EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell talks to the press as he arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at the Palacio de Congreso in Granada, southern Spain on October 5, 2023.
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European leaders said Thursday that the 27-nation bloc would not be able to fully replace U.S. support for war-torn Ukraine but made clear they were “absolutely convinced” Kyiv’s biggest financial and military backer would soon come to an agreement to provide further assistance.
Gathering in Granada, Spain, for a summit of the European Political Community, European leaders sought to reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine amid Russia’s full-scale invasion. The meeting comes shortly after political upheavals on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the U.S., President Joe Biden conceded Wednesday that he feared recent congressional chaos could disrupt U.S. aid to Ukraine after Republican infighting had complicated budget negotiations. He has insisted, however, that a majority of members across both major parties support funding Kyiv.
Meanwhile, in Europe, pro-Russian former Prime Minister Robert Fico won an election in Slovakia last weekend on a promise to end military aid to Ukraine.
“I was in Kyiv some days ago just at the moment when we knew that the U.S. Congress had not included support to Ukraine on the big deal about the budget in order to avoid the shutdown,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters in Granada on Thursday.
“That was certainly not expected, and it is certainly not good news, but I hope it is not going to be a definite position of the U.S.” he continued. “Ukraine needs the support of the European Union, which is sure, they will have it and we will increase it. But also, the support of the U.S.”
Asked whether Europe can fill the gap left by the U.S. amid concerns about Washington’s continued support for Kyiv, Borrell replied, “Certainly Europe cannot replace the U.S.”
Russia welcomed the news that a new U.S. funding bill had passed without any new aid for Ukraine. Viktor Bondarev, the head of Russia’s Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security, said via Telegram that “this is the beginning of the end for Ukraine.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared resolute on Thursday, however. Speaking to European leaders in Spain, Zelenskyy said he was “confident in America” when referring to recent “political storms.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc was working on a package of 50 billion euros ($52 billion) for Kyiv from 2024 to 2027, hailing the package as “very important because Ukraine needs predictability and reliability in the direct budget support.”
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, attends the media upon her arrival at the Palacio de Congresos de Granada to participate in the European Political Community (EPC) summit, on October 5, 2023, in Granada, Andalusia, Spain.
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Reflecting on concerns over the long-term support to Ukraine from the U.S., the EU chief said, “It was very important that President Biden informed us at the beginning of this week what the support for Ukraine is concerned from the side of the United States.”
“As far as I oversee the situation in the United States, I am very confident of support for Ukraine from the United States. What the United States is working on is the timing,” she added.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, meanwhile, said he’s “absolutely convinced” the U.S. will continue supporting Ukraine’s war effort.
“Not at all,” Rutte said when asked whether he was concerned Biden’s administration may reduce its support for Kyiv.
Rutte said senior Democrat and Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives had recently visited the Hague and they were “in total agreement on the need to continue the support for Ukraine because this about our common values [and] it is about our common security.”
Netherland’s Prime Minister Mark Rutte arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at the Palacio de Congreso in Granada, southern Spain on October 5, 2023.
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“We cannot accept one country in 2022, 2023 invading another nation so I am absolutely convinced that they will solve this issue,” he added.
Asked whether the EU could step in if the U.S. does not resume its support for Ukraine, Rutte said, “It is not necessary. The EU will do what is necessary [and] the Netherlands is among the top countries in terms of contribution for Ukraine … but I am absolutely convinced that the U.S. will stay on board.”