Page language:
Not specified

Die Welt - "Nothing will be decided about us without us being there"


29/12/2021 - Ahead of negotiations between Washington and Moscow on Ukraine, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell shows little sympathy for Putin's demands for security guarantees. The EU wants to sit at the table at the talks and add a new item to the agenda.

This is a translation of interview in German published by Die Welt:


Because of the Ukraine crisis, EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell is on the phone a lot during his Christmas holiday in the Spanish mountains. That day he already had a long conversation with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. In the evening, he finds time for a telephone conversation with WELT.


WELT: Mr. Borrell, you recently wrote that Europe should not be a spectator in a "highly competitive world". Now you have the first test case, right on the EU's doorstep: Ukraine.

Josep Borrell: Yes, Ukraine is a test case. It is also about the question how the EU can get involved in the talks between Washington and Moscow about resolving the situation in Ukraine and the security guarantees demanded by Moscow. We do not want to be, and must not be, spectators that are not involved and over whose heads decisions are made. This is also the view of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as he confirmed to me in a telephone conversation on 23 December.


WELT: What does that mean in concrete terms?

Borrell: If Moscow, as announced, wants to talk about the security architecture in Europe and about security guarantees from January onwards, then this is not just a matter for the US and Russia. The EU must be present at these negotiations; such negotiations only make sense if they take place in close coordination with, and with the participation of, the EU.


WELT: Why is that important?

Borrell: Anyone who wants to negotiate the future security architecture in Europe must of course also talk to the Europeans. European security is our security. It is about us. Two parties, the US and Russia, or NATO and Russia, simply cannot negotiate about this - even if Moscow imagines it that way. We are not in the post-war period. There are some European states that are not Nato allies. There must be no Yalta 2. If anything, it must be a Helsinki 2.


WELT: But Moscow obviously only wants the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) to participate in the talks alongside the US and Nato.

Borrell: Yes, that is exactly what Moscow wants: two actors dividing their spheres of influence among themselves. Russia wants to negotiate the European security architecture without involving the European Union - that is absurd. We will not accept this. Nothing will be decided about us without us being there.


WELT: What exactly should be negotiated?

Borrell: This is the first time that the Russians have put their agenda on the table in writing, in the form of a real treaty. That has never happened before. To say such and such are my conditions. The demands for security guarantees and an end to EU and NATO expansion in the East is a purely Russian agenda with completely unacceptable conditions, especially with regard to Ukraine. One thing is clear: these talks starting in January cannot only be about Ukraine and Nato's eastward expansion. We should talk about all treaty violations since the adoption of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975. We do not agree with many developments in Russian foreign policy, nor with some developments that Moscow considers to be internal affairs.


WELT: You mean the suppression of democracy.

Borrell: I mean the development of human rights in Russia and, for example, the treatment of regime critics like Alexei Nawalny and many others. Such issues must also be addressed in the talks with Moscow.


WELT: Will there also be concrete talks in Geneva about Russia's role in Libya, Syria or the Arctic?

Borrell: To be honest, I do not know what will be put on the table, when and in what form. It is too early for that now.


WELT: Do you see room for concessions to Moscow?

Borrell: That remains to be seen. But we cannot compromise on fundamental principles. The territorial integrity of a country and the right of a sovereign state to decide for itself on its cooperation with other countries or alliances - these principles are not negotiable.


WELT: Is Moscow planning an invasion of Ukraine? How likely is that on a scale of one to ten?

Borrell: I do not play these kinds of games. You will not get me to classify the probability of certain scenarios. But I can tell you: the European and American intelligence services are working with all kinds of scenarios. A military invasion cannot be completely ruled out - but there are many other scenarios and they also worry me, even if they are less extreme.


WELT: Could you give examples?

Borrell: A destabilisation of the government in Kiev through hybrid tactics, a further escalation between Ukrainian soldiers and the separatists in the Donbass or pressure through less gas for Europe. Many things are conceivable.


WELT: Shouldn't the EU support Ukraine even more?

Borrell: We are doing a lot, possibly more than others. We have continuously supported Ukraine with billions of euros in financial aid over the past years. We are expanding mutual trade and intensifying our economic relations. I also decided, for example, the week before last to support the Ukrainian army with a further 31 million euros. This is to improve logistical capabilities and the fight against cyberattacks. We have also had a mission with more than 80 people on the ground (EUAM Ukraine) since 2014, which is helping the country to reform the civil security sector, especially the police and prosecution. This helps to make Ukraine more resilient to threats from inside and outside the country. Germany is also making an important contribution here.


WELT: What else are you planning?

Borrell: We are thinking about an EU military advisory and training mission in Ukraine (EU Military Advisory and Training Mission Ukraine). This would involve European military instructors training command personnel of the Ukrainian army. We have already evaluated on the ground what the Ukrainians need, how we can help concretely, what such a mission would cost and who could participate. I will soon present a proposal to the EU states to this effect.

See Also