UK’s Truss warns Russia of ‘terrible quagmire’ if it invades Ukraine
A Russian armored vehicle drives off a railway platform after arrival in Belarus, in a move that further beefs up forces near Ukraine. Talks between senior US and Russian diplomats on the border tensions are to take place on Friday. Photograph: Russian Defence Ministry Press Service/AP
UK foreign secretary Liz Truss has warned Russia that any invasion of Ukraine would only lead to “a terrible quagmire and loss of life” on the scale of the Soviet-Afghan war.
Speaking at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, Ms Truss framed the Ukraine conflict as part of a wider dispute between what she saw as liberal states and autocracies, including Russia and China.
She urged Vladimir Putin to “desist and step back from Ukraine before he makes a massive strategic mistake”.
The Kremlin, she said, “has not learned the lessons of history” and an “invasion will only lead to a terrible quagmire and loss of life, as we know from the Soviet-Afghan war and conflict in Chechnya.”
She added: “We need everyone to step up. Together with our allies, we will continue to stand with Ukraine and urge Russia to de-escalate and engage in meaningful discussions. What happens in eastern Europe matters for the world.”
Ms Truss claimed autocracies were “emboldened in a way we haven’t seen since the cold war.
“They seek to export dictatorship as a service around the world. That is why regimes like Belarus, North Korea and Myanmar find their closest allies in Moscow and Beijing.”
Her comments came hours before the top diplomats of Russia and the United States were to meet in Switzerland to discuss soaring tensions over Ukraine after a flurry of meetings between officials on both sides in the last week produced no breakthroughs.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken arrived in Geneva for talks with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov following a swing through Europe to shore up US allies commitments to hit Russia with sanctions if it goes ahead with an invasion of Ukraine.
Ms Truss, along with the UK defence secretary, Ben Wallace, is in Australia to discuss the next stage of the Aukus partnership, including plans for Australia to be given access to US nuclear-powered submarine technology.
Aukus, which brings together Australia, the US and the UK, is designed to be a wider defence partnership, but its launch in September offended the French by cancelling its longstanding contract to build diesel-powered submarines.
This week David Hannay, the former UK ambassador to the UN, described the launch of Aukus and the offence taken in Paris as “a travesty of diplomacy”.
“In future years I suspect this episode will be taught at diplomatic academies across the world as how quite unnecessarily to lose both friends and influence.”
The September agreement has left so much unspecified that there are doubts Australia will ever access the submarine technology. The deal did not set out whether the UK or the US would provide nuclear technology for the submarines, how much they would cost, when they would be completed or what proportion of the submarines would be built in Australia as opposed to the US or the UK.
On her visit, Ms Truss has also found herself mired in a controversy over a proposed UK increase in alcohol taxes that Australian winemakers say will wipe out the benefit of the recent UK-Australian free trade deal.
“UK tax is a matter for the UK and it is non-discriminatory. It is based on decisions that we have to make about our own system,” she said. – Guardian