Putin doesn’t just want a piece of territory, he wants to destroy the EU

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Portuguese Foreign Minister João Gomes Cravinho stresses that Russian President Vladimir Putin “doesn’t just want a piece of Ukrainian territory”, but to “destroy” the European Union, saying he believes Ukraine can win the war.

“It’s an existential challenge for Europe because Putin doesn’t just want a piece of Ukrainian territory, Putin wants to destroy the European project and that’s why it’s crucial that we don’t allow him to win in Ukraine,” said João Gomes Cravinho, in an interview with Lusa news agency in Brussels.

About to end his mandate, given the parliamentary elections in March, the head of Portuguese diplomacy stressed that “if Putin achieves his goals in Ukraine, (…) he will not stop in Ukraine”.

“If we can’t demonstrate in Ukraine our determination to defend what we value, then it’s only natural that the European project will break up, and that’s what it’s all about,” he said.

Asked if he still believes in a Ukrainian victory, as Saturday marks two years since the Russian invasion, João Gomes Cravinho said: “I strongly believe in it and Ukraine has already shown that when it has the necessary means, it can repel the invaders.”

In addition, he stressed, “Russia has already demonstrated its high level of military incompetence and the territorial gains it has made are, moreover, very small, which have been made at a cost that no decent regime would accept of thousands and thousands of deaths for every square meter of territory.”

The Portuguese foreign minister’s critical stance towards Moscow comes four days after the announcement of the death of Russian opponent Alexei Navalny.

“We can’t have any illusions about what has happened. When Putin kills Navalny, he does it by looking at the rest of the world and saying: Look what I can do, it’s the nature of the regime that is being exposed here. And he also does it by looking at the Russian people themselves, saying: Beware because this is the fate of those who want to oppose you,” said João Gomes Cravinho.

He stressed: “When we are confronted with a dictatorship like the Russian one, when we are confronted with the implacability of a dictator who destroys all his opponents and opponents, who is afraid of them and therefore feels the need to destroy them – whether by forcing them into exile, imprisoning them or killing them – (…) I believe that what we have to do is say [that] we will not accept this dictator coming to bother Europe.”

Asked if the European Union (EU) could have done more to protect the main opponent of the Russian president’s regime, the Portuguese foreign minister said it was “very difficult to say that more could have been done” because “he had a high profile” in Russia.

The Russian military offensive on Ukrainian territory, launched on February 24, 2022, has plunged Europe into what is considered the most serious security crisis since the Second World War (1939-1945).

Still on the subject of Ukraine – which last December saw the European Council give the green light to opening formal negotiations for EU membership – and the future of the European project, the Portuguese minister spoke to Lusa about the enlargement process.

At a time when Ukraine and eight other countries (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Moldova and Georgia) are officially candidates for EU membership, João Gomes Cravinho said that “a different relationship is needed with these nine countries” in the context of EU enlargement.

Pointing out that an institutional change to accommodate these nine countries would be “a lengthy process”, the head of Portuguese diplomacy suggested instead “some creativity” to “adapt European functions to the reality of each country, allowing (…) different levels of cooperation”.

“In this way, we maintained the EU’s operational capacity, its ability to work very closely, but in different ways, according to the themes,” he concluded.

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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