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Ukraine war shows EU lacks ‘critical defense capabilities’: Borrell

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says Russia’s war in Ukraine has shown the 27-nation EU lacks “critical” defensive capabilities.

Speaking at the annual European Defense Agency (EDA) conference in Brussels on Thursday, Borrell said Europe needs to take more responsibility for its own security, and look not just to the war in Ukraine but consider facing future threats.

“After the Cold War, we shrunk our forces to small-size armies without coordination… We lack critical defense capabilities,” Borrell said. “We have to compensate years of underspending.”

The top EU diplomat said  the Ukraine war had drained the EU's weapon stockpiles in recent months. “This war against Ukraine has been a brutal wake-up for many of us.”

“We realize that our military stockpiles have been quickly depleted due to years of under investment.”

European allies have given Kiev arms worth billions of dollars to help Ukraine against Russia.

Borrell said the war has refocused attention on the strength of the EU's own defenses that suffered from years of underspending after the Cold War ended. “We realize that we lack critical defense capabilities. We lack the capabilities that we need to defend ourselves from a higher level of threats.”

“We are facing threats, real threats, close by and (they are) likely to get worse.”

Borrell said the 27 members of the EU need to keep stepping up spending and bolster joint procurement and investment in technologies to make up for shortfalls. “For me the choice is obvious. We must cooperate more, European armies have to cooperate more among them.”

“We need to continue supporting Ukraine. We need to continue addressing the present needs and we need to start preparing the future.”

There have long been calls by some EU states to expand Europe's own defense capabilities and better integrate its armed forces. EU states, however, still remain heavily reliant on the United States to provide Europe’s security under the umbrella of NATO.

Russia is against NATO's eastward expansion which has expanded eastward since the 1990s. Moscow started its campaign in Ukraine on February 24. It says it launched the operation in order to defend the pro-Russian population in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk against persecution by Kiev. Back in 2014, the two republics broke away from Ukraine, refusing to recognize a Western-backed Ukrainian government there that had overthrown a democratically-elected Russia-friendly administration.

Ever since the beginning of the war, Western countries, led by the United States, have been slapping Russia with a slew of economic sanctions and supporting Ukraine militarily, steps that Russia says would only prolong the war.

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