Birth of Geopolitical Europe: EU Sanctions, Arms Shipments & Ukraine’s EU Membership Bid in Focus

Written by | Friday, March 4th, 2022

The European Union said it would seriously look into Ukraine’s application to become a bloc candidate country, recognizing the move’s political weight and dramatic circumstances as well as hesitation from many member states. In a passionate address made by video link from Kyiv, Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelensky on Tuesday (1 March) made an emotional plea to EU lawmakers and leaders gathered in the plenary chamber of the European Parliament, asking the EU to “prove that you are with us”. Ukraine has been under attack from by Russian forces since Thursday (24 February), in an invasion involving its air force and ground troops and heavy artillery, in the most serious war in Europe since the Balkan wars of the 1990s. “We’re fighting for survival, and this is the highest of all motivation, but we are fighting also to be equal members of Europe. I believe that today we are showing everybody that’s exactly what we are,” Zelenskiy told the EU’s political elite.
Meanwhile, explosions have rocked Ukraine’s capital Kyiv overnight amid widespread uncertainty over whether Russia will launch a full assault on the capital in the coming hours and days. More than 1 million Ukrainians have fled the country since the start of the Russian invasion a week ago, but many have stayed and taken up arms to fight Russian forces. In the latest development, a second round of talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations is due to begin in Belarus sometime on Thursday (3 March) afternoon. Kyiv’s minimum goal is to set up humanitarian corridors — routes for civilians to escape conflict-hit areas. Alongside diplomatic efforts, a European Arms-to-Ukraine program is continuing to gather momentum, despite Russian president Vladimir Putin’s threats of a nuclear response against what he calls Western interference in the war. The EU has set aside €450m to buy lethal weapons for Ukraine, and that comes on top of pledged shipments of fighter jets, anti-tank, and anti-aircraft weapons from a growing list of member states.
Faced with the prospect of civilian massacres on their eastern doorstep, NATO and the EU may need to resort to covert military operations as options narrow amid the Russian onslaught against Ukraine. Both NATO and EU countries are moving weapons into the war-torn country in an operation shrouded in secrecy out of fear of Russian reprisals. Some shipments are being coordinated via logistics hubs in Poland, where NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg flew Tuesday (28 February) to a military base in ?ask, some 300km from the Ukrainian border, accompanied by Danish F-16 warplanes. This comes as the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told the bloc’s lawmakers on Tuesday (1 March) that the EU must significantly increase its capacity to deter wars. Addressing the second ‘taboo’ in a few days, after the bloc approved supplying arms to Ukraine, Borrell said that “one of the lessons that we have to learn is that more than ever Europe must think strategically about itself, its environment and the world.”
In what was described as a “watershed moment” for its defense policy, the EU agreed on Sunday (27 February) to unblock some €500 million for member states to buy arms for Ukraine’s armed forces, with the aim to stop Russia’s invasion. “We need to increase our deterrence capacity in order to prevent war,” Borrell said, adding that the bloc needs to “think about the instrument of coercion, retaliation, and counterattack in the face of reckless adversaries.” “This is a moment in which geopolitical Europe is being born,” the EU’s top diplomat said. In a separate but related development, Brussels is also considering measures to bolster its energy security as increasingly harsh sanctions against Russia and the escalating violence in Ukraine have raised concerns about the security of supply of Russian energy commodities for the next winter. Europe imports about 40% of its gas, 35% of its crude oil and upwards of 40% of its coal from Russia. As uncertainty grows around these imports and EU gas reserves are dropping below 30%,“Our present situation is tense,” admitted the EU’s Energy Commissioner, Kadri Simson,

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