Ukraine-Russia: No feeling of immediate attack after Council meeting

Ukraine-Russia: No feeling of immediate attack after Council meeting
Foreign Affairs Council meeting including video teleconference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, credit: EU

The Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on Monday focused on the latest developments in Russia’s military build-up around Ukraine and EU’s response to it in cooperation with the US.

“The most important take away is that we reconfirmed our strong unity and united approach on the challenges to European security. Let me underline: our unity is our strength, and there is no doubt in the Council about this,” said Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, after the meeting.

At the meeting, the EU ministers of foreign affairs exchanged views via video teleconference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The US has started to evacuate staff from its embassy in Kyiv which could indicate intelligence about an immediate Russian invasion into Ukraine.

At the press conference on Monday evening, Borrell said that he had been told by Blinken that it was not an evacuation but a matter of non-essential staff leaving the country. The EU does not think that there is a need to take any kind of precautionary measure from the point of view of the number of staff and their presence in Ukraine.

Borrell also cautioned against the risk of an immediate attack. “I don’t think there is anything new that can increase the feeling of fear about an immediate attack,” he replied to a question.

The EU continues its collective diplomatic efforts to convince Russia to take the path of dialogue but Borrell was not himself sure that they will succeed. “The Russian rhetoric does not inspire a lot of confidence,” he said at the press conference.

“Should diplomacy fail — we are going to do our best for diplomacy to work — we are very well advanced in preparations of responses to a potential Russian aggression. And, certainly, it will be a quick and determined action with strong unity — not only within the European Union, but also internationally.”

“Any military aggression against Ukraine will have serious consequences and massive cost for the perpetrator,” he warned Russia.

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In its conclusions from the meeting, the Foreign Affairs Council condemned Russia’s continued aggressive actions and threats against Ukraine, and called on Russia to de-escalate, to abide by international law and to engage constructively in dialogue through the established international mechanisms.

“Dialogue in line with the key principles that underpin the European security is the way to improve the security situation and to safeguard peace and stability on our continent. Notions of ‘spheres of influence’ have no place in the 21st century.”

Reaffirming the EU’s full commitment to the core principles of European security, it mentioned sovereign equality and territorial integrity of States; the inviolability of frontiers; refraining from the threat or use of force; and the freedom of States to choose or change their own security arrangements.

“These principles are neither negotiable nor subject to revision or reinterpretation. Their violation by Russia is an obstacle to a common and indivisible security space in Europe and threatens peace and stability on our continent.”

The Council also reaffirmed the united approach of the EU and the ongoing strong cooperation and coordination of the EU and its Member States with the United States, NATO, Ukraine and other partner countries. Asked about divergences among member states on whether to export arms to Ukraine, Borrell replied that the issue had not been on the table.

Regarding assistance to Ukraine, European Commission President von der Leyen announced yesterday a new financial assistance package to the country made of both emergency loans and grants totalling €1.2 billion.  The package will help Ukraine to address its financing needs due to the conflict.

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