From Australia, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warns Russian leader Putin to "desist and step back from Ukraine before he makes a massive strategic mistake."

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is hoping to use the visit to forge closer defence and security ties with Australia.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is hoping to use the visit to forge closer defence and security ties with Australia. (@ukinaustralia / Twitter)

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has urged the West's allies to "step up" in solidarity with Ukraine and warned Russia against invading the eastern European country. 

The UK's top diplomat, on an official visit to Australia on Friday alongside Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, is set to urge Russia to "de-escalate and engage in meaningful discussions" following its troop build-up on the Ukrainian border.

The comments come amid mounting fears a major conflict could break out in Europe, with tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on Ukraine's border and the West trading threats over the increasingly tense situation.

"We need everyone to step up," Truss will say in a wide-ranging foreign policy speech at the Lowy Institute in Australia's biggest city, according to excerpts released by her office in advance.

"Together with our allies, we will continue to stand with Ukraine and urge Russia to de-escalate and engage in meaningful discussions."

Adding "what happens in Eastern Europe matters for the world," she will note that "invasion will only lead to a terrible quagmire and loss of life".

Truss warned Putin to "desist and step back from Ukraine before he makes a massive strategic mistake."

Truss will argue that the "Kremlin has not learned the lessons of history" and that "invasion will only lead to a terrible quagmire and loss of life, as we know from the Soviet-Afghan war and conflict in Chechnya."

More than 15,000 Soviet troops were killed in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, while hundreds of thousands of Afghans perished.

The US-led war in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021 led to over 3,500 deaths among the international military coalition.

About 241,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan and Pakistan war zone since 2001, according to the Costs of War project at Brown University's Watson Institute. 

READ MORE: Britain plans sanctions on Russia over Ukraine crisis

Consolidating defence alliances

Truss, who took the helm at Britain's Foreign Ministry last September, is hoping to use the visit to forge closer defence and security ties with Canberra, as London looks to reposition itself after leaving the European Union.

Rebranding itself "Global Britain" and eyeing new opportunities beyond the EU, it announced a new defence alliance with Australia and the United States — AUKUS — last September.

It will see Canberra acquire nuclear-powered submarines using US technology.

According to excerpts, Truss will argue like-minded democracies — including Israel, India, Japan and Indonesia — must "respond together" as global aggressors become "emboldened in a way we haven't seen since the Cold War".

"They seek to export dictatorship as a service around the world," Truss is set to say, noting the close ties between countries like Belarus, North Korea and Myanmar with Moscow and Beijing.

"Threats to freedom, democracy and the rule of law are not just regional — they're global.

"Building closer ties with our friends and drawing other countries closer to the orbit of free-market democracies will ultimately make us all safer and freer in the years to come," Truss will add.

"It is time for the free world to stand its ground."

Russian officials say the West is riddled with division, gripped by Russophobia and has no right to lecture Moscow on how to act. China says the West still thinks it can boss around the world in a colonial way and says Beijing will define its own path without meddling from foreign powers.

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Source: AFP