Liz Truss, UK foreign secretary, will call for liberal allies to “face down global aggressors” on Friday in a highly charged speech aimed at Russia and China.
Truss will argue in an address at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based think-tank, that Moscow and Beijing have been “emboldened in a way we haven’t seen since the cold war”, according to a copy of her remarks seen by the Financial Times.
Truss and Ben Wallace, UK defence secretary, are in Sydney for talks with the Australian government over closer security ties following the signing of the Aukus deal last year. The pact between London, Canberra and Washington was designed to enable Australia to obtain nuclear-powered submarines as part of an effort to counteract an increasingly assertive China.
The foreign secretary will demand that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, step back from a possible conflict with Ukraine “before he makes a massive strategic mistake”.
Moscow has amassed more than 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine and western allies including the US, EU and UK, have warned that Putin may be planning an invasion. Russia has denied any such intentions.
“Invasion will only lead to a terrible quagmire and loss of life, as we know from the Soviet-Afghan war and conflict in Chechnya,” Truss will say on Friday.
She will also argue for stronger alliances between countries including Australia, the UK, Japan, India, Indonesia and Israel to curtail the growing power of “global aggressors”.
“They seek to export dictatorship as a service around the world. That is why regimes like Belarus, North Korea and Myanmar find their closest allies in Moscow and Beijing,” her remarks said.
“Threats to freedom, democracy and the rule of law are not just regional — they’re global. And so we must respond together.”
Truss and Marise Payne, Australia’s foreign minister, signed an agreement on Thursday to co-operate to combat cyber security threats in the Indo-Pacific region. Further measures to strengthen security ties are expected to be announced on Friday.
The strongly worded speech will be delivered as Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, is battling to preserve his premiership in the face of domestic controversies and a revolt among Conservative party MPs.
The foreign secretary has been tipped as a potential contender to replace Johnson should he stand down following an inquiry into the “Partygate” scandal, which involved a series of Downing Street events that allegedly broke coronavirus restrictions.
Truss became foreign secretary last September and took charge of Brexit negotiations in December. She said prior to departing for Australia that “real mistakes were made” but that she “100 per cent” supported Johnson.