Liz Truss delivered a speech at the Lowy Institute in Sydney in which she warned Vladimir Putin he must “desist and step back” from war in Ukraine or risk being dragged into a prolonged conflict like the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Asked by the Australian thinktank’s executive director, Michael Fullilove, why she is confident the “free world would stand its ground” against Russia, she replied: “I think it’s very important to note the commitments that Russia made in the 1994 Budapest Agreement in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons.”
Ms Truss said: “Russia agreed alongside the UK and US to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. So the claims that are being made by Vladimir Putin are completely wrong about what has happened but it is true – and I made this point in my speech – that the free world has not been doing enough since the end of the Cold War to make sure that we are deterring aggressors.
“If there is an incursion by Russia into Ukraine, it would come at a massive cost. We are prepared to put very severe sanctions in place, we are also working to support Ukraine in terms of defensive capability. What I would say as well is that dealing with this immediate situation is of course an absolute priority.
“But the free world also needs to work together to reduce economic dependence on Russia to put in place the agreements that help countries have alternatives in terms of trade and investment, so in the future it becomes harder for those aggressive regimes to use economic dependence as a way of getting what they want.
“So, yes, we are very ready to act in the immediate term.
“In the longer term, this is why it’s so important that we are investing in developing countries – it’s so important that we are trading widely across the world using strong rules-based agreements like the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership). That’s the West’s way to protect ourselves from aggressors – from a position of economic and defensive strength.”