The war in Ukraine has also laid bare the EU’s limited arms production capacities, with Brussels now struggling to catch up after decades of underinvestment. A potential Trump return puts extra pressure on Europe to beef up its defense capabilities — especially given his recent vow to strike a “peace deal” with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the heads of Ukraine and the EU.
“If the world becomes even more difficult, for example as a result of the possible election results in the USA, then the European Union must become all the stronger,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday. “And France and Germany must take on this task so that this is actually possible. … Europe is the strongest national interest we have.”
On Thursday, European leaders are also expected to discuss the EU’s military aid to Ukraine as they struggle to reach a deal on the European Peace Facility — the off-budget cash pot used to reimburse capitals for arms delivery to Ukraine.
The idea is to sign off as soon as possible on a €5 billion top-up and to move toward joint European procurement of weapons. Hungary, which was critical of this decision, has softened its line on setting up a new branch of the peace facility, the Ukraine Assistance Fund to provide weapons to Ukraine. Still, diplomats said that more work needs to be done for all European capitals to sign off on it.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Wednesday evening, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas summed up the mood when she said: “There’s definitely geopolitical pressure … Is Europe able to deliver on the promises given?”
“Putin and Russia … don’t believe in multilateralism, they don’t believe that we are able to keep this unity. And if we are falling apart, then it’s definitely a win for the Russian side.”
Gregorio Sorgi, Nicolas Camut, Claudia Chiappa and Clea Caulcutt contributed reporting.