25 Feb 2022

Helen Clark on Ukraine invasion: an abomination and threat to world peace

3:40 pm on 25 February 2022

The threat to global peace posed by Russia's invasion of Ukraine bears chilling similarities to Germany's actions early in WWII, former NZ prime minister Helen Clark says.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation at the Kremlin in Moscow, announcing the military operation against Ukraine.

Western nations are grappling with how to respond to the wider threat posed by Putin's hostile actions in invading Ukraine. Photo: AFP

The former New Zealand prime minister and former United Nations Development Programme Administrator warned Putin has aspirations to restore Russia's power over the areas that made up the Soviet Union.

"He has Belarus completely in his pocket, Ukraine is a large country on his borders which he now seeks to control, one fears for Moldova to the south of Ukraine, where the Russians did snatch a part of Moldova bordering the Black Sea at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union, he has snatched two territories of Georgia, also on his borders... he's had troops in Kazakhstan 'helping' their problems there... you see the pattern here."

"In one way or another it seems he's determined to reestablish that sphere of influence. He's trying to rebuild what he sees as the past glory, this is not rational, and that's what makes it particularly dangerous."

She told RNZ, Russia's threats against any nation that assists Ukraine show the potential for nuclear hostilities have increased, and are a threat to global peace. And expects this will lead to a heightened warning level on the so-called Doomsday Clock, an indicator set by members of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to show the current risk of global catastrophe posed by technology.

Helen Clark

Former NZ prime minister and former administrator of the UN Development Programme Helen Clark Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Clark said many nations have been clear that Russian president Vladimir Putin has crossed a clear red line in invading Ukraine, and supported Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's strong statement this morning condemnation of his actions.

"This is an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign state, this is completely against international law, it's against the UN charter," Clark said.

"It's an abomination - who in our lifetimes would have thought we would see a repeat of the kind of events that saw Hitler and his army march into Czechoslovakia in March 1939 or Poland in September 1939 - that will be the kinds of memories this invokes for people of a generation old enough to remember that."

Clark said Putin poses a "wicked problem" for the West and any nations who want to oppose him.

"When the president with a nuclear weapons button [makes threats against those who aid Ukraine], you have to fear he will go all the way.

"So while the West has substantial military might - were it to use it does that then escalate the stakes for nuclear war? That's what will be at the back of the mind for president Biden and every other NATO leader.

"When you have a leader who has gone rogue, as president Putin has... it's like a box of matches by a kerosene tin - it's incredibly difficult. I think NATO and the west are doing what they can, but what they can do is limited by the thought of what could the consequences be?"

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