Monday, February 26, 2024
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France urges bold action to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine

Russian aggression in Ukraine

STOCKHOLM, FEB 6: /DNA/ – Everything was said and perfectly by Your Majesty and Mister Prime Minister. So, I don’t want to repeat and I will try to get short and direct, perhaps much more on the situation in Ukraine.

And I suggest to answer your questions and to have more interactive session, afterwards. But very often, I repeated the necessity to have a more sovereign Europe.

And it was, for a lot of people, the sort of mystery of a paradox to speak about sovereignty referring to Europe. And indeed, I do insist on this notion. What does it mean? Having more autonomy and deciding the cooperation we want to build, but not depending on others for what is core for us.

This sovereignty is stronger now than it was a few years ago. And happily, the Russian aggression against Ukraine was part of the triggering point of more sovereignty in Europe. But we did improve the sovereignty and we are building it together. And I think our partnership with the Prime Minister – you perfectly referred to this document – and from our defense industry to our nuclear energy, our research and so on, we are building a stronger cooperation serving a stronger and more sovereign Europe. But very clearly, we have today a much more sovereign Europe.

We are ready to design and conduct operations together abroad. This is what we are doing in the Red Sea today, this is what we did together in Africa thanks to Takuba. We designed a much more European defense, the European Initiative for Intervention, creating more intimacy between our armies and you joined this initiative and this is around such a framework that we worked together in Africa. We built a European defense fund, we built, you referred to that European peace facility, which is a big success and was totally new in order to provide equipment and financing to a third party like Ukraine. We designed few weeks after the beginning of this war a common sovereign agenda.

We called it the Versailles agenda. We’re all together in order to reduce our strategic dependencies. But in technology, energy, defense, economic capacities, we decided precisely to work closely together to have more European answers. Clearly, we started to reverse decades of falling defense expenditures. We started after Crimea in 2014, and we accelerated during the past two years.

And altogether we are spending more and more money and building common capacities and common projects between Europeans. And your decision to join NATO is part of this strategic awakening. And I want to reiterate here our full support and to congratulate you about the fact that this decision is absolutely critical, having such an important member joining now our alliance.

On top of that, we reacted very rapidly right after the aggression. We put sanctions all together, we preserved our unity as Europeans and we managed to send support financing to Ukraine during the past two years. In parallel, we put our defense industry on a war footing, and we increased the churn rates, we reopened production lines, we placed new orders and reduced administrative constraints on our industry to produce much more and much more rapidly. And we were lucky to have a U.S. partner very much involved with all of us.

Here are just a few remarks to highlight how much stronger we were altogether and more sovereign we were altogether. And all these key decisions were not obvious for a lot of people two or 3 years ago. So clearly, the past two years were characterized after the aggression of Russia by this strategic move and all these reactions. Now, the war in Ukraine will be a longterm effort, and clearly, now, this is a testing moment and a decisive moment for all of us. Both of you mentioned the importance of the challenge, and I want to insist on the fact that, even if we can be very proud of these recent decisions and the moves we made, I strongly believe that we have to do much more.

First, we will have to be ready to act, defend, and support Ukraine whatever happens and whatever the U.S. decision will be. I think we are very lucky to have such a partner, to have such an ally. But very clearly, we have to be lucid on the fact that Ukraine is part of the European continent. And whatever the U.S. will decide, we have to take the right and bold decision to support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.

And we have to follow the line in the current strategy, which is impossible for all of us to see Russia winning this war, because there is no more framework and architecture of security in our continent if this is a Russian victory. What is the future of our Eastern flank, what is the future of the whole Europe, what is the future of Caucasus, what is the future of Central Asia if the results of such an international involvement will be a victory for Russia? So the cost, the real cost on the short to long-run of a Russian victory is too high for all of us.

This is why the reasonable answer is to put ourselves in a situation to support Ukraine during this year and the years to come. Whatever it takes, whatever it costs, this support should be through weapons and ammunitions, training programs, and everything they will need in order to resist the Russian aggression and put themselves, meaning the Ukrainians, in a situation to negotiate a sustainable peace; meaning a peace decided by the Ukrainians, and a peace respecting international order and international rules.

This is why whatever we decided and we did, clearly, we will have, in the months to come, to accelerate and scale up our effort. In terms of production, let’s be clear, and perhaps in terms of nature, it will request a lot of national decisions.

