Jacinda Ardern warns West to avoid framing Russian invasion as ‘democracy vs autocracy’

New Zealand’s Prime Minister has warned the West not to cast Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a broader battle between autocracy and democracy, saying it could undermine efforts to get China to help ramp-up pressure on Moscow.

New Zealand has repeatedly condemned Russia’s invasion and joined several other Western nations placing sweeping sanctions on Russian institutions and key members of Vladimir Putin’s regime.

The Biden administration has also slammed China for lending Russia tacit support and refusing to condemn the invasion.

US President Joe Biden has repeatedly framed the war in Ukraine as a battle in a broader contest between autocratic regimes and democratic states.

Jacinda Ardern told the Lowy Institute that Russia’s invasion was “a morally bankrupt and illegal war”, which demanded a strong international response.

However, she cautioned against framing the battle in stark ideological terms, saying it was important to bring together a broad international coalition of countries — including China — to push back against Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sit at a desk intently.
Jacinda Ardern says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “a morally bankrupt and illegal war”.(Rueters: Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel)

“Let’s not assume that China, as a member of the [UN] Security Council, does not have a role to play [in] placing pressure [on Russia] in response to what is the loss of territorial integrity at the hands of Russia,” she said.

“If we talk about the conflict in this very black-and-white way, we assume that they don’t have that role to play.”

Jacinda Ardern also said that, while some countries who had given Russia “direct support” — such as Belarus — should also bear consequences, it would be a mistake to “characterise this as a war of the West vs Russia. Or democracy vs autocracy.

“It is not.”

‘Diplomacy must become the strongest tool,’ Ardern says

The New Zealand Prime Minister also said the it would be a mistake to “naturally assume” that Russia’s invasion would, necessarily, fuel tensions in Asia.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese drew a loose parallel between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and cross-strait tensions between China and Taiwan, saying Vladimir Putin’s failed bid to take Ukraine showed “attempts to impose change by force on a sovereign country meets resistance”.

Some US lawmakers have also openly declared that China might be emboldened to try to seize Taiwan after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

However, Ms Ardern cautioned against any comparisons between the situation in Europe and that in Asia, saying “nor should we naturally assume it is a demonstration of the inevitable trajectory in other areas of geo-strategic contest”.

“In the wake of the tensions we see rising, including in our Indo-Pacific region, diplomacy must become the strongest tool and de-escalation the loudest call,” she said.

“We won’t succeed, however, if those parties we seek to engage with are increasingly isolated and the region we inhabit becomes increasingly divided and polarised.

“We must not allow the risk of a self-fulfilling prophecy to become an inevitable outcome for our region.”

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PM urges China to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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