European Union ambassador says Russia-Ukraine crisis has unified the EU and NATO: "For us, this is existential"
European Union Ambassador to the U.S. Stavros Lambrinidis blamed Russia for the tensions with Ukraine, the European Union and the rest of the world, saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions have helped unify western powers. Although the European Union is prepared for a possible Russian invasion of its neighbor, the ambassador told CBS News that the continent is hopeful Putin will not move to war.
"We're in a very tense situation, and this hasn't changed," Lambrinidis told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett on "Red and Blue" Wednesday. "The Russian troops are still there. Even if they have removed a few, which has not been verified, we're talking about over 100,000 troops."
Lambrinidis said he is still hopeful that the tensions can be dealt with via diplomacy.
"For us, this is existential. It must be understood that this is Europe, and Ukraine is in Europe," he said. "And Russia is not just simply threatening Ukraine, but through Ukraine, it is in effect, threatening the right of countries in the 21st century to be free and independent and to make their own decisions. If that kind of broad affair succeeds, then instability and insecurity and the potential for war not just in Europe — in the rest of the world — is going to be much higher."
Ukraine is already being affected by Russia's buildup of troops along its border. The economy is suffering, and Ukraine is seeing large-scale cyberattacks. Residents in the country have their bags packed in case they need to evacuate, according to Lambrinidis.
"This is not the 1940s, this is 2022, and this is just simply unacceptable," the ambassador said.
If Russia did choose war, he said, it would lead to "a remarkable violent period for Europe."
"It's going to cost you both in real economic terms and historically a price that you've never paid in the recent history of Russia," he warned. "It's going to ensure that Europe, which is Russia's neighbor, is going to move away from Russia for a very long time. It's going to ensure that Russia is going to suffer economic consequences that it will have to claw out of, perhaps by seeking alliances around the world that perhaps in normal circumstances it would feel quite uncomfortable in. And it will mean that the Russian people who absolutely have nothing, nothing to be blamed for for the Kremlin's adventurism may also suffer in return and that is something we simply don't want. It's entirely Mr. Putin's decision."
He said Russia's actions have brought European Union member nations closer together, and that they are united in planning massive, coordinated sanctions against the Russian economy and certain individuals. And the ambassador said that should Russia cut them off from its energy supplies, the European Union would be able to make it through the winter without Russia's resources.
Putin's actions have also united the European Union and the U.S., which has also agreed to historic sanctions against the country should it invade. Lambrinidis said the coordination between the two has been "remarkable."
"We are speaking every day, almost every day, at the highest levels… to nail down all of the consequences that Russia will face," he said.
As an example, Lambrinidis said that Russia sent a letter to each member of the European Union, and in response, it got one letter from the European Union and one from NATO.
"I think Russia thought it could divide and conquer us, and it has actually united the European Union and NATO more than we have arguably been ever before," he said.
for more features.