Borrell asks to avoid alarmism, rules out evacuating embassies but affirms that “the punitive measures will be adopted and implemented at the right time, if it comes”
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The EU has made this Monday a call for calm and against alarmism. The news coming from the Russian borders is worrying, troop movements continue and Moscow’s rhetoric does not invite optimism, but the situation is delicate enough to raise the temperature. In this context, and after meeting with the Foreign Ministers of the 27, and listening to the US Secretary of State by videoconference, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, has assured that “there is nothing new that can increase the feeling of fear about an imminent Russian attack” on Ukraine.
The fear is real, the danger evident, there is no need for accelerators or errors. The meeting of the ministers took place just a few hours before the teleconference organized by the North American president, Joe Biden, with the prime ministers of France, Italy, Germany, Poland and the United Kingdom, in which the president of the Commission was also invited. Union, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. “You have to avoid a nervous breakdown” said the Spaniard, trying to contain his emotions, but explaining that the 27 have been and will continue to be consulted by Washington in the face of the written response that Moscow expects, after the recent meeting between Blinken himself and his Russian counterpart Labrov in Geneva.
Borrell has also explained that the EU has no intention of evacuating its embassies and has clarified that the US, despite known information, has not done so either. Not quite. “Blinken has told us that it has not been an evacuation, simply allowing, giving freedom to non-essential personnel, so they can decide to leave if they want. After the exchange and sharing of information, I don’t think there is a need for preventive measures. I’m not saying none in general, but about our permanent staff in Ukraine,” said the high representative. Some country could do it, but on an individual initiative.
The Union’s request for calm (the Commission yesterday announced a financial assistance package of 1,200 million euros) is complemented by the literal taking of positions by NATO. The organization is increasing the number of ships, planes and soldiers on the internal borders of the Alliance to “strengthen deterrence and defense”. Light years from Russia, which has more than 127,000 soldiers after three months of constant movement, but at strategic points. Thus, in a “state of alert”, the Blas de Lezo frigate and the Meteoro minesweeper will be sent by Spain a week ahead of schedule; Dutch F-35 planes that will go to Bulgaria in the spring. French troops in Romania or Danish F-15 fighters and another frigate waiting in Lithuania and the Baltic Sea.
“We welcome Allies who contribute additional forces to NATO. We will continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all Allies, strengthening the eastern part. We will always respond to any deterioration in our security environment, by strengthening our collective defense if necessary,” General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday, meeting with the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland, increasingly strong candidates to request their entry into the club.
The cast is clear. The Alliance makes the military moves, the EU asks again and again that diplomacy be allowed to work while it prepares the sanctions, and the heads of state press, asking for common sense but warning that those “massive sanctions” will destroy the Russian economy in case of aggression. Next week, a delegation of MEPs plans to go to Kiev to show their solidarity and Borrell has confirmed that the possibility of the 27 EU foreign ministers holding a meeting there is on the table. “Why not? Nothing has been decided but it is not impossible. If there is unanimity, why not in Kiev if the situation worsens and it is necessary to show collective solidarity”, he explained.
From Brussels, something unusual, no specific details come out about what the reaction would be in case of aggression. Germany, widely criticized in recent days for its ambiguity, its caution and decisions that have surprised its partners and allies so as not to anger the Kremlin, is the one that is most clearly saying that do not go over braking, because there will be consequences. But the rest ensure, seeking credibility, that the punishment package is practically ready, it would be immediate and effective. “Part of deterrence is not giving information,” Borrell has reiterated about the reluctance to give details. A European diplomat these days compared the list of retorts, which is even avoided in writing to avoid leaks, with a Tupperware in the freezer: “the food is ready, when we want it, we have to decide whether to let it thaw on its own or try to bite when it’s ready.” still cold”, depending on the urgency.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism