27 June 2023
Subjects: Aircraft intercept between UK and Russia; President Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine; additional military support for Ukraine.
In breaking news this morning, Russia says it was forced to scramble two of its fighter jets after British war planes were spotted approaching the Russian border. Russia’s Defence Minister says three UK military aircraft were intercepted as they headed over the Black Sea. President Vladimir Putin addressed the nation about the weekend’s aborted armed mutiny, thanking the Wagner mercenary fighters who stood down to avoid bloodshed.
It comes as the federal Opposition questions our government’s $110 million pledge to Ukraine, asking whether this support is too little, too late. Joining me now is the federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton. Good morning to you.
Good morning Nat.
First of all, let’s go to this quite tense situation between Russia and the UK this morning. What do you understand happened?
Well Nat, it’s very concerning and as we know, and as the government’s pointed out regularly, we’re living in a very uncertain time – not just in Europe – but obviously in our own neighbourhood as well. I suspect we need to be very careful about President Putin’s actions now. He’ll be trying to flex a muscle and show that he’s back in control and scrambling fighter jets will be part of that. It’ll be an optic that he wants to display that he’s back in charge, back in control, he’s a strongman, and that probably puts him in a very dangerous stage of his presidency.
I hope that he’s weakened, and I hope that the Russian people can be liberated at some point, but at the moment, he’s wounded and he’ll be a very difficult and prickly character. I think we should be very careful about his next moves.
Yeah, how much control do you think he does have? Is this the beginning of the end?
There’s a lot of analysis around at the moment. I don’t think anybody truly knows because you don’t know whether there are people internally who realise that his days are almost gone and it’s time to transition. Now, that could be an orderly transition, he could dig in, we just don’t know the level of support that remains around him.
All you can hope is that he’s deposed soon and that there’s stability brought to a country at some point; but as we’ve seen in Ukraine, the actions there of President Putin have been unpredictable, they’ve been bloody and he’s a very vicious character.
And so now there’s this theory, you know, he might make things worse with Ukraine. Our government of course has pledged this $110 million in aid to Ukraine. Why do you think that’s a bad thing?
Well, I think if you look at the words of Michael Shoebridge, who’s a defence expert in Australia – he was the head of ASPI, the defence think tank – Greg Sheridan writing today in The Australian; it’s an anaemic response, as Greg Sheridan describes, and we need to be there with Ukraine right until the point where they win this war and they’re liberated.
We’ve got, as we know, innocent women and children being slaughtered by the Russian attacks and if the West runs out of puff, or we get bored and distracted and move on to the next shiny ball, then we’re going to leave those people high and dry.
The Australian public has been very supportive of President Zelenskyy and his cause, and by sending Vietnam-era vehicles to Ukraine, it’s not what they asked for. The Ukraine military is very, very cognisant of what they need. They asked for particular vehicles, including the Hawkeis, they are the vehicles that should be sent because the Ukrainians know best what they need.
I think the other point to make is that the government is asking Defence to pay for this, which is why I think Defence is reluctant to send more equipment. They want new money for this and they should get it. Defence shouldn’t have to absorb this expense.
I understand and it sounds reasonable when you look at it like that but, hasn’t our own Defence Department said the Hawkeis are not the ones to send, they’re hard to service and they recommend not sending them.
Well in the latest budget the government cut $1.5 billion from Defence – so they’re already scratching around trying to find savings and I think Nat, the problem is that they just can’t afford to absorb it again. If they’re going to take the Hawkeis and have to replace them, then you’ve got a situation where Defence will say, ‘well, we can’t afford to send them’, and that shouldn’t be the basis of the decision.
The Defence Department should be making the basis of their decision, the advice from Ukraine authorities and I think you can understand why Defence wouldn’t advise government to send them if they’re having to foot the bill.
Right, okay. Peter Dutton thank you very much for your time this morning.
Thank you Nat. Thank you.