Geoffrey Miller: What to expect from Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to the New Zealand Parliament

Geoffrey Miller: What to expect from Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to the New Zealand Parliament

As New Zealand’s foreign policy year draws to a close, it seems fitting that Volodymyr Zelensky will have the final word.

Ukraine’s President is scheduled to address the New Zealand Parliament in Wellington by video link early on Wednesday morning, local time.

New Zealand is something of a latecomer when it comes to inviting Zelensky to speak to its legislature in 2022.

Zelensky did the rounds of most Western countries during the first half of the year, especially in March and April.

Parliaments in the United Kingdom, United States and EU countries were first in line, but Australia took its turn on 31 March, when Scott Morrison was still the country’s Prime Minister.

If outspoken National MP Simon O’Connor had had his way, New Zealand would have followed suit around the same time.

O’Connor lodged a motion in April calling for the New Zealand Parliament to extend an invitation to the Ukrainian President to speak to it.

However, in response, Chris Hipkins – the Labour Government’s Leader of the House – poured cold water on the suggestion. Calling Zelensky a ‘busy guy’, Hipkins said O’Connor’s proposal risked being ‘undiplomatic’ because Zelensky might have to turn it down. And even O’Connor’s own party leader, Christopher Luxon, seemed unenthusiastic about the idea.

The real reason was probably the Government’s fear that Zelensky would only add further fuel to the fire when it came to calls for New Zealand to do more to help Ukraine.

At the time, Wellington was coming under enormous pressure to provide greater assistance to Kyiv, including weaponry now commonly referred to as ‘lethal aid’.

Zelensky has been refreshingly direct in his speeches to foreign legislatures.

The underlying message is always simple: thank you for all the help you have given Ukraine so far – but please do more.

But far from being boilerplate stump speeches, the Ukrainian President’s calls for more assistance have always shown sophistication in the way they are tailored to foreign audiences.

They are carefully crafted to appeal to the recipient country’s own history and instincts.

When speaking to the US, Zelensky invoked the spirit and solidarity of the American response to 9/11 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941.

For the UK, it was the Battle of Britain of 1940.

For Australia, Zelensky reminded his audience of the 38 Australian citizens and residents who were killed when Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by Russian-led forces in 2014.

It remains to be seen exactly which buttons Zelensky will press in his speech to New Zealand this week.

The address will no doubt serve as an opportunity to thank New Zealand for the historic shifts it has made to its foreign policy this year because of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

In the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion on February 24, New Zealand overturned its longstanding UN-only sanctions policy by introducing the Russia Sanctions Act.

Moreover, Wellington eventually yielded to domestic and international pressure to provide lethal aid by sending a small, mainly symbolic $NZ7.5 million contribution to the United Kingdom to purchase weapons for Ukraine on New Zealand’s behalf.

But since the landmark lethal aid decision was taken in April, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Labour Government have been keen to steer clear of further weaponry-in-kind contributions.

Instead, the focus has been placed on sanctions, money for non-lethal and humanitarian aid and on sending New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel to the United Kingdom to train Ukrainian soldiers there.

To this end, the Government recently extended a NZDF training mission that will see up to 66 New Zealand soldiers deployed to the United Kingdom until July 2023.

This is in addition to a smaller contingent of 29 New Zealand military intelligence analysts, logistics specialists and other personnel who will also be stationed in Europe until the middle of next year.

More broadly, the Government has issued no fewer than 34 press releases in relation to Ukraine this year – more than on any other foreign policy issue, by some margin.

Volodymyr Zelensky will no doubt express Ukraine’s gratitude for this commitment when he speaks to New Zealand parliamentarians on Wednesday.

As winter sets in, Ukraine is largely holding its own or gaining ground on the battlefield. But Kyiv is facing a constant barrage of Russian missile attacks on Ukrainian cities that are often targeting energy infrastructure – causing the lights and heating to go out amidst freezing temperatures.

On Saturday, Zelensky said that Russian attacks on energy facilities in Odesa – Ukraine’s third-largest city – had left 1.5 million people without electricity. The damage could take months to repair.

