The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has insisted the European Union is 'not fighting against Russia' but 'defending Ukraine' during a high-level State of the Union event in the Italian city of Florence.
Speaking exclusively to Euronews, Borrell said: "I don't like at all the story of the West against Russia or the West against the rest...this is an issue about the Charter of the United Nations. It’s about the sovereignty of the people of states, the respect for the borders not to use force to override their neighbour.
"We are not fighting against Russia. We are defending Ukraine. And, defending Ukraine means to defend the international order based on rules. Otherwise, it will be the law of the jungle," he added.
The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs also told Euronews' Meabh Mc Mahon that it was important to differentiate between Russia and Putin.
"We don't have anything against the Russian people. It's about one regime, one political system, one person. This is one person's war. So, yes, we want to weaken Putin, but we don't want to push the Russian people against the border of history. One way or another they have to be part of a peaceful settlement and a peaceful security system in Europe."
Europe becomes 'a geopolitical actor'
Borrell was joined on stage by former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb. Both men agreed that the war represented a historical turning point for Europe.
"I think this is the moment in which the European Union behaves as a geopolitical actor taking decisions, also on the military side, on the energy side, using the language of power," Borrell said.
Praising the speed with which European leaders reacted in the aftermath of Russia's invasion, Stubb said: "I think the European Union moved from a regulator, or regulatory superpower, to an actor. And it's really good to see how quickly it happened. You know, it was an actor in the euro crisis, but it took a few years. It was an actor during COVID, but it took a few months. When the war came, it actually took only a few days. And we were able to reverse a lot of things."
'The price of war'
Branding Russia "aggressive, revisionist, imperialist, totalitarian, and authoritarian," Stubb said one of the big problems facing European leaders right now, was explaining the cost of the war.
"You have to explain the price of war because unity and solidarity last for a while. But with inflation, with energy prices, with food prices, and with the asylum situation, say, in Poland, it's not going to last forever."
The war in Ukraine has exposed Europe's dependency on Russian energy and Borrell agreed there would be a price to pay if Europe is to successfully defend its freedoms and values.
"If we don't want the jungle to invade our garden, then we have to pay a price for it.
"We have to understand that to defend freedom and to fight against the ones who fight against Ukraine will have a cost. And the politicians should have the courage to explain to the people that this cost has to be accepted because otherwise, the cost will be much bigger."
When asked if that would mean an embargo on Russian gas, Borrell said this would not be immediate, though emphasised the EU was moving quickly to end its dependency on Russian energy supplies.
"Without this war, we would not be taking measures to get rid of our energy dependency on Russia. We would be business as usual. Without this war, we were not aware that Europe is in danger, as simple as this. And if we are in danger, we should be adult and prepared to face these dangers."
And Borrell insisted there were still other ways Europe could hurt Russia's economy if it chooses to do so.
"One thing everybody is talking about is the ban on oil. I am not going to buy your oil. There are other ways of giving Putin problems - insurance. If we decide that our insurance companies will not provide insurance to the transportation of Russian oil, not even to Europe, everywhere in the world, it's going to be a big obstacle for the Russians to transport their oil, not to Europe, but to the rest of the world."
_To watch the full interview, click on the video player above_