Penny Wong slams Putin’s ‘weak and desperate’ nuclear threats in first major UN speech


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Penny Wong will slam Vladimir Putin’s “weak and desperate” nuclear threats and push for Australia to have more influence on the world stage in her first major speech to the United Nations.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York on Saturday morning (AEST), Australia’s foreign minister will warn of the threats posed by big countries like Russia over-exerting their influence.

Again criticising Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Ms Wong will say superpowers should not be allowed to use their muscle to determine the fate of smaller nations.

“Russia’s attack on Ukraine is an attack on all smaller countries,” she will say.

“It is an assertion that a larger country is entitled to subjugate a smaller neighbour — to decide whether another country can even exist.”

Without naming China, Ms Wong will warn that similar conflict in the Info-Pacific region “would be catastrophic – for our people and our prosperity”.

She will say it is up to all nations to work towards averting any more “catastrophic conflict”.

“How do we acquit our responsibilities to constrain tensions – to apply the brakes before the momentum for conflict in our region or beyond becomes unstoppable?”

During a week in which Moscow has made thinly veiled threats to use its nuclear might, Ms Wong will highlight the danger such weapons pose to the world.

“Mr Putin’s weak and desperate nuclear threats underline the danger that nuclear weapons pose to us all, and the urgent need for progress on nuclear disarmament,” her speech says.

“Australia has always pursued a world without nuclear weapons, and we will redouble our efforts towards this goal — and to strengthening the non-proliferation regime.”

Penny Wong met with China’s Wang Yi in New York.

A day after meeting her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Ms Wong will once more urge Beijing to use its influence with Russia to bring the war to an end.

“It is especially important for countries that play leading roles in international fora, and countries with influence on Russia, to exert their influence to end this war,” she will say.

“In this pursuit, the world looks to China, a great power, a Permanent Member of the Security Council, with a “no limits partnership” with Russia.”

Ms Wong will remind that Australia wants a seat on the powerful UN Security Council in 2029-2030 and is pushing for reform, with greater permanent representation for Africa, Latin America and Asia, including India and Japan.

Earlier this year Russia used its position as a permanent member on the Security Council to veto a UN resolution demanding it withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

Ms Wong will warn that “humanity will pay the price” if the world fails to protect the UN Charter.

“Humanity has benefited from the multilateral system – from the rules that have underpinned an unequalled period of human development,” she will say.

“Humanity will pay the price if we allow it to founder. Every nation, and all our peoples.”

Ms Wong’s speech comes after Russia also announced it would be calling up 300,000 extra troops to continue its war in Ukraine.

The “partial mobilisation” triggered a wave of Russians fleeing the country.

Russia’s government has since announced that critical workers will be exempt from being drafted into the army.

The exceptions apply to some IT workers, telecommunications workers, finance professionals, as well as some employees at “systemically-important” mass media outlets and interdependent suppliers including registered media and broadcasters.

The defence ministry said heads of companies should draw up lists of their employees who meet the criteria and can be excluded from the draft.

Many Russian companies appear to have been caught off guard by Mr Putin’s mobilisation order.

Russia’s central bank welcomed the move to exclude some financial professionals from being called up and said some of its staff met the relevant criteria.

Meanwhile, Russia launched referendums on Friday aimed at annexing four occupied regions of Ukraine, raising the stakes of the seven-month-old war in what Ukraine called a sham in which residents were threatened with punishment if they did not vote.

Ukrainian officials said people were banned from leaving some occupied areas until the four-day vote was over, armed groups were going to homes to force people to cast ballots and employees were threatened with the sack if they did not participate.

-with AAP

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