EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has claimed that Russia has massed “over 150,000 troops” along the Ukrainian border and in the annexed Crimea peninsula. He spoke in Brussels following a virtual meeting of EU foreign ministers, where he gave an update on a variety of issues, including the ongoing tension in eastern Ukraine. Mr Borrell said Russia was deploying “all kind of materials” on the border including “the highest military deployment of Russian army in Ukrainian borders ever” in what he dubbed a “clear matter of concern” for the EU.
He added that the EU has shown “complete and strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, stating that the bloc continues to reject Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
But French President Emmanuel Macron once suggested going one step further to counter the threat of Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin.
Mr Macron, who has pushed for a joint European Union military force since his arrival in power, said the continent needed a “real European Army” to defend itself.
He told Europe 1 in 2018: “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the US.
“We will not protect Europeans unless we decide to have a true European Army.”
Mr Macron has spearheaded the creation of a European force along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The vision is for it to be independent of NATO and could rapidly mount a joint military operation, evacuate civilians from a war zone, or provide aid after a natural disaster.
Under an initiative known as PESCO, 25 EU countries coordinate their defence spending and operations.
But talk of an “EU Army”, an idea floated by European federalists for years, remains a deeply touchy subject amongst member states anxious to defend their sovereignty.
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Bruno Alomar, a professor at the French War School which trains top military officers, said Mr Macron’s vision of a tight-knit European defence force was a long way off.
He stated: “The idea of creating a common strategic culture is not a bad one.
“But there’s a massive gap between the European defence that Emmanuel Macron dreams about and the reality of very powerful disagreements between European partners.”
Currently, there is no such army – military matters are organised by the member states – and defence advisor Nicholas Drummond believes that is unlikely to change.
He previously told Express.co.uk: “The German Army is not in a particularly strong position, it is underfunded at the moment.
“Although it is larger than ours, I would say it is not ahead of ours.
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“Both the German Army and the French Army are comparable to ours.
“I would say France is slightly ahead, they have allocated more money and been more successful in modernisation.
“But our Navy and air force are still well ahead of the French.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said today that he had “proposed a step-by-step plan on how to discourage Moscow from further escalation”.
The minister asked the bloc to prepare a new set of sectoral sanctions since “individual ones are not sufficient anymore”.
Moscow’s military says it is conducting exercises along its frontier in response to moves by Western military alliance NATO that “threaten Russia”.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said last week that “two armies and three airborne units were successfully deployed” to Russia’s western border and that the drills would be over “within two weeks”.