The European Union is not prepared for a war such as the one in Ukraine, the bloc’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell warned on Wednesday. He made the claim at a debate panel hosted by the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) think tank.
The top diplomat stated that he doesn’t believe it “realistic” that European nations could substantially improve their military capabilities in a timely manner, since the process is “voluntaristic” and there is no “law of gravity to make things happen.”
He explained that even though it is well known where the EU defense shortcomings are, there has to be a “wake-up call” for members to act in a coordinated manner and not end up wasting money. However, he expressed his dismay that the war in Ukraine was apparently not “the right wake up call.”
“We should learn from this war. Look, the European armies couldn’t maintain a war like the one in Ukraine for more than two weeks. They’ll run out of ammunition,” Borrel said.
He also pointed to the fact that Europeans had grown too accustomed to peace and refused to acknowledge the threat looming from abroad. He stated that the EU was built with the banner of peace and that war had “disappeared from our collective imagination,” after the founders of the bloc set out to make war “mentally impossible.”
However, the diplomat noted that peace was “no longer an engine, no longer something that moves. Yes, peace, okay, what else?”
“Don’t believe that peace is the natural state of things. The natural state of things is war and we in Europe, we have been accustomed to believe that peace is the normal state and I hope that we are not going to learn that this is not the case,” he said.
Borrell went on to compare Europeans to “big birds that put their head inside the sand” and don’t want to understand how dangerous the world is, insisting that it is important to make them understand “how the world is.”
Borrell previously called for an enhancement of European defense capabilities and for shortfalls revealed by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine to be overcome. He wrote in his blog on Sunday that the most obvious examples of such gaps were the “depleted stockpiles resulting from the military support we provided to Ukraine,” as well as issues “inherited from past budget cuts and underinvestments.”
“The EU needs to take on more responsibility for its own security,” which would require creating “modern and interoperable European armed forces, looking at the higher-end of the spectrum and also striving to scale up capabilities and forces,” he pointed out.
The diplomat underscored three main lines of action that should eventually allow the bloc to eradicate the current deficiencies in its defense: working on combat readiness, stockpile replenishment and modernization of its capabilities.
“The time to push forward European defense is now. We need to strengthen the European defense industrial base and to be operational with the needed military capacities. To be able to increase our military capacity to defend ourselves, to make NATO stronger and to support better our partners whenever needed,” he insisted.
Meanwhile, Moscow has decried the EU’s increasing militarization and has argued that the bloc is becoming an “aggressive militant player that has ambitions stretching far beyond the European continent” and is “following in the footsteps of NATO.”