“We are hoping for the best but we are prepared for the worst” in Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament today, warning Russia of severe consequences if it chooses war.

“Our call on Russia is crystal clear: do not choose war. A path of cooperation between us and Russia is still possible. But let us stay vigilant. Despite yesterday’s news, NATO has not yet seen signs of any Russian troop reduction. And should the Kremlin choose violence against Ukraine, our response will be strong and united.”

“Diplomacy has not yet spoken its last words,” she said, but “should the Kremlin choose violence against Ukraine, our response will be strong and united… In case of a Russian aggression, Europe’s reaction will be swift and robust… Our sanctions can bite very hard, and the Kremlin knows this well.”

The European Commission President said Russia was threatening Ukraine because it was a free, independent and sovereign state. “The idea that the Kremlin should decide what Ukrainians can or cannot desire – we simply cannot accept. The idea of spheres of influence are ghosts of the last century. This crisis is about Ukraine – and more. It is about what it means to be a sovereign, independent and free country in the 21st century.”

She said the current crisis had been created by Moscow: “We now have two distinct futures ahead of us: in one the Kremlin decides to wage war against Ukraine with massive human costs, something we thought we had left behind after the tragedies of the twentieth century. Moscow’s relations with us would be severely damaged, tough sanctions would kick in with dire consequences on the Russian economy and its prospects of modernisation. But another future is possible. A future in which Russia and Europe cooperate on shared interests. A future where free countries work together in peace.”

Von der Leyen concluded: “It is now up to the Kremlin to decide. Whatever path they decide to take, we will stand our ground. Europe will be united, on the side of Ukraine, on the side of peace, on the side of Europe’s people.”