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United on Ukraine, EU tackles the devil in details at summit
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VERSAILLES, France — When French President Emmanuel Macron picked the lavish Versailles Palace for this week's summit of European Union leaders, he didn't anticipate the grimness of the Ukraine war.
With the coronavirus pandemic receding, the two-day meeting starting Thursday should have been devoted to optimistic discussions on the EU’s new economic growth and investment model.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade his neighbor turned everything upside down.
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With European nations united in backing Ukraine's resistance with unprecedented economic sanctions, three main topics now dominate the agenda: Ukraine's application for fast-track EU membership; how to wean the bloc off its Russian energy dependency; and bolstering the region's defense capabilities.
The EU has showed remarkable cohesion since the war started last month. It quickly adopted massive sanctions targeting Putin himself, Russia's financial system and its high-maintenance oligarchs. It also took the unprecedented step of collectively supplying weapons to a country under attack.
The EU agreed to spend 450 million euros ($500 million) on buying weapons for Ukraine. Meanwhile, Germany said it would raise defense spending above 2% of gross domestic product — and broke with a long tradition of refusing to export weapons to conflict zones when it agreed to send anti-tank and air defense missiles to Ukraine.
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"In stepping up European defense, we must find a consensus within the EU, that sometimes the best way of achieving peace is the willingness to use military strength," Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said.