Australia

Anthony Albanese meets with NATO leaders to condemn Vladimir Putin as UK warns of ‘1937 moment’

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has declared Australia’s support for Ukraine, saying Vladimir Putin’s “illegal war of aggression” must end.
The civilian death toll continues to grow in Ukraine with missile strikes in Kyiv and Kremenchuk prompting accusations of war crimes. The Russian government continues to claim it does not target civilians with its military strikes.
Speaking to reporters from Madrid, Mr Albanese said he stands with NATO leaders on the determination to hold Mr Putin accountable for potential war crimes.
Calling the recent two missile strikes on a Kremenchuk shopping centre “abominable”, Mr Albanese said leaders attending the NATO summit in Madrid would be looking at further collective action.
“It’s one of the reasons why I am here at NATO … the world looks at what is going on and collectively condemns it.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has already announced a more than seven-fold increase to the number of troops being placed on high alert to more than 300,000.

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Mr Stoltenberg called the move “the biggest overhaul of our collective defence and deterrence since the Cold War”.

‘Our 1937 moment’

It comes as the new head of the British Army invoked the fight against Nazi Germany in his call for an increased mobilisation of NATO nations to deal with the threat posed by Russia.
“This is our 1937 moment,” Patrick Sanders told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) military think-tank.

“We’re not at war. We must act rapidly so that we aren’t drawn into one through a failure to contain territorial expansion.”

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He urged leaders at the NATO summit to act to stop Russian aggression before it extends beyond Ukraine, posing “an even greater threat to European security after Ukraine than it was before”.
“The Russian invasion has reminded us of that time-honoured maxim that if you want to avert conflict, you better be prepared to fight,” he said.

Backing the position of heavily arming Ukraine to respond to Russia, he said the UK army would be mobilising over coming years “to help prevent war in Europe by being ready to fight and win alongside our NATO allies”.

Australia considers reopening Kyiv embassy

Mr Albanese said he would like to expand Australia’s diplomatic presence in Ukraine by reopening the Australian embassy in Kyiv after staff were evacuated in early February ahead of Mr Putin’s invasion.

A temporary office was set up in Lviv with officials also working from Poland to help Australians fleeing the fighting.

Additionally, he said he would be looking at options for an ongoing “on-ground” presence in Ukraine in coming weeks.
“That is one of the issues that has been examined over recent days and weeks. And we’ll continue to do that,” Mr Albanese said.

He said he still considering an invitation to visit Kyiv as other leaders have done such as US President Joe Biden and soon Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Pathway cleared to resume trade talks with EU

Mr Albanese said his meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has resulted in real progress on Australia’s stalled trade talks with the EU.
The meeting lasted for more than an hour and marks the first bilateral visit by an Australian prime minister.
Mr Albanese also met one-on-one with South Korea’s President Yoon Seok-youl and took part in talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Wednesday morning (AEST).

Later this week, he is set to visit Paris at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (left) and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speak during a bilateral meeting ahead of the NATO Leaders’ Summit in Madrid, Spain.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (left) and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speak during a bilateral meeting ahead of the NATO Leaders’ Summit in Madrid, Spain. Source: AAP / Lukas Coch

He said the scrapped submarine deal with France’s Naval Group and previous position on climate change had hindered the trade negotiations with the EU.

“It was clear that there were two impediments … one was the Australian relationship with France and the breakdown that had occurred in recent times given France’s leadership role in Europe,” he said.
“The second was Australia’s position on climate change, where the perception by Europe and indeed by the world, that Australia was a handbrake on global action.
“Australia just wasn’t seen as being fair dinkum about taking action on climate change.”
Mr Albanese said he hoped to see an “acceleration” in progress over the coming months, with a number of European trade ministers due to visit Canberra for discussions.

Additional reporting: AAP

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