The Belgian politician said Russia’s threat to the border with Ukraine and US attempts to negotiate with Vladimir Putin to defuse tensions amounted to a return to a cold war. Mr Verhofstadt called on the EU to act by deploying a European army against the Russian president and to avoid “fixing history” by being excluded from the negotiations.
He said: “The Cold War is back… and Europe is back to what it was during that war: a spectator as her own fate is being decided.
“History repeats itself like a farce …
“It is time to have a European strategy on the threat that Putin poses to peace on our continent!”
But the Belgian MEP was quickly humiliated by Jonathan Eyal, associate director of RUSI, the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies, who noted that Belgium’s own defense spending had considerably decreased since the 1960s.
Sharing a World Bank data chart, Mr Eyal pointed out that Belgium spent almost 3.4% of its GDP on defense and international security in 1960.
But by 2020, that figure had fallen to just 1.08 percent.
With publicly pessimistic diplomats, the United States and Russia began difficult negotiations in Geneva on Monday, so that Washington hopes it can avert the danger of another Russian invasion of Ukraine without giving in to the country’s far-reaching security demands. Kremlin.
Brussels lamented that she was being excluded from the negotiations, with EU Commissioner Josep Borrell and President Ursula von der Leyen begging Joe Biden to be included in the talks last week.
Russia said on Tuesday it was not optimistic after a first round of talks with the United States on the Ukraine crisis and that it would not let its demands for security guarantees from the West s get bogged down in tortuous negotiations.
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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was positive that Monday’s talks in Geneva were conducted in an open, substantial and direct manner, but that Russia was only interested in the results.
He said: “There are no clear deadlines here, nobody sets them – there is just the Russian position that we will not be happy with dragging this process endlessly.”
Russia has pushed the West to the negotiating table by assembling troops near the Ukrainian border as it presses a wide-ranging set of demands that would prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and push back two decades of alliance expansion in Europe.
Washington has said it cannot agree to these requests, although it is willing to engage on other aspects of Russia’s proposals by discussing missile deployments or limits on the size of military exercises.
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Peskov said the situation would be clearer after two more rounds of talks Russia is due to hold this week – with NATO in Brussels on Wednesday and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna on Thursday.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the two sides had “in some respects opposing views”. He told reporters: “For us, it is absolutely obligatory to ensure that Ukraine never, ever, ever becomes a member of NATO.”
US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said: “We have been firm …
The United States has urged Moscow to reverse the build-up of around 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, which has raised Ukrainian and Western concerns about a possible new invasion, eight years after Russia took Crimea to Ukraine.
Ryabkov said Russia had no plans to attack Ukraine, but Sherman said she was unsure whether Russia was ready to defuse by returning troops to their barracks.
Ukraine has been under Moscow’s rule for centuries, including as a member of the Soviet Union, and President Vladimir Putin has said the prospect of NATO accepting it as a member, or y stationed weapons that could strike Russia, is a “red line”.
Ukraine wants to join NATO, which would come with a promise of protection against attacks.
The alliance does not intend to admit this immediately, but says Russia cannot veto its relations with other sovereign states.
US President Joe Biden warned Putin in two conversations last month that any further Russian aggression would carry serious economic costs in the form of unprecedented sanctions. Putin replied that such steps would be a colossal mistake and lead to a complete breakdown in relations.