LONDON — Ukraine could descend into a “quagmire” like the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan unless Moscow abandons plans for a military incursion there, Britain’s foreign secretary is set to warn.
In a speech in Australia Friday, Liz Truss will call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to engage in “meaningful discussions” and “desist and step back from Ukraine before he makes a massive strategic mistake,” according to extracts released in advance by her office.
As many as 100,000 Russian troops remain at the Ukrainian border, despite warnings from U.S. President Joe Biden and European leaders of serious consequences in the event of an invasion. Moscow has also begun moving troops to Belarus, Ukraine’s northern neighbor, for joint military exercises.
In a sign of the increasing sense of urgency among Western nations, the U.K. is supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons, and the U.S. has given the go-ahead for three NATO allies — Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania — to rush anti-armor missiles and other U.S.-made weapons to Ukraine.
In her speech, Britain’s foreign secretary will argue that the “Kremlin has not learned the lessons of history” and warned that a Russian incursion would drag Moscow into a prolonged conflict akin to the Soviet war waged in Afghanistan during the 1980s.
“Invasion will only lead to a terrible quagmire and loss of life, as we know from the Soviet-Afghan war and conflict in Chechnya,” she said.
Truss is visiting Australia to forge closer defense, diplomatic, technology and economic links with a view to help Britain counter Russia and China, two countries “emboldened in a way we haven’t seen since the Cold War,” she said.
“Threats to freedom, democracy and the rule of law are not just regional — they’re global. And so we must respond together,” Truss is expected to tell the Lowy Institute in Sydney. “We need to work with partners like Australia, Israel, India, Japan, Indonesia and more. By 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.”