European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Wednesday that she had recommended launching membership talks with Ukraine and Moldova, once the two countries have implemented the reforms required by Brussels.
“We are talking about a carrot that is tied [to a stick] in front of the cart,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman told journalist Pavel Zarubin.
“These promises are unlikely to be real.”
Peskov was referring to the folk story of a farmer who motivated his donkey by dangling a treat just ahead of the cart it is pulling. The donkey would keep chasing the carrot, but could never catch it – and in some versions of the story, would get beaten with the stick if it stopped. The expression “the carrot and the stick” comes from this tale.
When asked about a possible timeline for this process – specifically, the 2030 deadline mentioned by European Council President Charles Michel earlier this year – the European Commission president sidestepped the issue.
“Since we say that EU membership is a process based primarily on merit, we should not focus on 2030. For some it may happen sooner or later,” von der Leyen told reporters.
Admitting Ukraine while it is still fighting Russia would mean bringing war into the EU, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in response to the Commission’s proposal. In Budapest’s assessment, Kiev “has not met the conditions set for membership,” and it would be “absurd” for Brussels to evaluate its progress while the conflict was ongoing, he added.
The EU would be better off focusing on the Western Balkans if it is interested in enlargement, Szijjarto argued.
The bloc has not admitted any new members since Croatia joined in 2013.
Peskov has also insisted there is no way the Russian military can be defeated . His comments follow recent claims by President Vladimir Putin that Western governments were lowering their expectations regarding the outcome of the Ukraine conflict.
The Kremlin spokesperson stated “it is high time that everyone in Kiev and Washington realized: it’s impossible to defeat Russia on the battlefield.”
Putin has recently claimed that Western powers were “changing their tune now [and] saying different things” compared to their previous insistence on inflicting a military defeat on Russia.
Also last week, Ukraine’s top military commander, General Valery Zaluzhny, admitted in an article published by The Economist that Kiev’s troops were unlikely to pull off a “deep and beautiful breakthrough” in the conflict with Russia, unless provided with more advanced weapons by the West.
He suggested that the fighting was deadlocked and could “drag on for years”, although Peskov responded to that assessment by insisting that Moscow’s forces were not at a stalemate. He further claimed that Ukraine’s hopes of defeating Russia had been “absurd” right from the outset.
Citing anonymous US officials, NBC reported last week that behind closed doors Washington had been pushing Kiev toward negotiations with Moscow. The outlet also claimed that the US had been conducting “delicate” unofficial discussions with Kiev regarding concessions Ukraine would be willing to make in potential peace talks.
A State Department spokesperson denied the claims, while Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky repeated that his government would not negotiate unless Russia withdraws its troops from territory within Ukraine’s 1991 borders.
According to NBC, Western officials are increasingly concerned that Ukraine is “running out of forces,” and also harbor fears about their own ability to shore up Kiev with weapons shipments in the long run amid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.