President of Ukraine

The world must show the strength needed to put an end to the aggressor's ability to escalate - President during a speech in the Australian Lowy Institute

6 October 2022 - 13:42

The world must show the strength needed to put an end to the aggressor's ability to escalate - President during a speech in the Australian Lowy Institute

Thank you very much, dear Mr. Lowy! Dear Mr. Fullilove!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Thank you for this opportunity to address you today and answer the most pressing questions of our time. A time that has such a strong connection with the past.

Almost 8 years ago, in November 2014, here in Sydney, at the Lowy Institute, you had a speech by Angela Merkel, then Federal Chancellor of Germany.

She in particular touched upon the topic of the Russian war against Ukraine - the criminal annexation of our Crimea, hostilities in Donbas and destruction of the Malaysian Boeing in the sky over Ukraine. Mrs. Merkel then noted that "the Ukrainian crisis is really more than a regional crisis, it affects all of us."

Let me remind you once again - these words were said almost 8 years ago, i.e. 8 years before Russia was able to turn a hybrid war against Ukraine - a war, not a crisis after all - into a full-scale invasion, the likes of which Europe has not seen since World War II.

Why was this possible? Why, despite the understanding already in 2014 that Russian aggression is not something local, but really a global threat, Russia still had the possibility of such an escalation, which began on February 24 of this year?

This question reveals the connection between our time with even more ancient history.

With a history that still hasn't really become history. It is still with us - in the present.

On September 30 of this year, the head of Russia announced the purported annexation of part of the territory of Ukraine. Four of our regions, from which the Russian occupation contingent has not yet been ousted.

This new attempt by Russia to grab someone else's property is an obvious attempt to repeat 2014 - to repeat Crimea. And not just annexation as such.

Russia is trying to put the international community in such conditions now that the reaction to yet another Russian crime against international law does not correspond to its severity in the same way as it did then - with Crimea.

In 2014, we did not see, for example, really tough sanctions against Russia. It was not punished for this crime. At that time, there was a very strong desire among many in the world to turn a blind eye to the annexation, to consider the war simply a "crisis" and to continue relations with Russia.

Although they said then that the threat was global, they acted as if it was something purely local…

And to say that this increased the aggressor's sense of impunity is an understatement.

But this always happens: when a criminal does not receive an adequate punishment for a crime he has committed, he perceives it as permission for further criminal acts. "They are weak," is how the aggressor reacts when he feels no response.

Will he feel it now?

Knowingly or not, the Russian leader chose a very symbolic date to start this attempt to annex our territory. September 30. This day takes us back 84 years in the history of Europe and the world.

It was on this day that another aggressor – yet so similar to this one – succeeded in signing the Munich Agreement. Also to annex someone else's land.

Now we remember that agreement more often under the name of the "Munich conspiracy" and consider it an example of political cynicism and a fatal mistake. A mistake that cost humanity tens of millions of lives.

But after the signing of "Munich", such evaluations sounded different. They even said that the agreement would give peace to the generation at that time...

In different countries and with different voices, the thesis that it is possible to simply agree that the aggressor has seized something is heard again. That it is possible to draw some kind of conditional line somewhere that will satisfy Russia's appetite, and supposedly after that the war will die down. And that one should not react toughly to this annexation attempt, which Russia started on September 30.

But this thesis sounds nothing but the year 2014 - the mistakes of the then leaders. It sounds like 1938. It only says that the criminal can go unpunished. And so, with the temptation to continue.

Be sure - the head of Russia is now carefully analyzing the world's reaction to the sham referenda he organized on Ukrainian soil and to the announcement of the annexation of our territory. What exactly is he interested in?

It’s simple: he is interested in whether he still has the potential for escalation.

If the world's reaction is weak now, Russia will come up with some new escalation.

You can see that the range of criminal actions of this state is very wide - missile terror, mass murders, criminal deportations, radiation blackmail at, for example, our captured Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, food crisis, energy crisis, etc.

The recent sabotage with gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea was also very eloquent. These are actions that can destabilize life on the entire continent. This is a real energy weapon of mass destruction. Absolutely every country in the world depends on underwater cables and pipelines, which can be destroyed by an aggressor in the same way as gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea.

Therefore, the world must now show strength.

Strength is needed to finally put an end to aggression - to the aggressor's ability to escalate.

On international platforms, a clear and principled condemnation of Russia for this attempt to annex Ukrainian territory is needed, for it to be utterly different from what happened in 2014.

At the level of states and unions of states, new and tough sanctions against Russia are needed so that the situation is also dramatically different from 2014.

At the level of cooperation with Ukraine, regular and demonstrative support packages are needed, primarily defensive and financial, so that the aggressor sees that his criminal actions only complicate the situation for him.

Now, at a time that has such a strong connection with the past, we have a historic opportunity to set a precedent that will make the history of aggression truly history and that will teach any aggressor that no crime against international law will ever again remain unpunished.

Next week, a resolution on non-recognition and condemnation of Russia's new attempt to annex our territories will be submitted to the UN General Assembly. We and Australia have long had a principled and effective cooperation at all international platforms, and in particular at the UN. And we must now direct our joint capabilities in such a way as to make the vote at the General Assembly for this resolution as unequivocal as possible. I am asking you, I am asking Australia to use all its influence to persuade as many countries as possible not to remain neutral and to vote for - for international law and against Russian annexation.

Ukraine has a very meaningful defense cooperation with Australia as well.

Even after my first address to the Parliament and people of Australia in March, your Government decided to provide Ukraine with bushmasters. I’m deeply grateful. These vehicles have proven themselves in real combat.

The more weapons and ammunition we receive, in particular, artillery, drones, anti-aircraft defense, anti-tank and anti-ship weapons, the more tangible the responsibility for violation of international law will be for Russia and the less the aggressor will feel that he supposedly has room for escalation.

The third element is sanctions.

I thank Australia for participating in the global effort to impose sanctions on the aggressor for the war. But this pressure makes sense when it is constantly growing and when the aggressor does not have time to adapt to sanctions, does not have time to find ways to circumvent them.

Now is the time to increase this pressure. Just now.

Right after Russia staged this farce with sham referenda and this annexation.

The price of such actions must be tangible, the consequences - devastating. The aggressor should have no illusions that 2014 can still happen again.

And the last one.

The world has seen many wars. It has seen how wars somewhere in one part of the world affect everyone in the world.

It should be considered not only from the point of view of the direct negative impact of the war. But also from the point of view of the impact of its result.

If the aggressor does gain a result for himself, if the aggressive ambition is satisfied, then such a result affects everyone in the world even more and even longer than the war itself.

Affects by cynicism. Affects by the inevitable destruction of international law, the weakening of the truth.

That is why the criminal war must end with the just defeat of the one who started it. The aggressor must lose. This is what gives peace to generations. Not any conspiracies with the aggressor, not appeasement of the aggressor, but his defeat. And therefore, the restoration of peace. And therefore, Ukraine must win.

This is not just something about our state. This is about all of us in the world. This is also about Australia.

About your freedom. About your security. About our common values. About our common peace. Which our victory can historically strengthen.

I thank you for your attention! I thank you for the support, Australia!

Glory to Ukraine!