Foreign affairs

Zelenskyy’s address to parliament

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the Australian parliament on Thursday, via a video link. He described the suffering of his country under attack from Russia. He reminded us that Australia and other countries in our region have already been victims of Russian terror in Ukraine, referring to Russia’s use of a Buk surface-to-air missile to shoot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, killing all 298 on board including 38 Australians.

He was critical of the West generally for not having taken more assertive action against Russia when it seized Crimea and Sevastopol in 2014. Had the West been less permissive Putin would probably not have invaded the rest of Ukraine.

Unsurprisingly he called for stronger sanctions against Russia in response to their use of nuclear blackmail, and for military hardware for his country’s armed forces, specifically mentioning the Bushmaster armoured vehicle – it’s better used in Ukraine than parked on the ground here he said.

While his earlier addresses to parliaments have been about supporting Ukraine generally, this time his emphasis was on the threat Ukraine faces in defending its Black Sea ports and associated hinterland.

The dignity of the occasion was sullied a little by an unnecessarily long and pompous introduction by Morrison. Albanese, by contrast, thanked Zelenskyy for giving us his “precious minutes” and gave a brief introduction.

Advice for an incoming foreign minister

In a 45-minute podcast , hosted by the Lowy Institute, Michael Fullilove interviewed Gareth Evans on good international citizenship.

It starts with Evans describing his formative years – mainly his observations as a student on the great Asian discovery, and then moves on to his experience as Foreign Minister from 1988 to 1996, as the Cold War came to an end. “Bliss was it that dawn to be alive. But to be Foreign Minister was the very heaven …”.

The main discussion is about four benchmarks to assess a country’s performance on the world stage: its generosity in foreign aid, its response to human rights violations, its work in advancing peace and security, and its work, in cooperation with other nations, in dealing with complex global issues such as climate change. On these dimensions our current government is performing poorly. It has spent down our reputational capital and has failed to develop our soft power.

He concludes with some observations on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “This is morally, legally indefensible. And it's the greatest challenge to, assault on, the international order that we’ve seen since 1945.” But he sees the possibility of a negotiated settlement.

Madeleine Albright’s obituary

There are many obituaries written about Madeleine Albright, mostly focussing on her realization of the American dream – her flight from the horrors of Nazi and communist regimes, through to her appointment as Secretary of State.

CNN has an obituary that covers more of her diplomatic achievements, and the principles that guided her work.

It covers her efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution in the bloody conflicts around the breakup of Yugoslavia, and what she sees as one of her greatest regrets, the US government’s having left the way clear for the Rwanda genocide. In her later work she continued to press for democracy around the world, a task that has become progressively more difficult.

With all eyes on Ukraine, it’s easy to neglect other areas of suffering

Not far away from Afghanistan is Yemen. In a short article Al Jazeera asks why is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis ignored? It points out that at least 17 million people, more than half the country’s population, need food assistance and the situation will worsen as wheat prices surge as a consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For seven years the country has been the battleground for a war between two long-standing adversaries, Iran and the countries of the Arab peninsula. While people starve, well-armed Saudi military forces, supported by the US, continue to launch airstrikes on Sana’a and Hodeida, and Iran-backed Houti rebels respond with attacks in Arab countries.