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War a real threat and Europe not ready, warns Poland’s Tusk

  • By Sarah Rainsford, in Kharkiv, and Paul Kirby
  • BBC News

Image source, HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/EPA-EFE

Legend,

Mr Tusk (right) welcomed a change in mentality among European allies, but said the next two years would be crucial.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk warned that Europe was in a “pre-war era” and that Ukraine must not be defeated by Russia for the sake of the entire continent.

He said the war was “no longer a concept of the past”, adding: “It is real and it started more than two years ago.”

His comments come after Russia launched a massive attack on Ukraine’s energy system on Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said this week that Moscow had “no aggressive intentions” towards NATO countries.

The idea that his country, which has one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world, could attack Poland, the Baltics and the Czech Republic – all of which are members of the NATO alliance unlike Ukraine – is “completely absurd,” he said.

He warned, however, that if Ukraine used Western F-16 fighter jets from other countries’ airfields, they would become “legitimate targets, wherever they are.”

After Russia launched its full-scale war in Ukraine in February 2022, relations with the West reached their lowest level since the worst days of the Cold War.

Nearly 100 missiles and drones were used in Russia’s latest attack on Ukraine, plunging several regions into a partial power outage.

This is the second such attack – in which Russia simultaneously fires large numbers of weapons to overwhelm Ukraine’s defenses – in the space of a week.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the tactic “missile terror” and warned that attacks on hydroelectric plants could lead to a major environmental disaster.

Speaking to the BBC, the mayor of Kharkiv – where small businesses rely on generators and industry struggles with power outages – described the damage to the network as “very serious” and said his Full restoration could take two months.

Calling for urgent military aid for Ukraine, Mr Tusk warned that the next two years of war would decide everything, adding: “We are living in the most critical moment since the end of the Second World War.”

Image source, EPA-EFE/Jakub Szymczuk/KPRP

Legend,

Mr. Tusk (right) and Polish President Andrzej Duda spoke earlier this month with President Biden at the White House.

In his blunt intervention on European security, he pointed out that Russia had attacked kyiv with hypersonic missiles in broad daylight for the first time.

He said Mr. Putin’s attempt to blame Ukraine for the jihadist attack on Moscow’s Crocus City Hall, without evidence, showed that the Russian president “clearly feels the need to justify more attacks increasingly violent against civilian targets in Ukraine.

Mr Tusk used his first interview with European media since returning as Polish prime minister at the end of 2023 to urge the continent’s leaders to strengthen their defenses.

He said Europe did not need to create “parallel structures to those of NATO”, but that the continent would be a more attractive partner for the United States if it became more militarily self-sufficient, whatever or the winner of the US presidential election in November.

Poland now devotes 4% of its economic output to defense, while other European countries have not yet reached NATO’s 2% target.

Image source, Omar Marques/Anadolu

Legend,

Mr Tusk said Poland now spent 4% of its GDP on defense and called on other EU states to reach a 2% target.

Mr Tusk, a former president of the European Council, warned that Europe must prepare for war first.

He revealed that Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had asked his fellow European leaders to stop using the word “war” in their summit statements because citizens did not want to feel threatened.

Mr. Tusk said he responded that in his part of Europe, war was no longer an abstract idea, warning that “literally all scenarios are possible.”

He continued: “I know this seems devastating, especially for the younger generations, but we have to mentally get used to the arrival of a new era. The pre-war era.”

When he was first Polish prime minister, from 2007 to 2014, he said few other European leaders, outside of Poland and the Baltic states, understood that Russia posed a potential threat.

Mr Tusk was more optimistic about what he called a real revolution in mentalities across Europe.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s new commander-in-chief, General Oleksandr Syrskiy, admitted in a rare interview that Russia outnumbered Ukrainian forces “about six to one” on the front line.

He said Ukraine had lost territory it “undoubtedly would have retained” if it had received enough munitions and air defense systems, and described the situation in some combat zones as “tense.”

The Polish Prime Minister’s latest warning echoes what its Baltic neighbors have been saying for some time; If Russia can invade, occupy and annex entire provinces of Ukraine, how long, they fear, before President Putin decides to launch a similar offensive against countries like theirs, which were once part of the orbit of Moscow?

Defense spending per capita is significantly higher in NATO countries bordering Russia than in Western Europe.

Vladimir Putin, who critics say has just “run again” for a fifth presidential term in a “sham election,” recently said he had no intention of attacking any country in the NATO.

But Baltic leaders, like Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, believe that Moscow’s word cannot be trusted. In the days leading up to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called Western warnings about the impending invasion “propaganda” and “Western hyperbole.” .

News Source : www.bbc.com
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