In this episode of Battlegrounds, H.R. McMaster and European Parliament Secretary-General Klaus Welle discuss European Parliament’s priorities including the EU response to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the humanitarian and security crisis. 

H.R. McMaster in conversation with Klaus Welle on Wednesday, May 4, 2022 at 9:00am PT.



In this episode of Battlegrounds, Fouad and Michelle Ajami Senior Fellow H. R. McMaster interviews European Parliament secretary general Klaus Welle about the European Union’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Klaus explains that the current crisis has unified the EU’s 27 member states, which have, together, delivered the most severe set of sanctions ever imposed on Russia. The EU has banned coal imports from Russia and is a week away from a decision on whether to place an embargo on oil. Russian planes are not allowed to enter EU air space, and that country’s ships are not permitted to dock in member states’ ports. Additionally, the EU has sent $1.5 billion to Ukraine in military equipment and has welcomed refugees fleeing the war zone.

The EU is seeking total energy independence from Russia, Welle asserts. It aims to increase the number of renewable sources in order to not only manage their economies during this current crisis but also address the long-term challenge of climate change. Consequently, the Kremlin will have significantly less customers, save for China, and the era of the Russian state profiting from oil and gas will in the near term come to an end.

Welle says that nations within Western and Central Europe respect each other’s sovereignty, in contrast to Russia, which in its imperial ambitions treat its neighbors as servile states. Accordingly, Welle explains, it has become impossible for nations like Sweden and Finland to maintain a position of neutrality, as they have had since shortly after the Second World War. He tells McMaster that the Ukrainian people recognized this reality nearly a decade ago, when they toppled their government in order to salvage the prospect of EU integration. To Ukrainians, the democratic capitalist model was more attractive than being ruled by an autocracy under Russia’s sphere of influence. Welle believes that if Ukraine remains motivated to join the EU, it can likely reduce the lengthy integration process.

Finally, Welle argues that each of the 27 member states did not sacrifice its sovereignty by joining the EU. Just the opposite, he maintains. Much like colonies that would eventually form the United States in the late eighteenth century, European nations better defend their own interests when they stand together and are protected by a common rule of law. Instead of having the ability to exert its power on smaller European countries on an individual basis, Russia is now confronted by a powerful political federation with an economy nearly twenty times the size of its own.



Klaus Welle is a German politician who has served as Secretary General of the European Parliament since March 2009. He was previously Head of the Cabinet of the President of the European Parliament in Brussels and from 2004 to 2007 the Director-General for Internal Policies at the European Parliament in Brussels. At the age of 30, Welle served as the Secretary-General of the European People's Party (EPP) and the European Union of Christian Democrats (EUCD) and then from 1999 to 2003 was Secretary-General of the EPP-ED Group in the European Parliament. He holds a degree in economics from the University of Witten/Herdecke.


H. R. McMaster is the Fouad and Michelle Ajami Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University and the Japan Chair at the Hudson Institute.  He is also the Bernard and Susan Liautaud Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute and lecturer at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.  He was the 26th assistant to the president for National Security Affairs. Upon graduation from the United States Military Academy in 1984, McMaster served as a commissioned officer in the United States Army for thirty-four years before retiring as a Lieutenant General in June 2018.

Battlegrounds provides a needed forum with leaders from key countries to share their assessment of problem sets and opportunities that have implications for U.S. foreign policy and national security strategy. Each episode features H.R. McMaster in a one-on-one conversation with a senior foreign government leader to allow Americans and partners abroad to understand how the past produced the present and how we might work together to secure a peaceful and prosperous future. “Listening and learning from those who have deep knowledge of our most crucial challenges is the first step in crafting the policies we need to secure peace and prosperity for future generations.”

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