‘What is Putin planning?’ German MEP hails ambition for EU army to defend against Russia

Manfred Weber took aim at the Russian regime after Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union speech ruffled feathers on Wednesday morning.

The politician insisted “many people are afraid” of growing tensions with Russia after it placed soldiers at the borders of the ’s Baltic states.

He told MEPs: “In some days a manoeuvre of Russian and Belorussian army will start with the borders to our Baltic states – [there are] about 100,000 soldiers directly at our border.

“Many people are afraid after the wars in Georgia, in Ukraine, in Syria – what is Putin planning now?

“Dear friends the European way is to defend ourselves and that’s why the ideas of the European defence union are going in a good direction – we need them now dear friends.”

MEPs applauded the call before Brexiteer Nigel Farage later blasted the idea and accused the bloc of behaving like “Soviet communists”.

The former Ukip leader said: “The message is very clear: Brexit has happened, new steam ahead.

“One powerful president for the whole of the EU. A finance minister with fresh powers. A stronger European army in a militarised European Union. And more Europe in every single direction and all to be done without the consent of the people.

“All I can say is thank God we’re leaving because you’ve learned nothing from Brexit.

“It is reminiscent of regimes of old. Indeed the way you’re treating Hungary and Poland already must remind them of living under the Soviet Communists.  All I can say is thank God we’re leaving because you’ve learned nothing from Brexit.”

The comments come after the bloc’s between member states to be up and running by the end of the year.

Federica Mogherini insisted Permanent Enhanced Structured Cooperation (PESCO) should be ready to go in time for January 2018, marking a major stepping up in the club’s defence ambitions.

Critics have repeatedly warned that the new system is a gateway to the creation of an EU army, although Brussels itself denies this and says it is just facilitating better military cooperation.