The European Union’s diplomatic chief declared that it is essential for Ukraine to win the war against Russia, as member states agreed to increase military support to Kyiv.
How to help Ukraine defeat the Russian invasion topped the agenda as EU foreign ministers met in Brussels 11 months since Moscow sent tanks across the border, causing the continent’s worst refugee crisis since the second World War.
“Ukraine has to win this war,” said EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy Josep Borrell. The ministers were joined remotely by their Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, whom they informed that the EU’s support “will continue as long as it takes”, Mr Borrell said.
The assertion that Ukraine must achieve victory against Russia, which was echoed by several EU foreign ministers, reflects a toughened position among Kyiv’s western allies, who have ramped up pledges of military hardware in a bid to consolidate Ukrainian advances ahead of an expected Russian spring offensive.
Swedish foreign minister Tobias Billström said a Ukrainian victory was “a necessity before any negotiations can start”.
“It is our opinion that Ukraine of course has to win militarily in the field, and that is exactly why so many states are now providing Ukraine with reinforced military material,” as well as financial and humanitarian support, Mr Billström said. “It is by bringing all these things together that we will secure the victory of Ukraine.”
The ministers agreed an extra €500 million in joint EU funds for military aid to Ukraine and to increase training of Ukrainian troops, bringing the EU’s total military aid to €3.6 billion, Mr Borrell said. He put the total amount of EU support to Ukraine, including humanitarian and economic support, at €49 billion.
Nevertheless, a dispute over the provision of tanks lingered.
Latvia’s Edgars Rinkēvičs repeated a joint Baltic call for Germany to provide Ukraine with some of its many heavy-duty Leopard tanks, saying “no good arguments” remain against providing them.
So far the German government has declined to do so, and has also not yet given permission for other countries to transfer the German-made tanks.
Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock did not clarify whether her comments to French television on Sunday, in which she said Berlin would not prevent others from transferring tanks, represented the official German position.
Poland wants to send German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine, and has indicated it is willing to do so without Berlin’s approval.
Yet several ministers cautioned that the tank issue shouldn’t overshadow the significance of the military aid pledged in recent days.
Estonia committed one per cent of its GDP, while Finland announced support of €400 million.
Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto warned that tanks take a long time to deliver, and said that with Ukraine under bombardment and a Russian offensive expected, speed was also important.
“I think this tank debate also includes the factor that it’s a longer timeline that we speak about,” Mr Haavisto said.
“It’s important that Ukraine gets that material that it needs now immediately, including the air defence and so forth. It’s important that countries are delivering also rapidly.”