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The Hon Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Defence
Defence Media: email@example.com
25 February 2022
Well more now on Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Let's bring in Defence Minister Peter Dutton and Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles.
Peter, let's talk about this invasion. You've got bombing military infrastructure taking control of the airport near Kyiv and a power station. Did you expect Russia to move so quickly and effectively?
Morning Ally. The short answer is yes. This is exactly what the military planners have predicted. It's obviously a brutal force. We're talking about Russian soldiers and Special Forces here and this is the opening hours obviously of their incursion, of their invasion into the Ukraine and there will be many innocent victims as a result of the actions taken by President Putin, and that's the human reality of the action of a President that will not and has not listened to the rest of the world.
We've been united in our call against Russia to not undertake this action, and of course now we're seeing the tragic circumstances unfold.
So if this was expected, why wasn't more done to stop it?
Well Ally, I mean the question is what more can the world do? There can be forces sent in and then you'll be saying well why have we entered into a nuclear war? We've offered, with the rest of the world, very strong sanctions against Putin.
There's one leader in the world, frankly, who can exert pressure on President Putin and that is President Xi. China and Russia have entered into this, frankly, unholy alliance and President Xi has a lot of power that he can exert over President Putin. He's chosen not to do that, and the world should observe that very closely because the human cost will sit squarely on Mr Putin's shoulders.
What we're seeing in the Ukraine is a human tragedy, let's be very clear about it. There'll be economic consequences for the rest of the world, but this is a very uncertain period in which we're living, and the world has stood united against the action of President Putin except for the Chinese Government, and that's completely unacceptable.
Well China and Russia is a very dangerous alliance. Richard, I mean how weak does the West look right now when the intel was there for weeks and yet no one has stood up to Putin?
Well I don't think it's fair to describe it in those terms, and I think Peter's answer to your previous question was right. There is now a strong stand which has been taken by Australia and by the rest of the world in relation to Russia and Russia will feel that.
It is really important though that at this moment there is unity here in Australia, which there most definitely is, and there is unity with our friends and allies the United States, the United Kingdom, NATO in making clear that what Russia has done is absolutely appalling. They are the aggressors. We're going to witness a human tragedy unfold here and it's very important that Australia and the world stands united against this.
Here's the problem though, I mean we've seen tough words. They did nothing. Sanctions did nothing. If anything it potentially encouraged Putin's aggression. So Pete, where is Putin going to stop and who is going to stop him?
Well look, he has this twisted view that the Soviet Union should be reconstructed, that Ukraine is a natural land for the Russians to occupy and that, you know, is a dangerous act and he's now in the throes of, as I say, we're only just seeing the opening hours now of this conflict. But the NATO countries around the Ukraine are watching very closely. I don't think Putin is wanting to pick a fight with NATO or with NATO countries, but he does believe that Ukraine territory should be part of Russia and that's his intent. He's 69 years of age and he wants to see it in his lifetime, and we should be very careful about autocrats like this and people who have, you know, this world view that they want to go back to a Cold War era or back to a period of conflict and that's a price that they're willing to pay. This is the year 2022…
…so Pete, do you just allow someone like Putin to take…
…the world should be condemning it.
…Ukraine and are we abandoning the people of Ukraine here? I mean we've already heard from US President Joe Biden this morning that at this stage NATO troops aren't being sent in. What message does that send to Putin?
Well again Ally, I mean if you're asking for what is a possible solution here, the only one that I can assess is that President Xi picks up the phone, instead of providing the words of encouragement to Russia that he has so far, and says to President Putin, "This is a dreadful mistake and you need to withdraw". Now the time for that phone call frankly was obviously before President Putin went in, but President Xi was not prepared to make that call and the rest of the world has stood united, and we will continue to stand united against Russia and the action that they've taken here.
The sanctions will be severe, they will be significant and President Putin's assessed that that's a price that he's prepared to pay. As I say, the world can send troops into the Ukraine now, that would be a declaration of war on Russia or they would deem it as such, and the world could escalate into a world war. So I'm not sure what option that you're talking about that is there.
Are you convinced he stops with Ukraine?
That's the difficulty in the circumstance.
That he doesn't push beyond Ukraine?
I think it would be catastrophic for him to do so and I think it's within his calculation to realise that. He knows that if he pushes into Poland, for example, there would be a reaction, rightly so, from NATO. It would be condemned it would be a shocking act and that's not something that's predicted at the moment.
So I think we concentrate on the likely scenario, that is the continued aggression through the Ukraine. We need to, you know, in a modern age, where these images can be sent around the world in heartbeat, we've got to make sure that unlike what we saw in Hong Kong, the world just doesn't move on because the news cycles so fast. We need to concentrate on the human tragedy that's unfolding in the Ukraine. We need to prevent it as best we can, but we need to make sure that we continue to report it because that's the human cost and that's the pressure that needs to come to bear on President Putin. This is on his shoulders. This is a decision that he's made against the advice of every world leader except for President Xi.
Well look, I mean Putin is not being personally sanctioned. Russia's not being expelled from the international banking system. I mean I know what Australia can do here is very limited, but what are the next steps that we're looking at taking Peter, and is there talk of expelling Russia's Ambassador to Australia, if that would even do anything?
Well Ally, the US President I think has just made some further comment only a few minutes ago. They will look at ways in which they can ramp up the actions and the sanctions, but they want to do it in concert with the European nations.
You know, frankly, some European nations have been very strong, others have been fairly meek and mild. We don't want that message to be diluted and we want as many countries to join the sanctions and if they escalate, and it can include exclusion from different organisations or bodies or banking systems as you point out – I mean that will be in the calculations of the US, the UK, France, Germany etc – and they'll be decisions that they're making. We've said that we will stand with our allies, but we are not committing troops, as we've made very clear.
All right. Well I mean as we know there are a lot of Ukrainians here in Australia, they've got a lot of family they're worried about. We send our very best to them and to everyone in Ukraine. They're going to need all the support they can get. Peter and Richard, appreciate your time this morning.
Other related releases
Joint press conference with Ambassador of Ukraine to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko, RAAF Base Amberley
Interview with Allison Langdon and Richard Marles, Today Show, Channel 9