European Union foreign ministers promised an additional 500 million euros in military aid to Ukraine’s war chest to beef up the defense of the nation Monday as the bloc’s foreign policy chief exhorted member states not to waver in their commitment to sanctions against Russia.
The aid decision came after a video debriefing on the latest developments by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who said he was “grateful” for the new funds, which bring the EU total to 2.5 billion euros but still urged the 27 nations to provide more.
“If anything needs to be continued, it is weapons deliveries,” said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, insisting it was also essential to secure the port of Odesa enough to make sure grain shipments could resume. “And anybody who can do that, obviously, this is the main industrial countries of of the Western world. They have to step up with that.”
What remains essential within the bloc, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said, was a unity of purpose to believe that the major package of sanctions targeting Moscow will work, even if the immediate effects on the battleground aren’t always visible.
“Ukraine needs more arms,” Borrell said. “We will provide them. The war will continue.”
Borrell lashed out at critics claiming that measures including oil sanctions and monetary measures were counterproductive and hurting the EU more than Russia itself.
So even after he pleaded over the weekend for “strategic patience” when it came to sanctions to take hold, Borrell clearly lost patience with critics like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who last week claimed the EU had not only shot itself in the foot but also in the lungs with the six packages of sanctions.
“There is a big debate about ‘are the sanctions effective? Are the sanctions affecting us more than Russia?’ ” Borrell said. ”Some European leaders have been saying that the sanctions were an error, were a mistake.”
“They don’t have eyes? They don’t look to the graphs? They don’t consider figures,” Borrell asked in staccato rhythm, pointing to economic figures showing that the effect on Russia was bigger than on the EU.
The EU is struggling with the circumstances because the imposition of sanctions against Russia comes at a time of surging inflation, runaway energy and food prices and the continued effect of the pandemic, all of which already dampen the EU’s economic outlook.
He said Russian President Vladimir Putin was using such narratives to try to spread division within the bloc.
“I am sure Putin is counting on the democratic fatigue. I’m sure he believes that democracies are weak,” Borrell said.
“European societies cannot afford fatigue,” Borrell said. “They took the decisions on restrictive measures on the Russian economy, and they have to stick to it.”
At the same time the EU is fine-tuning existing sanctions and assessing a ban on Russian gold, which is Moscow’s second-largest export industry after energy. The Group of 7 leading industrial nations last month already committed to a gold ban, arguing that Russia has used its gold to back up its currency to circumvent the effect of several rounds of sanctions that nations around the world had already imposed on Moscow after its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.