The former NATO Secretary General and EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, spoke this Tuesday at the seminar on security and defence organised in Toledo by the Association of European Journalists (APE) to analyse, from a European perspective, the political and military challenges that the EU-27 will have to take on in the emerging world order that has arisen as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Yes, we are going to have the capacity to generate a European defence," said the former Spanish foreign minister, "but it is not going to happen tomorrow. It is not public, but [the project] is in the heart of the European Union". In the heart of the continent, the idea that the EU must leave behind the 'military worm' view that the Belgian Mark Eyskens foisted on it three decades ago has become ingrained, and in part advanced.
The former head of European diplomacy between 1999 and 2009 took the opportunity to make a recommendation to EU member states: "You have to start thinking about how to approach this defence strategy". In Solana's opinion, the best thing the continent could do in this scenario is to create a European defence system, which would improve "unity in technological matters", among other aspects.
"The entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO is very important for the European Union," Solana said. For the former Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance, the fact of having most of the countries in NATO facilitates joint military work, which in turn would make it possible to strengthen collaboration to develop defence at the continental level. In Solana's view, Helsinki is also a great addition, as it would be ready to act quickly in the event of a threat.
Washington recognises that the time could be ripe for a reintegration of defence in European matters, the Spanish diplomat assures the Spanish diplomat. The key question is whether the United States would resist such a move at a time when Europe has practically outsourced defence and is a crucial ally in this geopolitical scenario.
When asked about the situation in Ukraine, Solana stressed that he is a firm supporter of a ceasefire, and that this does not seem 'a priori' very difficult to achieve, but he added that "we should not be the ones to draw up the terms of the peace agreement between Moscow and Kiev, but rather the Ukrainians should have the last word". In this sense, the former NATO Secretary General believes that, while sanctions should be firm, channels should be kept open: "It's the smartest solution".
"We think we have the majority of the world on our side, but that is not the case," Solana said, alluding, among other reasons, to the silence of Latin America and Africa in condemning Russia for the invasion and sanctions. At the same time, however, he stressed that it would not be positive to "plan and divide the world into two large blocs", one democratic and the other autocratic, because there are greys. "There are other ways of thinking in the world and we can work with them", he told the audience.
In reference to NATO's position on China and whether the organisation could intervene to contain the Asian giant, Solana highlighted the different approaches present within the Atlantic Alliance, especially between the United States and European partners, and was categorical: "We don't need many paragraphs on this issue, NATO has not lost anything in the waters of the Pacific".
The former EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy ended his speech by highlighting the first NATO summit held in Madrid when he was at the helm of the transatlantic organisation: "In 1997, we achieved three major breakthroughs. Firstly, the enlargement of the alliance by three countries to the east with Russia's signature - after a long negotiation that finally came to fruition; secondly, the creation of the NATO-Russia Council and, finally, the NATO-Ukraine Council, two institutions that worked".