EU Wants Bigger Role in NATO Leaders Meeting to Discuss Russia-Ukraine Tensions

The European Union's Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said the EU must have a bigger role in the NATO meeting of foreign leaders to discuss tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

"There are not two actors alone. It's not just the U.S. and Russia," Borrell said amid a visit to Ukraine on Wednesday. "If you want to talk about security in Europe, the Europeans have to be part of the table."

On Friday, NATO's 30 foreign leaders will meet to discuss matters ahead of a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council on Jan. 12 and negotiations at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna on Jan. 13. The EU is not a part of any of these meetings.

Borrell urged for the EU's lack of role in these meetings to change.

"If Russia is really willing to talk about the security in Europe, then Europeans have to be part of it. Not the first day," he said.

EU foreign ministers would evaluate how to put the 27-nation bloc into these conversations next week in Brest, France, Borrell said.

"We are going to discuss the way in which we are going to have our say in these talks through coordination with the U.S. and possibly with the Russians," said Borrell. "Like it or not, they will have to talk with us. Be sure of that."

Josep Borrell, European Union, Russia-Ukraine Meetings
European Union foreign ministers will evaluate how to put the 27-nation bloc into conversations on tensions between Russia and Ukraine next week in Brest, France, EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said. Above, Borrell holds a bilateral meeting with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (not seen) on the first day of the G7 Summit Of Foreign And Development Ministers at the Museum of Liverpool. Christoper Furlong/Getty Images

In the diplomatic flurry surrounding the Russian military buildup on Ukraine's border the EU has largely been a bystander. This highlights a deeper frustration in Brussels: Even though the EU is a massive global economic powerhouse, its strategic geopolitical footprint remains disproportionately small.

U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have spoken twice over the past month, before two days of talks between senior U.S. and Russian officials starting Sunday in Geneva.

The United States has assured its European allies it would not do any side deals with Putin without them, and they have walked in lockstep laying out the threat of prohibitive sanctions in the event of a Russian invasion.

"We're not going to talk above the heads of our European allies and partners. Throughout all of this, it will remain true that we will do or say nothing about them without them when it comes to our NATO allies and our European partners," State Department spokesman Ned Price has said.

To show the EU's commitment to Kyiv, Borrell visited Ukrainian soldiers at the Stanitsa Luganskaya crossing between Ukraine and the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants in the Luhansk region.

Since the Crimean Peninsula's annexation by Russia and the Kremlin's backing of a separatist rebellion in Ukraine's east, the fighting has killed over 14,000 people and devastated the country's industrial heartland, known as the Donbas.

For years now, the EU has championed the principles of diplomacy's so-called soft power of economic and non-military aid, since it lacked the political wherewithal to build up a powerful defense and security part in its common project. So far, it has yet to emerge as an essential player, even on its own continent.

Since the 2014 invasion of Crimea, European diplomacy has been spearheaded by the so-called Normandy format, bringing together Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany. The Minsk agreements that came out of it remain one of the best avenues for a fundamental solution.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday that France's "efforts alongside Germany to achieve that remain total and will continue in the coming days and weeks."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.