Josep Borrell: “Putin does not want to stop the war” | International

Josep Borrell, on Monday in Luxembourg.
Josep Borrell, on Monday in Luxembourg.DPA via Europa Press (Europa Press)

Four days after confessing his emotion at the “resistance, determination and hospitality” he found in the Ukrainian leaders during his visit to kyiv last week, Josep Borrell assures that the European Union is trying to contain the scope of the Russian invasion. But, at the same time, the head of European diplomacy hints that he does not see an early end to the war started by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We are making a great diplomatic effort. We must try to end the war as soon as possible, but we care how it ends. And it will always end with a negotiation. But for now, Putin does not want to stop the war,” said the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security from the European Commission office in Madrid on Tuesday.

Borrell denies the accusations that the European Union, with its policy of financing the purchase of weapons for Ukraine, is adding more fuel to the conflict. “We are not encouraging the war to spread. We are trying to contain it, both in its spatial dimension, so that it does not affect other countries, and in its vertical dimension, so that more deadly weapons are not used”, he explains. And he justifies military aid to kyiv as a necessity so that Europe does not fall into “hypocrisy”. “If European leaders say that Ukraine defends European values ​​and is waging a war that defends us, then to do otherwise would be hypocrisy,” he concludes.

After Putin’s failure to seize kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities during the first phase of the war, the conflict has entered a new period. This new phase is, according to Borrell, “a war of positions, outside the city, in the open, with the mass media.”

Following the revelation of the massacre committed by Russian forces in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, European partners quickly pushed through a new wave of sanctions that would affect Russian coal imports. But they have failed to go further, with products that generate much more revenue for Moscow, such as gas and oil.

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Faced with this inability to achieve European unanimity —especially due to the resistance of countries such as Hungary, Germany or Austria—, Borrell recommends other ways to reduce energy dependence on Moscow. “We’re making it. Each country is doing it according to its possibilities”, he explains. The high representative also says that this is the time for a certain austerity in consumption: “Every saving counts. And this has to be accompanied by a social buffer.”

Borrell highlights the importance that this is an “asymmetric shock”, that is, it affects some European countries and others very unequally in two aspects: due to the volume of asylum seekers who arrive in each State and due to the different dependence energy of each. “Refugees do not reach the Pyrenees,” he points out in an attempt to summarize the idea that Spain is not among the countries most affected by these reverberations of the war in Ukraine. “Energy dependency is different for Hungary than for Spain. It is time to build unitary responses, but for this there must be a joint effort. Those most affected will have to be compensated to participate. That is what is being done, trying to spread asylum seekers all over Europe”, he points out. And he asks the journalists he addresses to imagine what would happen if 2.5 million refugees suddenly arrived in Spain. “This is what is happening proportionally to Hungary and Poland,” he concludes.

One factor that explains why the integration of the Ukrainians is not being so “brutal” is the presence of Ukrainians in the EU territories. “It’s a great buffer, because they themselves welcome their fellow citizens.”

In the midst of this heated war, another low-intensity battle is being waged: that of information. And in this fight for the story, the Catalan politician predicts that the Kremlin is going to insist on the idea that European sanctions are going to cause problems for third countries. “They will say that famine in Africa is a result of Western sanctions, when the food crisis is explained by the war in Ukraine short-circuiting Ukraine’s food supply,” he says. A battle of speech is looming, as has already happened with the pandemic. “Before there was the diplomacy of masks and vaccines, and now there will be the diplomacy of food,” he concludes.

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