Tusk calls on EU to increase military capabilities in response to Russia threat

Polish prime minister says: There is no reason that the European Union cannot become a military power like Russia’

Polish prime minister Donald Tusk has said “history will not forgive us” if the European Union does not increase its military and defence capabilities in response to the threat from Russia.

In a busy – and nervous – day of inaugural visits to Paris and Berlin, Mr Tusk and his hosts said that Nato mutual defence is non-negotiable – pushing back against what Berlin called “irresponsible and dangerous” speculation by Donald Trump.

After Mr Trump’s weekend remarks, linking Nato mutual defence to members’ defence spending, Poland’s new leader insisted in Paris that the Nato worked like the Three Musketeers: all for one, one for all. In Berlin, he went even further.

“There is no reason that the European Union cannot become a military power like Russia,” said Mr Tusk. “The EU ... is not able to defend itself if threatened by an aggressive neighbour and money is not the biggest problem. It’s about having greater will to use European wealth to defend ourselves. All leaders need to understand that.”


The Polish leader promised swift co-operation with Germany to boost arms production and European air defence. Given Berlin and Warsaw are within range of new Russian missiles in its Kaliningrad exclave, Mr Tusk praised Mr Macron’s assurance that France was “ready to extend its nuclear deterrent” to its European neighbours and framed this as the starting point for a common European system.

While French officials sidestepped the nuclear deterrent question when asked directly on Monday, Mr Macron urged the creation of a European arms giant and a new nuclear energy co-operation with Poland “as an impulse for Europe”.

As European capitals scrambled to respond to Mr Trump’s weekend remarks, senior Polish officials said it was “time that Europe” – not just European Nato members – “got its act together on defence”.

While Mr Tusk suggested “not all such remarks should be taken seriously”, he framed it as a “cold shower” for defence laggards in Europe – inside and outside Nato – “who have not seen the real threat” from Moscow.

Nobody can play – or make deals – with Europe’s security

—  Olaf Scholz

Promising closer military co-operation between Berlin and Poland “within the next dozen months”, Mr Tusk also used his first visit to Berlin to mock certain unnamed European countries’ recent Russia strategies for “choosing wishful thinking as geopolitical sense”.

In case he meant Germany, a common target of Mr Trump’s taunts, chancellor Olaf Scholz insisted that Berlin was working to boost its defence spending, defending Nato’s eastern flank – and, along with Poland, was providing more arms to Ukraine than any other EU member states.

A regular target of Trumpian taunts, Germany will this year meet its Nato obligation to spend two per cent of its economic output on defence, insisted Mr Scholz, “and will do this for all time in the future”.

After spending about 1.6 per cent of its gross domestic product on defence last year, the chancellor said Germans will “easily have the biggest defence budget in Europe” into the next decade and beyond.

Mr Scholz insisted that Nato mutual defence was “unconditional” and that “any relativisation of the Nato mutual defence guarantee is irresponsible and dangerous and solely in Russia’s interest”.

“Nobody can play – or make deals – with Europe’s security,” he said, without naming Mr Trump and his “deal”-based approach to business and politics.

Meanwhile French, Polish and German foreign ministers met outside Paris on Monday to reactivate the so-called “Weimar Triangle” trilateral format. Established in 1991, and a diplomatic invalid ever since, the three ministers vowed to work closer to combat Russian disinformation in Europe – in particular in advance of the European elections and the Paris Olympics.

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Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin