recession.
The EU’s eastern countries, which border Russia and retain grim memories of Soviet dominance, continue to demand tougher measures and push for a ban on tourist visas for Russian citizens.
Other capitals are shying away from further measures that would also hurt their own economies, fearing that voter support for Ukraine may not last if it has to cut energy use and pay huge gas bills in the winter.
Mr Borrell’s task is to maintain a united front, which Brussels senses has so far been a key trump card, despite Moscow’s efforts to play down EU fears and divide allies.
“We must not forget that the European Union is an association of states with different attitudes towards Russia,” he emphasized.
Spain’s 75-year-old former foreign minister will propose that the EU organize training for Ukrainian forces similar to those sponsored by the United Kingdom and Canada.
“We must resist”
“We must provide support to Ukraine, which includes not only the supply of weapons. When faced with those who refuse to stop the war, we must be able to resist,” said Mr. Borrell.
However, finding a compromise between the different priorities of EU members will not be easy.
“A member of the state is the mistress of her foreign policy. We must ensure that their interests reach a common point. We always operate in a compromise mode,” said Mr. Borrell.
Europe is a huge market and trade bloc, so EU economic sanctions can hit the Community’s opponents hard.
However, decisions on sanctions must be made by consensus. This means that even a single member, such as Hungary, which maintains friendly relations with Moscow, can delay the adoption of joint measures or destroy it.
If a pro-Ukrainian coalition, which could be formed by Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Poland, wanted to implement their ambitions to ban the arrival of Russian tourists, they would need the approval of more cautious EU members.
“First of all, we seek a European solution because it is the most sustainable and legally correct. (…) If such is not found, we do not rule out the possibility of looking for a regional solution that would include the Baltic states, Poland and potentially Finland”, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister told reporters on Tuesday Gabrielius Landsbergis.
Chancellor of Germany at the time Olaf Scholz expressed misgivings about proposals to ban visas, while Mr Borrell also took a cautious stance, suggesting the ban would only apply to pro-Putin elites.
“I am convinced that banning all Russians from entering Europe – always, for whatever reason – is not a good idea. We have to be more selective, but, of course, nothing for the oligarchs,” he said.
Western armaments, including those purchased for 2.5 billion EU financial support, which allowed the Ukrainians to gain an advantage over the Russians using outdated military equipment, Mr. Borrell said.
However, the Russian leader is not going to give up, and Europe is worried that Moscow’s forces could vaporize one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and cause a continental nuclear disaster.
“Vladimir Putin remains adamant. We must continue the pressure with sanctions and restore the Ukrainian forces, – noted Mr. Borrell. – The war is turning in a new direction. The Ukrainians went on the offensive.”