Foreign Affairs minister João Gomes Cravinho - Photo: PAULO CUNHA/LUSA

Putin regime has ‘underestimated’ EU ability to unite over Ukraine, says defence minister

The defence minister said on Monday that the Russian president and regime had “underestimated” the EU’s ability to unite in the face of the conflict in Ukraine, citing reports from European officials about the “very significant impact” of sanctions on Russia.

“I believe that Putin and his regime have underestimated our ability to remain united with a very firm stance in relation to what has happened in Ukraine,” he said.

Speaking to Lusa news agency, after having participated by videoconference in the meeting that brought together the defence ministers of the European Union, João Gomes Cravinho said that there had been “a great convergence” at this meeting, as well as “a general recognition that this same convergence is fundamental as an asset” of the European Union’s position.

According to Gomes Cravinho, “the European Union is also coordinating the various arms donations from EU member states” so that the Ukrainian authorities, “in this highly tense situation, do not have to deal with 20 different countries” but only with “one EU coordination centre”.

The EU will have to ensure that the Ukrainian authorities “do not have to deal with 20 or so different countries in this extremely tense situation” but only with “one EU coordination centre”.

He also said that at this meeting there was a consensus that the European Defence document called ‘Strategic Compass’, which “is to be approved in March”, should have “the necessary adjustments to reflect the new geopolitical reality”.

“I believe that everyone has shown great awareness that the world changed on February 24, the strategic environment in which we live has changed very significantly,” he maintained.

The EU will also be attentive to “the capacity and willingness to disrupt that Russia has demonstrated in EU missions in various places”.

“Namely in the Balkans and Africa, so we will be alert to these possible attempts at disruption by Russia, which was developing an operation to encircle Europe by entering the Sahel and North Africa via Libya, but we are very attentive to this,” he said.

For Gomes Cravinho, the EU also needs to rethink its relationship with Russia “in the long term”.

He considered that the Putin regime, “not only represents a challenge, but a frontal attack on the architecture of security in Europe. But after Putin, Russia will continue and it is in our interest, as the EU, to develop an understanding and a mutual commitment in relation to the security of all with Russia and therefore we should start thinking already about what we want for that moment, which obviously lies in the future,” he stressed.

The minister said that the dialogue between the EU and NATO “has been very intense”.

“What we see is that both organisations, EU and NATO, are playing an absolutely fundamental and complementary role in the response to Russia. Neither of them alone could translate the impact and weight of the European and Western response without the other: the EU with the full force of sanctions and NATO with the military guarantees it offers,” he explained.

Source: Lusa