CHRIS KENNY: Let's catch up with the Assistant Defence Minister, Andrew Hastie. He joins me live from Perth. Thanks for joining us, Minister. I wonder if I could just get you to start off with giving us your readout on the latest situation in Ukraine, just how far Russia has advanced, what sort of level of control it's got over Ukraine?
THE HON ANDREW HASTIE MP, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Good afternoon Chris, to you and your viewers. Well the situation is constantly changing and evolving but it looks like the Russians are massing on Kyiv at the moment, that's what we're hearing through the media at least, and it looks very grave indeed. I saw that there were reports of Russian special forces in Kyiv hunting for the President. So I think Vladimir Putin is pushing for a quick resolution – which I don't think he'll get – but it's very, very worrying, and again, this government condemns this unilateral action as evil, as wrong, as the work of a thug – and we condemn it without equivocation.
CHRIS KENNY: There was speculation early on that Putin might want to partition the country, effectively take the eastern part of the country and perhaps not take all of Ukraine. What we've seen so far, the attacks have been so widespread – and there's such a focus on Kyiv – does that lead you to conclude that he certainly wants to take every square kilometre of Ukraine?
ANDREW HASTIE: It's going to be a massive cost for Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine. So, I suspect he'll go for the whole thing rather than part of it. Once the financial sanctions kick in, and the cultural sanctions, the political sanctions, and indeed potentially economic sanctions, it's going to be very tough for Russia and my sense is, if he was going to use military force, he probably priced all those things in, so I suspect he's going for Ukraine as a whole, not just a part.
CHRIS KENNY: I've got to say it's inspiring on a personal level, on a humanitarian level, to see Russians protesting so bravely against the war and in support of the people of Ukraine. Do you think that it would be sufficient to place political pressure on Putin back home? Or is that the sort of thing that he will quash and disregard very easily?
ANDREW HASTIE: Knowing Putin's form, and the way he does business – he's a creature of the KGB – I think he'll look to crush any sort of protest. He's a thug, as the Prime Minister said this morning. And so I admire the protesters, I admire their bravery and courage, but I suspect he'll move quickly to crush any dissent in Russia.
CHRIS KENNY: Now, there's no suggestion of course of any Australian military involvement. But it is staggering to see this unfolding in Eastern Europe, with the NATO countries not doing anything militarily. They're putting some more assets closer to Ukraine now I suppose as just as an act of defiance, but there'll be no military involvement. We're stuck with these financial and economic sanctions and possibly sporting or cultural boycotts. I mean, it's small fry, isn’t it? And it’s unlikely to change Russia’s plans?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, look, we are doing what we can. We believe that the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity is at stake. Ukraine might be in Eastern Europe, but this has ramifications throughout the world: financial markets will be disrupted, energy markets will be disrupted, and of course, Russia and China are two great geopolitical rivals of the United States, so this does not augur well for the next decade. And so, our role in this given that NATO has to respond and NATO has chosen not to respond militarily, is to support NATO and Ukraine through financial sanctions. And the Prime Minister is leading, he called out China this morning for not condemning Russia for, in fact, reducing trade barriers to Russia for their wheat to come to China, and also supporting their pretext for the invasion – supposedly NATO provocation – which we know is a lie and disinformation. The Prime Minister is also leading. He’s the first world leader to call for the cancellation of the Formula One in Russia. You might have seen in 2014, when the Formula One returned to Russia, Vladimir Putin made a big thing of getting on the dais with people like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, and using it to burnish his own credentials, not just in Russia, but also internationally. So, cultural sanctions are important: sending a message to Russia that we condemn this and there is a price to pay.
CHRIS KENNY: Yeah, tell us about China. China, as you say, has been weak in terms of condemnation has handed out, essentially an economic boost to Russia rather than a penalty at the moment. I mean, China knows exactly what it's doing here and it's publicly giving support to Vladimir Putin?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, we know that Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin met on the 4th of February in Beijing. I've talked about this with you before – the 5,000 word memorandum, and their strategic interests aligning. We got our own warning from China on the 17th of February when they came knocking in our backyard in the Arafura Sea when they lasered one of our P-8 Poseidon aircraft conducting routine maritime surveillance. That was Chinese gunboat diplomacy. Make no mistake about it: authoritarian powers are flexing their muscles. So, you mentioned governments – well, what about big tech? What's Twitter doing? If you go into Twitter right now you can still see Vladimir Putin's Twitter account or the account of the Kremlin still running. You can still find his invasion address. You can still find a picture of him meeting with Pakistan's Imran Khan over the last 24 hours. In fact, Twitter never took down the Chinese Foreign Ministry tweet where we had this falsified image of an Australian soldier cutting the throat of an Afghan child. I mean, big tech and business need to step up as well if we're going to successfully sanction Russia and impose cost on them for their evil invasion of Ukraine.
CHRIS KENNY: Look, what our governments and other Western liberal democracies are calling for now obviously is for Russia to desist, to leave Ukraine as a sovereign nation. That's not going to happen. We know that. Do we expect that there will be a Ukrainian resistance? This could go on for many, many years and decades.
ANDREW HASTIE: I suspect that the Ukrainian people are going to fight. I saw photos online of the President of Ukraine in the trenches with his troops, body armour on, helmet on. I suspect that the Ukrainians are going to fight pretty hard. So, whilst Russia might achieve a quick victory with overwhelming force through air, sea, land, and cyber, I suspect the political resistance will be significant. And there's been reports out of Ukraine, as you know, that gun sales are going through the roof as people want to protect themselves their families and their country.
CHRIS KENNY: Yeah, it is a tragic situation. Thanks for joining us, Minister.
ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks very much, Chris
CHRIS KENNY: Andrew Hastie there, the Assistant Defence Minister live from Perth.