Ursula von der Leyen on Ukraine crisis: “We still hope that peace will prevail”
The Ukraine crisis was a major focus of the three-day Munich Security Conference (MSC) that kicked off on Friday. As world leaders met in Germany for the 2022 forum on international security policy, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen presented the European Union’s strategy to counter the tensions between Ukraine and Russia.
“We still hope that peace will prevail and that diplomacy will take us there,” von der Leyen said, as fears of war are rising in Europe after Russia amassed more than 150,000 troops close to the Ukrainian borders, according to US estimates.
“Since the start of this Kremlin-made crisis, the European Union and the transatlantic community are fully aligned and united,” she declared, talking about NATO. She warned that if the Kremlin strikes, the EU and its allies are ready to respond with severe financial and economic sanctions for Russia, including on energy.
Russia is the main EU supplier of crude oil, natural gas and solid fossil fuels. According to the European Commission, Russia supplies 41% of the EU’s natural gas imports and over three quarters of european solid fuel imports. Von der Leyen highlighted the importance for Europe to diversify its energy suppliers.
“A strong European Union cannot be so reliant on an energy supplier that threatens to start a war on our continent,” she said, explaining that the EU has reached out to partners around the world. “Today, I can say that even in the case of full disruption of gas supply by Russia we are on the safe side for this winter. And in the medium and long term, we are doubling-down on renewables. This will increase Europe’s strategic independence on energy.”
In her speech, von der Leyen affirmed European support for democracy in Ukraine, stating that their democracy is “not perfect but is perfectible”, and is “getting stronger year after year”.
“For seven years now, the Russian leadership has tried to destabilise Ukraine: hybrid war, cyberattacks, disinformation. Yet, the country is not stronger than seven years ago. Because it has chosen the path of democracy.”
“Thriving democracies are the autocrats’ greatest fear,” she explained. “Because their propaganda fails when citizens are empowered by the reporting of independent media and the free exchange of ideas. Because free citizens speak truth to power. And this is exactly why Europe is supporting Ukraine’s path to democracy.”