It will request some clear European decision, and we will make the follow-up on Thursday with our dear colleagues in Brussels. It will request to have perhaps some innovative answer, and I want to praise our colleague Kaja KALLAS, and she proposed a very bold decision for our defense industry strategy in order to have a sort of grant approach in order to raise more money to finance this effort.

 I mean I’m ready to take all this adapted decision and build the consensus but very clearly, we will have to take additional decision and we will have to adapt ourselves as well to more production because let’s be clear, even if we made a lot of efforts in order to produce more and more rapidly, if we compare ourselves to the Russian effort today, it’s not at scale and it’s not right speed. They managed to completely re-adapt their system so we have to react and even overreact to be alongside with the Ukrainians.

In parallel, I think we have clearly to follow up strengthening this effort, strengthening production, be ready to take national and European decision and pre-empt any US decision not to be dependent on any change.

In parallel, I would like to insist on a few critical points for me for the future. It will guide us to a strengthening of European defense. I insisted several times on this issue. Europe of defence is not a substitute to NATO and it’s even more important for you today than it was for yesterday but clearly this is one critical pillar of NATO. This is our way to take our own fair share and this is a necessity because we speak about our own neighbourhood.

So on top of that let’s follow up the strengthening of this European defense meaning we need more innovation, more common programmes and more clear operational intimacy. What we started with the European initiative for intervention should be strengthened and deepened in the months and years to come in order to have a much more European operational approach and interoperability based on NATO experience is an asset. We have to do the same as well with common programmes. I think our common partnership will allow us to do much more together and with our defense industry we will have to follow up.

Third, we have to follow up and deliver our Versailles agenda meaning we need much more sovereignty and autonomy on our energy and our technologies and our capacity to produce. And I think one of the wake-up calls we should not forget is that during years and years we thought that making trade and exchanging energy with Russia was the best way to prevent a war.

It was a mistake. It was the best way to suffer from a war and suffer from a unilateral decision. So we should not replicate this approach. So let’s diversify our relation but let’s refuse to depend on anybody else. When we speak about our energy we have to produce our low carbon energy. More renewable, more nuclear, more efficiency. European solutions.

It’s part of our mid to long run security. When we speak about our technology, our artificial intelligence and so on it’s great to have a super partner but we want to choose and design our future. So let’s work hard in order to preserve European solutions and European innovations. When we speak about space, and both of us have this advantage to have the capacity to send satellites and launchers with our bases, let’s preserve European access to space.

This is the decision we took in Sevilla and Ariane 6 to come. But more than that, the full range of innovation, civilian and defense innovation are absolutely critical for this war and the years to come.

My last point is about how to deal with our neighbours and how to frame our own architecture. I think part of what’s happening in Ukraine is due to the fact that probably we were, as Europeans, in a situation of geopolitical minority. We were not and we didn’t put ourselves in a situation to decide for our own territory.

All the treaties were decided by former USSR and USA. Everything which covered our territory was decided by the big guys in the room, not by the Europeans themselves. And it seems that we were quite happy with such a situation. I think we have to be part of those to decide for ourselves when it is about EPF, when it is about deployments, when it is about arms control for today and tomorrow.

When it is about designing our architecture of security, we have to be the one to decide. And this is to be designed during this period of war. And this is why our involvement for the Ukrainians is not just for them to prevent any Russian victory, but it is for us to be around the table to decide for our future because Ukraine is part of our future, being part of our continent.

There is no future for ourselves and our children, if we are not in a situation to build the new architecture of security, of arms control and neighbouring of the whole region. But we have to be the one to decide it for ourselves and not to delegate it to big powers, even if they are very good allies, because they live on the other side of the ocean. It’s probably simpler.

And I think it’s very important in this moment to have in the back of our mind the fact that this is because of our current involvement, then we can put ourselves in the situation to prevent any Russian victory. But we will be legitimate as well to be part of those, to define and design this future architecture, which is absolutely critical. NATO will be part of it. But NATO should not have the exclusivity of this architecture. And as Europeans, we clearly have to be part of such a new architecture.

And I speak as a faithful partner, a robust expeditionary military power and a nuclear weapon state whose vital interests have a European dimension. And we offered a specific dialog on this. And for me it’s important to reiterate this point here in front of you.

 I want to thank you for the opportunity to share just these few remarks. But let me tell you how much we respect your country, your armed forces, your commitment and the friendship you had and the quality of cooperation we had during the past few years. And let me reiterate here our support for your current project, but as well your project in the future. And each time it will be difficult. Be sure that you can count on France.

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