An invasion of Ukraine would drag Russia into a protracted quagmire, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned Friday as Western countries step up coordinated pressure on President Vladimir Putin.
Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine, and Western states fear that Moscow is planning a new attack on the country it invaded in 2014.
Speaking at the Lowy Institute think tank in Australia, Truss urged Putin to “hold back and back away from Ukraine before he makes a major strategic mistake.”
The foreign minister said Ukrainians, who have weathered invasions and state-sponsored famines, “will fight to defend their country” if they have to.
“The invasion will only lead to a quagmire,” she warned, drawing comparisons to the Soviet-Afghan war, which lasted more than 11 years, and the Chechen-Russian conflict, which dragged on for more than 26 years.
Russia denies planning an attack but says it could take unspecified military action if a list of demands, many of which Western countries have called unacceptable, are not met, including pledges by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to reduce the alliance’s military forces. activities to the level of the 1990s and never accept Ukraine or any other countries as new members.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who is visiting Australia with Truss to negotiate defense and security ties between the two countries, has previously said that the fact that Ukraine is not a member of NATO makes it “highly unlikely” that the UK or its allies in the event of an invasion.
But Truss stressed that the UK and its NATO allies are seeking to bolster the Eastern European nation’s defenses, strengthen its ties with other countries and reduce global dependence on Russian gas.
She referred to a new British package providing for defensive weapons systems and training for Ukraine, as well as a statement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the Russia-NATO Council meeting on January 12, at which Russia was threatened with widespread consequences, including through coordinated sanctions aimed at against Ukraine. financial sector and individuals.
Truss said the UK and its partners are working on “high impact measures” targeting the Russian financial sector and individuals.
She also said the UK was strengthening its bilateral partnership with Ukraine and forging new triangular ties with Poland and Ukraine.
“We are also pushing for alternative energy supplies to make countries less dependent on Russian gas.”
Truss urged “everyone to step up… stand on the side of Ukraine and call on Russia to de-escalate.”
Truss’s speech also highlighted the need for democracies to work together to “confront global aggressors” such as Russia and the Chinese communist regime, which she said “gathered courage in a way we haven’t seen since the Cold War.”
Truss and Wallace’s visit came after Britain and the United States signed a landmark agreement in September to provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear submarines.
Truss will also sign an infrastructure cooperation agreement during a later visit to Adelaide as she seeks to align Britain’s economic goals more closely with her diplomatic agenda.
Lorenz Duchamp and contributed to this report.