Russia is failing in its war against Ukraine, European Commission president tells Davos

Davos: European Commission president says Moscow has lost half its military capabilities and been driven out of significant amount of territory it initially captured

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen at Davos. Photo by STEFAN WERMUTH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Russia is failing in its war against Ukraine, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has told the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.

When Russia invaded “many feared that Kyiv would fall in just a few days, and the rest of the country within weeks,” she told delegates.

“That did not happen. Instead, Russia has lost roughly half of its military capabilities. Ukraine has driven Russia out of half the territories it had captured,” the head of the EU’s executive arm said.

In a hard-hitting attack on Moscow, she said Russia’s failure had also been economic with sanctions decoupling it from modern technology while it making entirely “dependent on China” for trade.

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She also claimed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was a diplomatic failure with Finland and Sweden, traditionally neutral countries, now in the process of joining Nato and Ukraine on a path to join the European Union.

Earlier and at the sidelines of the Davos forum, Ms von der Leyen held talks with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who is due to address the forum this afternoon, and Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.

President Zelensky is headlining a busy first full day of the forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, where top officials from the European Union, the US, China, the Middle East take centre stage.

The Ukranian leader has scheduled meetings with several leaders and heads of business in a bid to keep his country’s defense against Russia to the forefront as Israel’s war with Hamas diverts much of the world’s attention and sparks concerns about a wider conflict in the Middle East.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaking at the World Economic Forum, has warned that Russian president Vladimir Putin could continue to rage wars outside of Ukraine.

In her address, Ms von der Leyen warned the West must not let up supplying Ukraine with weapons and money if it wants Kyiv to succeed.

“Ukraine can prevail in this war but we must continue to empower their resistance,” she told politicians and business leaders at the forum, urging Kyiv’s western allies to continue their arms deliveries and financial support of Ukraine.

“Ukrainians need predictable financing throughout 2024 and beyond. They need a sufficient and sustained supply of weapons to defend Ukraine and regain its rightful territory,” she said.

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At the start of the speech, she reminded delegates that last week’s WEF global risks report showed that misinformation and disinformation were now the biggest short-term risks.

“These risks are serious because they limit our ability to tackle the big global challenges, we are facing: changes in our climate – and our geopolitical climate; shifts in our demography and in our technology; spiralling regional conflicts and intensified geopolitical competition and their impacts on supply chains,” she said.

Europe must take the lead in shaping the global response to falling trust, and that the private sector had a crucial role to play, she said.

“Our world is in an era of conflict and confrontation, of fragmentation and fear. For the first time in generations, the world is not at a single inflection point. It is at multiple inflection points, with risks overlapping and compounding each other,” she said.

“And there is no doubt that we face the greatest risk to the global order in the post-war era. But in my mind, there is also no doubt that we can move forward with optimism and resolve,” she said.

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Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times