Vladimir Putin has not gone mad but is invading Ukraine as part of a deliberate plan hatched a ‘long time ago’, Scott Morrison said as he criticised China for not condemning Russia’s aggression.
The Prime Minister dismissed speculation the Russian President is losing his mind as his invasion launched 12 days ago continues to kill innocent Ukrainians.
‘He planned this a long time ago and he was absolutely determined to follow it through,’ Mr Morrison told the Lowy Institute after a speech on Monday.
Vladimir Putin has not gone mad but invaded Ukraine as part of a deliberate plan hatched a ‘long time ago’, Scott Morrison said. The pair are pictured together in Argentina in 2018
Servicemen of the Ukrainian Military Forces are pictured after fighting against Russians in the east of their country
‘We hear the theories, ”Oh, he’s just gone mad”. No, he hasn’t, he’s an autocrat and he’s following through on his plans.
‘And all of us in the West, and more broadly, we have to understand that autocrats don’t play the same rules as the rest of us.’
The Russian President – who wants to stop Ukraine forming a closer bond with the West – started building up troops on the border in November.
Rumours surrounding Putin’s health have been swirling for years, with reports suggesting he is suffering from cancer and Parkinson’s disease, or been affected by long Covid-19 causing ‘brain fog’.
In late February US Senator Marco Rubio suggested Putin is mentally unwell in a tweet that warned it was ‘pretty obvious’ that ‘something is off’ with the Russian leader amid his invasion of Ukraine.
‘I wish I could share more, but for now I can say it’s pretty obvious to many that something is off with #Putin’, the Republican Senator for Florida wrote.
China is yet to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Pictured: President Xi Jinping
‘He has always been a killer, but his problem now is different & significant It would be a mistake to assume this Putin would react the same way he would have 5 years ago.’
However, Mr Morrison is in no doubt that Putin is sane.
In a keynote speech to the Lowy Institute on Monday, the Prime Minister urged Western liberal democracies to stand together against autocratic aggression.
He also called on China to condemn Russia’s invasion.
‘China has long claimed to a role as one of the major powers in the world and to be a contributor to global peace and stability,’ he said.
‘No country will have a bigger impact on concluding this terrible war in Ukraine than China. So long as they have a bet each way on this, then I fear the bloodshed will continue.’
Ukrainian servicemen coordinate the evacuation of civilians on March 6, 2022 near Irpin, Ukraine
In his speech, Mr Morrison said Russia and China represent an ‘arc of autocracy’.
An autocracy is when one person rules with absolute power unlike a democracy where there the whole population has influence.
‘We condemn Russia’s abhorrent actions in the strongest possible terms, as a gross violation of international law and an assault on freedom,’ Mr Morrison said in his speech.
‘This is the latest example of an authoritarian regime seeking to challenge the status quo through threats and violence.
‘Our rules-based international order, built upon the principles and values that guide our own nation, has for decades supported peace and stability, and allowed sovereign nations to pursue their interests free from coercion. This is now under assault.
‘A new arc of autocracy is instinctively aligning to challenge and reset the world order in their own image.
‘We face the spectre of a transactional world, devoid of principle, accountability and transparency, where state sovereignty, territorial integrity and liberty are surrendered for respite from coercion and intimidation, or economic entrapment dressed up as economic reward.’
HMAS Rankin conducts helicopter transfers in Cockburn Sound, Western Australia
Mr Morrison blamed the ‘well motivated altruistic ambition’ of international institutions for opening the door to the threat, which he says he has been warning about for years.
With a federal election due in May, he said the ‘clear eyed’ coalition government has taken action to bolster the country’s resilience despite criticism, but the veil is now being lifted.
‘And so Australia faces its most difficult and dangerous security environment in 80 years,’ Mr Morrison said.
The speech comes after Australian missiles arrived in Ukraine as part of the federal government’s promised $70 million in military assistance, in addition to non-lethal military equipment and medical supplies.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Mr Morrison in a phone call over the weekend he deeply appreciated the support from Australia.
Australia has fast-tracked the approval of 1,700 visas for those fleeing the war and Mr Morrison is flagging a potential resurrection of the temporary safe haven program that accommodated Kosovars during the Kosovo War.
The prime minister says Europe has had ‘a major wake-up call’ from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and welcomes signs of a tougher stance by countries such as Germany, Sweden and Finland against ‘autocrat adventurism’.
‘There is a wider lesson here for Western liberal democracies as we come face to face with brutal, autocratic aggression and coercion. We must stand together,’ he said.
Mr Morrison also announced a new nuclear submarine base will be built on the east coast, with Port Kembla and Newcastle in NSW and Brisbane in the running as possible locations.
The new base will house at least eight nuclear-powered submarines to be built by 2040 using US and UK technology under the AUKUS alliance signed last year.
The burnt out remains of a building destroyed by Russian army shelling in the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, in the east of the country on March 6, 2022. Kharkiv is one of the cities worst-hit by Russian bombing campaigns in recent days, after Putin ordered his forces to engage in sustained shelling of several locations across the country
Russia has racked up considerable losses since the invasion began, with the Ukrainian Armed Forces reporting late last night that they have downed a total of 44 Russian planes and 44 helicopters in the past eleven days.
The reported losses provide further evidence of Russia’s failure to gain air superiority – a tactical advantage that Putin thought would be achieved on the first day of the war.
The Armed Forces Air Command reported early this morning that one Su-25 fighter, two Su-34 fighter-bombers, two Su-30 SM planes, and three helicopters were shot down yesterday alone.
Dramatic footage showed the moment one of the helicopters was hit by Ukrainian territorial defence forces as it made a menacing low pass over a rural village about 25 miles from Kyiv.
The helicopter sustained a direct hit which sent brilliant orange flames bursting from the engine before the aircraft piled into the ground nose-first and exploded.
A man helps a wounded elderly woman to a building’s basement for shelter, after Russian troops shelled the area in the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, in the east of the country on March 6, 2022