Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB
Ben Fordham: Now Tony Abbott has issued a new warning about Russia. If Russia invades Ukraine the floodgates will open. In a major speech in Hungary our former Prime Minister Tony Abbott says if Russia seizes Ukraine, a new iron curtain will ring down in Europe and he's worried about what countries Russia will target next. He says they'll look over to Poland and the Baltic States.
Global leaders have been meeting to discuss the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Our Foreign Minister Marise Payne has travelled to Germany where she held discussions with her Ukrainian counterpart and the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
She joins us on the line right now from Paris. The Foreign Minister Marise Payne, bonjour.
Marise Payne: Good morning, Ben, how are you?
Ben Fordham: I'm doing well. What's the current state of play with Ukraine?
Marise Payne: Well, Ben, this is obviously a very, very serious situation. We had some very important meetings at the Munich Security Conference in the last few days and I also visited Poland on my way to Paris. I met last night with the Polish Foreign Minister and the Polish Secretary of State in the Presidential Palace to hear their perspective on this deeply concerning situation.
We've been canvassing with Ukraine and with other counterparts, particularly through these meetings in Europe this week, the response of the international community should Russia take this deeply concerning step.
Ben Fordham: Tony Abbott says if Russia seizes Ukraine we'll see a new iron curtain in Europe and other countries like Poland need to be worried. Is that fair enough?
Marise Payne: I think countries in the region particularly, and of course we had Foreign Minister of Lithuania Gabrielius Landsbergis in Australia just ten days ago. Countries in the region are very, very concerned. That was certainly the message that they were sending, and these are countries that have fought their way out from behind this sort of oppression in the past. They have done so with courage and with strength.
They have grown and developed over many years and Australia has been very clear about our commitment to their sovereignty and their territorial integrity, particularly and specifically in the case of Ukraine right now, and we will not be changing that position and we will be continuing to request and to suggest very, very strongly with counterparts, as the US has done, as the UK has done and members of the European Union, that this is not inevitable. This does not have to happen. There are still choices to be made by Russia here and we hope that we can see productive discussions continue and this be avoided.
Ben Fordham: The presidents of the US and Russia - Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden will be meeting this week and that's going to be a crucial step along the way. I suppose what we wonder in Australia, Foreign Minister, is if Russia invades Ukraine what will Australia be doing?
Marise Payne: Australia has been working with like‑minded partners, including the US and the UK, countries like Canada, on what our sanctions options look like so that we are ready to impose additional sanctions. And to be very clear, as your listeners will know, Australia has been imposing autonomous sanctions in relation to Russia's threats to Ukraine for many years now.
We are working closely with partners to ensure whatever sanctions are imposed are deep and serious and have a real impact. That there is a real cost for these actions. I don't think it's useful to forward run details of sanctions. All that does is enable those who might be sanctioned to try to avoid them. So I'm not in the business of doing that but I do want to assure your listeners that we are working with our partners on this issue.
We have also been discussing, as you would know, with the Ukraine what support we can provide in relation to cyber. We have agreed a piece of work including a cyber policy dialogue and cyber security training which is going to reinforce work we've already done with Ukraine on cyber, particularly in the last year through Defence led initiatives. And we are taking these steps to further our commitment to Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty and doing so with partners.
Ben Fordham: We can only hope that cool heads prevail. We appreciate you joining us on the line from Paris. What's your French like?
Marise Payne: Not bad.
Ben Fordham: Well come on, I want to hear some.
Marise Payne: Je peux parler un peu en francais.
Ben Fordham: Passes‑moi le confitures.
Marise Payne: Avec du pain petit [indistinct].
Ben Fordham: No, all I can say is please pass the jam. You have a good day, thank you for joining us.
Marise Payne: Thanks very much, Ben.
Ben Fordham: Au revoir to the Foreign Minister Marise Payne, joining us on the line from Paris.