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Can Australia afford to be so generous with aid to Ukraine?

By Scott Prasser - posted Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Many agree Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's recently announced $100 million aid to Ukraine, made in addition to the previous government's assistance, is the right thing to do.

It has made Australia the largest donor to Ukraine outside of the European-based NATO alliance of which we are not a part. It's a country over 10,000 kilometres away.

The issue is whether we can afford to focus attention and resources to the other side of the world given the challenges we are facing in our own region with heightened Chinese aggression and expansion.


Of course, many Australians sympathise with the plight of Ukraine.

And of course, we are willing to do our bit as we have always done in other conflicts and crises around the world.

Nevertheless, the Ukraine crisis is Europe's war and Europe's responsibility. Not ours. Europe is not in our backyard. The Indo-Pacific is. And successive governments have told us we are part of Asia and that is where our attention should be.

Let us not forget that nearly 100,000 Australian soldiers were killed in the two world wars, and thousands more wounded and maimed because the Europeans could not get their house in order. And did not restrain some of their aggressive nation states partly because of their policies of appeasement.

And by the way, Japan only entered the second world war where most of Australia's casualties occurred in that conflict because they observed Nazi Germany's success in Europe at that time.

Moreover, the current tepid European response to Russian aggression is largely because of their inept energy policies, especially Germany's, which has made it over-dependent on Russian gas - a situation exacerbated by its policy of turning off its safe, climate friendly nuclear power.


Germany especially deserves to be singled out for criticism because of its lack of leadership leading up to and during the current Ukraine-Russian war. Germany, being the largest economy in Europe and fourth largest in the world, has been forever reluctant to take a leadership role.

German desire to atone for its past sins, through its much-vaunted Energiewende project to save the planet, has left it mercilessly dependent on Russian gas and to a lesser extent oil. On the flip side, this has made it one of the largest financers of Putin's regime. Even now Russian gas still flows one way while German money flows the other, despite all the words from the current Scholz Government.

We have seen this German and more broadly European reluctance before, where following the breakup of Yugoslavia at the end of the Cold War, ethnic genocide occurred right on its doorstep. Let's not forget that it took largely British and American military action, not European, to put an end to those bloody conflicts.

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This article was first published in the Canberra Times.

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About the Author

Dr Scott Prasser has worked on senior policy and research roles in federal and state governments. His recent publications include:Royal Commissions and Public Inquiries in Australia (2021); The Whitlam Era with David Clune (2022) and the edited New directions in royal commission and public inquiries: Do we need them?. His forthcoming publication is The Art of Opposition reviewing oppositions across Australia and internationally. .

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