Wearing his now iconic battle green T-shirt, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky was beamed into the Australian Parliament chamber on March 31, 2022, above the heads of the business-wear dressed members and senators filling the seats in respectful anticipation. After the standing ovation to greet Zelensky, he spoke for 16 minutes, and beyond his thanks for equipment (like some Bushmaster armoured vehicles) and his pleas for further help to fight back against Russia’s brutal invasion, he made several outstanding points.
Failure to act in time against aggressors like Russia encourages further aggression and emboldens other aggressive countries. Regimes that use illegal measures must be held accountable by international institutions that exist for that purpose. Blackmail and nuclear threats should be backfire on the aggressor.
Regimes causing loss of civilian life (shooting down MH17) must be held to account by the global community.
There is a superficially benign epithet the West should remember and apply to world security: ‘a stitch in time saves nine’.
ON FAILURE TO ACT NOW
But the most terrible thing, if we don’t stop Russia now, if we don’t hold Russia accountable, then some other countries of the world who are looking forward to the similar war against their neighbours will decide that such things are possible for them as well. The fate of the global security is decided now,
ON NAVAL BLOCKADE OF UKRAINE
And for dozens of years, it has never been that a country would block the whole sea for other vessels of any country, but this is exactly what was done by Russia. Part of the Black and Azov Sea is a dead sea these days, any vessel that were trying to come in can simply be destroyed by the Russian navy.
No country in the world can theoretically… Should not have even the theoretical possibility of blocking trade fleet, and block the seas to other countries, there shouldn’t be even a theoretical possibility to do so. No region of the world can count on being unpunishable if he’s thinking about prospective war.
ON NUCLEAR THREAT
The country which is using the nuclear blackmailing should receive the sanctions, which would show that so much blackmailing is destructive for the blackmailer itself.
ON INTERNATIONAL SECURITY INSTITUTIONS & WAR CRIMES
But our anti-war coalition, which is working on bringing the peace back to Ukraine, we need to also enhance the capabilities of the international institutions, which were created to hold military war criminals responsible. Anyone who would commit such crimes, to have them punished by the solidarity of the whole world and not one country. Had this been done on time, life in this world would have been more secure, at times more secure.
ON THE MH17 TRAGEDY – NO CONSEQUENCES FOR RUSSIA
And I’m sure that any of you, any of us remembers the MH17 tragedy …. my condolences to all those who have lost relatives and their kids. But did we manage to hold accountable those who caused this tragedy? No, they are hiding in the country of Russia, and obviously they’ve got security guarantees from Russia. Has Russia paid the compensation to the debt and their families? No, and they are still denying the fault of this tragedy eight years later. The justice was not achieved, and we don’t know how much longer it will take for at least one tragedy to have a proper response from the international community, from all of us, and how many new tragedies Russia has created or will create. So the unpunished evil comes back, and I would say unpunished evil comebacks with inspiration, with the feeling of almightiness. If the world had punished Russia in 2014 for what it did, there wouldn’t be any of this terror of invasion in Ukraine in 2022.
ON BUSINESS WITH RUSSIA
We need new sanctions against Russia, powerful sanctions, until they stop blackmailing other countries with their nuclear missiles. And they have to pay the highest price for blocking the sea, no Russian vessel should be allowed in other international ports. Buying their oil means paying for the destruction of the global security, we have to stop any business activity of Russia.
For more about Volodymyr Zelensky’s road to the presidency of Ukraine and his wartime leadership, see Andrew L. Urban & Chris McLeod’s book (available from April 26, 2022), Zelensky – the unlikely Ukrainian hero who defied Putin and united the world (Wilkinson Publishing)