Charles Michel: ‘Europe must prepare for war’

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If Europe wants to exist in peace it must shift to a “war economy” mode and significantly bolster defense capabilities in the face of the threat posed by Russia, European Council President Charles Michel said on March 18.

In an op-ed published in several European newspapers, Michel said U.S. support could no longer be taken for granted and EU countries needed to take responsibility for their own security as they grapple with the biggest security challenge since the Second World War.

“If we do not get the EU's response right and do not give Ukraine enough support to stop Russia, we are next. We must therefore be defense-ready and shift to a 'war economy' mode,” he wrote.

“Russia is a serious military threat to our European continent and global security. If we do not get the EU’s response right and do not give Ukraine enough support to stop Russia, we are next,” he added.

“If we want peace, we must prepare for war.”

Michel decried a decades-long lack of funding and investment in European militaries and despite military manufacturing capacity increasing by 50% since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, much more was needed to be done.

Read also: Ukraine war latest: EU gives final approval of $5.5 billion in defense aid to Kyiv

“While we beef up our defense capacity, we must ensure Ukraine gets what it needs on the battlefield,” he wrote, adding that “Ukrainian soldiers urgently need bullets, missiles and air defense systems to control the skies.

“We must use the European budget to buy military equipment for Ukraine and let’s make use of the windfall profits from Russia’s immobilized assets to purchase arms for Ukraine.”

Elsewhere on March 18, EU foreign ministers agreed to allocate additional 5 billion euros ($5.5 billion) in defense assistance for Ukraine in 2024 within the framework of the European Peace Facility (EPF), Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba announced.

The EPF has been a key tool for supporting Ukraine's defense capabilities since 2022 but has been largely depleted as member states disagreed on the best way to replenish it and unlock further cash for Ukraine.

"With the fund, we will continue to support Ukraine to defend itself from Russia’s war of aggression with whatever it takes and for as long as we need to," Josep Borrell, the EU's chief diplomat, said in a statement.

Read also: Scholz, Macron, Tusk vow more arms purchases, new initiatives for Ukraine

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