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Britain cautions Putin and Xi over ‘dictatorship’

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss speaks during a G7 foreign and development ministers session with guest countries and ASEAN nations on the final day of the summit in Liverpool, Britain December 12, 2021. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS

Britain warned Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday that its allies would join forces to oppose dictatorships that it said were more powerful than at any time since the Cold War.

The news: British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in an interview in Australia that Britain and its “free world” partners must respond to global dangers together, strengthen ties with democracies in the Indo-Pacific, and “face down global aggressors” who use economic reliance to obtain what they want.

  • On Friday, Truss and Britain’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace, met with their Australian counterparts in Sydney for the annual Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN), when a contract to buy nuclear submarines for Australia was discussed.
  • Despite the British navy’s increased presence in the Pacific, Australia’s defence minister, Peter Dutton, claimed there were no plans to create a British military facility in Australia. As a counter to Beijing’s dominance, the two countries struck agreements to fund regional infrastructure.
  • The ministers expressed alarm over Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s border in a joint statement, as well as “their absolute support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
  • In a speech to the Lowy Institute foreign affairs think tank, Truss cautioned Putin to ” desist and step back from Ukraine before he makes a massive strategic mistake.”
  • Truss said that the “Kremlin has not learnt the lessons of history” and that “invasion will only result in a horrific quagmire and loss of life, as we saw in the Soviet-Afghan war and the fight in Chechnya.”

The backstory: The West portrays Russia as a tyrannical kleptocracy ruled by a mercurial elite responsible for such heinous acts as the 2014 annexation of Crimea, attempts to intervene in US and European elections, and a number of high-profile espionage and murder attempts overseas.

Russian authorities claim that the West is divided and afflicted by Russophobia, and that it has no right to teach Moscow on how to behave.

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