Speech by Former Abassador John Lander
I can’t claim to be a friend of Mr Lander, but a huge admirer and nowadays, an email acquaintance. I was very pleased when he contacted me to compliment me on a recent article I’d written in Pearls and Irritations (https://johnmenadue.com/chinas-military-expansion/) and to pass me a copy of a speech he had written — with his permission, it’s reproduced here, hopefully so as many Australians as possible can see it, read it, and understand that, what’s going on in a geopolitical sense is VERY bad for Australia and Australians
IPAN Peace Rally 12 March 2022
From long experience in international affairs, I have learned one thing. In war, Truth is the first victim. Don’t believe what you read in the mass media. It is also an instrument of war.
War is an obscenity. It is not an instrument of policy, it is a failure of policy. War is not only morally indefensible, it is politically counterproductive.
Russia claims to have invaded Ukraine because it is afraid of NATO expansion. By invading, it has virtually guaranteed that it will have a permanent enemy, heavily armed by US/NATO, even if not a full member, on its Western border.
Australia’s constant war-mongering is equally shameful and equally damaging to our security. Peace can only be secured through negotiation and the development of mutually beneficial relations. Instead of adding fuel to the flames, by sending “lethal aid” to Ukraine, Australia should have used its “close ties” to America to persuade Washington to negotiate with Russia for a neutral and non-aligned Ukraine. “in lockstep” with America, Australia has committed itself to a Third World War. On the economic front, it has already begun.
The US however, has all along wanted this war, to weaken Russia. Through NATO, it summarily rejected all of Russia’s proposals for security arrangements in Europe. This greatly reinforced Russia’s perception of NATO as a hostile organisation. With the arming of Ukraine and proposal to absorb it into NATO, the US set the match to the fire. That explains, but does not excuse Russia from taking the bait and invading Ukraine. Great power conflict has once again claimed a small country as its victim. The US and Australia condemn Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, but let us not forget that, with its NATO allies and Australia, the US conducted the illegal invasions and destruction of both Iraq and Afghanistan, causing the death of 2 million people and the displacement of tens of millions more. Australia rushes to help refugees from Ukraine, but has subjected refugees from the Middle East to cruel and inhumane, indefinite imprisonment!
The US has declared that no country can be allowed to challenge US supremacy in the world, exercised through its “rules-based order” — rules which itself does not follow. (For instance, it is not a signatory of the Law of the Sea and does not accept the jurisdiction of the World Court). The US-led war in Afghanistan dragged on for twenty years. In Washington, the hawks of the military/industrial complex have also made it clear that they do not intend this war to end any time soon. Senior Administration officials on 25 January stated that “action, in union with the EU, would hit Putin’s strategic ambitions quite hard and, over time… undercut Putin’s aspirations to exert influence on the world stage”.
Such statements show that that this war is a struggle between two power blocs, with Ukraine as proxy. Over the past ten years, a long line of experts and analysts, including many American exdiplomats and officials from a series of US Administrations, have pointed to that fact. They have failed to mention, however, that it is a strategy to be applied to all who challenge US supremacy. It was developed under the US National Defense Strategy in 2018 in relation to China. It plans to goad China to fire the first shot in military action against Taiwan, to thus portray it as the “aggressor”. Taiwan would then be constantly re-armed to “bog China down” in a protracted war, to hinder its economic growth and distract it from infrastructure cooperation in third countries. The US would not put itself in the firing line, just as we are now seeing in Ukraine. America still believes in ‘mutually assured destruction’ (MAD) and regards China’s goal of ‘mutually assured prosperity’ (MAP) as a threat to its dominance.
What is now happening in Ukraine can happen here. It should be a wake up call for Australia, which has positioned itself as an enemy of China. We should be grateful that China has not yet declared Australia to be its enemy, despite some warning signals it has given in relation to some items of trade. (Indeed, trade between our two countries increased significantly last year. China continued to supply everything we need to combat the Covid pandemic and most of what we need for our everyday lives).
If the US succeeds in provoking China into a military assault on Taiwan, Taiwan would become the Ukraine of our region. Massive civilian casualties are seen as an “advantage”, to inflame world opinion against China and enable the imposition of sweeping sanctions, just as is now happening with Russia over Ukraine. If Australia were to make good on its commitment to join the battle to “save Taiwan”, Australia would be another proxy on behalf of America. Australia’s navy would be obliterated by China’s vastly superior navy (attested to by our Minister for Defence) and Australia would become the target of Chinese missiles, against which we have no defence (also confirmed by our Defence Minister). Australia has isolated itself from its regional neighbours, including New Zealand, all of whom have refused to adopt our war-like stance. Most of the major developing countries have refrained from condemning Russia. India’s refusal to endorse the UN resolution against Russia and its continued provision of a rupee/ruble channel for transactions with Russia, make a mockery of our muchvaunted Quad. It is hypocritical to call China our enemy and then beg it to convince Russia to pull out of Ukraine, when we do not make a similar demand of India, which has such close economic and military ties with Russia. Given our size, and political isolation in our region, we would never be able to counter China’s might, no matter how much of our budget were to be poured into defence equipment. Australia should not be spending billions on aggressive weapons of war (whilst claiming to be unable to find funds or resources for the victims of flooding in Qld and NSW).
Australia should be suing for peace in Ukraine and rejecting the notion of US proxy wars. We should be making it clear that Australia has no intention of going to war against China. This country needs a strong, nationwide anti-war mass movement, similar to what was seen at the time of the Vietnam war. (I am proud that, back then, I was part of a small team in the Department of Foreign Affairs that persuaded the government to pull out of Vietnam before the final rout of the US). It is a pity that the Department seems to have had no one to argue a similar line in the case of Afghanistan and is unable to provide a counter argument against the bellicose approach in respect of Ukraine (and China). This time let us not wait until we are embroiled in another obscenity, but make it clear now, to all political parties, that the Australian people are opposed to war and wish to seek peace through negotiation and mutually beneficial cooperation.
Compromise is not a dirty word. It involves identifying common interests and building on them. A much wiser diplomat than I once said “The art of diplomacy is not to search for the emotionally gratifying, but the rationally possible”.
John Lander (First Australian Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran 1985–88; Deputy Ambassador to China 1974–76; 3-time Head of China Section DFAT