Thursday. 23.05.2024

Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Tuesday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that Russian President Vladimir Putin must be prevented from achieving his military goals in Ukraine.

Putin's invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, was an attack against all of Europe, Sánchez said, as well as reaffirming his country's "solidarity and aid to Ukraine."

Spain has an important role to play in freeing Europe from its dependence on Russian energy, the socialist politician said. The country has six liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and large storage capacities.

However, only 7 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year can be transported north through the two existing pipelines to France. By comparison, the stopped Nord Stream 2 between Russia and Germany alone has an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic metres.

Also in a speech at Davos, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed using Russian assets to finance the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine.

"We should leave no stone unturned, that is including, if possible, the Russian assets that we have frozen," von der Leyen said on Tuesday, referring to the European Union’s sanctions on Russian individuals and entities.

"This is not only about undoing the damage of Putin’s destructive fury. It is also about building the future that Ukrainians have chosen themselves," said von der Leyen.

"Ukraine belongs [in] the European family," she said.

The EU official also compared alleged actions by the Russian army in occupied Ukrainian territories to Soviet-era crop seizures.

"In Russian-occupied Ukraine, the Kremlin’s army is confiscating grain stocks and machinery," said von der Leyen.

"For some, this has brought back memories from a dark past: the times of the Soviets' crop seizures and the devastating famine of the 1930s," von der Leyen said, referring to a famine that killed millions of Ukrainians.

Grain exports blocked

Russia is blocking the export of 20 million tons of grain from Ukraine, primarily to North Africa and Asia, according to the German government.

According to the UN’s World Food Programme, 276 million people were suffering from acute hunger at the start of 2022. If the war in Ukraine continues, that number could rise by an additional 47 million.

Von der Leyen called Russia’s bombardments of grain warehouses and blockade of agricultural exports "shameful acts" which made global wheat prices "skyrocket."

"Russia is now hoarding its own food exports as a form of blackmail – holding back supplies to increase global prices, or trading wheat in exchange for political support," von der Leyen said. "This is using hunger and grain to wield power."

Von der Leyen called for an international response saying "global cooperation is the antidote to Russia’s blackmail."

The European Commission is also "supporting Africa in becoming less dependent on food imports," von der Leyen said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also addressed the Ukraine conflict at Davos, saying that trade with authoritarian regimes like Russia undermines Western security.

Stoltenberg said the Ukraine war "demonstrates how economic relations with authoritarian regimes can create vulnerabilities," referencing the European Union's imports of Russian fossil fuels and China's construction of 5G communication networks.

"We must recognize that our economic choices have consequences for our security. Freedom is more important than free trade," Stoltenberg said.

"This is about Russia, but also about China, another authoritarian regime that does not share our values and that undermines the rules-based international order," he added.

Spain's Sánchez and EU's von der Leyen address Ukraine war at Davos