Russia must be punished for Ukraine war: US, Quad allies

NEW DELHI – Russia cannot be allowed to wage war with impunity, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his counterparts from India, Japan and Australia said in a statement on Friday, following a meeting in New Delhi.

The so-called Quad group also said that the use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons in Ukraine was “inadmissible”. Late last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended a landmark nuclear arms control treaty and threatened to resume nuclear tests.

“If we allow with impunity Russia to do what it’s doing in Ukraine, then that’s a message to would-be aggressors everywhere that they may be able to get away with it too,” Mr Blinken told a forum in India.

Mr Blinken met counterparts from the Quad group on the sidelines of a Group of Twenty (G-20) meeting in New Delhi, where ministers had traded blame over the conflict.

A day earlier in New Delhi, Mr Blinken met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the first time since the conflict began just over a year ago. During the brief encounter, Mr Blinken urged Moscow to end the war and reverse its suspension of the New Start nuclear treaty, a senior US official said.

The Russian foreign ministry said Mr Lavrov and Mr Blinken spoke for less than 10 minutes and did not engage in any negotiations, Russian news agencies reported.

At the G-20, the United States and its allies called on member countries to keep pressuring Russia to end the conflict, but the G-20 was unable to agree a joint statement on the war due to opposition from Russia, which calls its actions a “special military operation”, and China.

In their statement, the Quad ministers also took a barely disguised swipe at China by denouncing actions that increase tensions in the South China Sea, and the “militarisation” of disputed territories in the area.

They called for “the importance of adherence to international law” in the East and South China Seas “to meet challenges to the maritime rules-based order”.

“We strongly oppose any unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo or increase tensions in the area,” they said in their statement.

“We express serious concern at the militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous use of coastguard vessels and maritime militia and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation activities,” they said.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes annually.

Their statement did not explicitly name China, which has repeatedly accused the US of spearheading the Quad to encircle it.

Its members deny hostile intentions and stress that they are not a military alliance, instead cooperating in areas such as disaster relief.

After their meeting, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said China had no reason to fear the Quad.

“This is not military but just practical cooperation,” he said at the Raisina Dialogue, a forum in New Delhi.

“We don’t try to exclude anybody. This is an open dialogue,” he said. “As long as even China abides by the laws and international norms, and also acts under the international institutions, standards and laws, then this is not a conflicting issue between China and the Quad.” REUTERS, AFP