Against this grim backdrop, Zelensky will almost certainly call on New Zealand to redouble its efforts before its Parliament heads off for its traditional extended summer break.

When it comes to material support, the Government has actually quietly reduced New Zealand’s contribution to the war.

The 66 New Zealand troops now training their Ukrainian counterparts in the UK are deployed as part of a single ‘infantry training team’, a reduction in size from the 120-soldier, two-team deployment that was sent from August to November this year.

Moreover, as the nearly 10-month old war continues, Ukraine has started to fade from New Zealanders’ view.

In contrast to the early months of the war, Ukraine now rarely features near the top of New Zealand television news bulletins – and many of the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flags that sprang up around New Zealand cities in the aftermath of the invasion have since been taken down.

Of course, continued inflation and cost-of-living pressures are a constant reminder that New Zealand is not immune to global geopolitical forces.

But a modest fall in oil prices and New Zealand’s relatively high level of energy independence in electricity and gas have spared the country its own version of the particularly acute energy crisis now being felt across Europe.

A recent visit to Auckland by Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin – the first EU leader to visit New Zealand since the pandemic began – sought to push Ukraine further up Wellington’s agenda.

At a joint press conference with Jacinda Ardern, Marin emphasised weaponry and Ukraine’s need for ‘hard power to win that war’.

The European Union’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Nina Obermaier, has also been keen to remind New Zealand’s foreign policy community of the importance of showing solidarity with Europe and backing Ukraine.

In a recent speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs (NZIIA) headlined ‘Partners in Turbulent Times’, Obermaier cited the ‘common values’ such as democracy, human rights and multilateralism that united New Zealand and the EU.

The Ambassador told her audience ‘Europe can count on New Zealand, New Zealand can count on Europe’, adding ‘we stand together’.

This might sound like thanks for a job well done.

But it was also a not-so-subtle hint that further support would be a good idea.

As Volodymyr Zelensky is likely to remind New Zealand parliamentarians this week, the war is far from over.

New Zealand can expect to be asked to do more.

Geoffrey Miller is the Democracy Project’s geopolitical analyst and writes on current New Zealand foreign policy and related geopolitical issues. He has lived in Germany and the Middle East and is a learner of Arabic and Russian.

This article can be republished under a Creative Commons CC BY-ND 4.0  license. Attributions should include a link to the Democracy Project.  


Further reading on Foreign Affairs and Trade

Fran O’Sullivan (Herald): $50b question – Which way ahead for New Zealand-China trade?(paywalled)
AP: PM Jacinda Ardern says China has become ‘more assertive’
RNZ: Ardern hoping to lead trade mission to China
Dileepa Fonseka (Stuff): The New Zealander helping the United States prepare for an artificial intelligence war with China
Emma Cropper (Newshub): Australia makes major immigration announcement to improve New Zealanders’ rights
Kelvin McDonald (Whakaata Māori): Australia starts work on ‘pathways’ to residency and citizenship for Kiwis
Bridie Witton (Stuff): NZ issues travel ban against Iran security forces, including morality police
Rachel Sadler (Newshub): New Zealand imposes travel bans on 22 Iranian security forces members connected to Mahsa Amini’s death, ‘violent’ response to protests
RNZ: New Zealand announces travel ban on Iranian security forces
Jimmy Ellingham (RNZ): NZ soldiers train Ukrainians in battlefield skills to fight Russian troops
Audrey Young (Herald): What has ex-MP Louisa Wall been up to as equality ambassador in the Pacific (paywalled)


Other items of interest and importance today

Claire Trevett (Herald): If Hamilton West byelection was Labour’s canary, it’s in line for a walloping (paywalled)
Richard Harman (Politik): 16,359 missing voters (paywalled)
Jo Moir (Newsroom): By-election loss only adds to Labour’s much-needed reset
David Farrar: Some facts about the Hamilton West by-election
Matthew Hooton (Patreon): Labour’s Suffers Historic Debacle in Hamilton West (paywalled)
Steven Cowan: Hamilton West by-election: The people stay away
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Hamilton West by-election massacre for Labour: Winners, Losers & Predictions
Jonah Franke and Stephen Ward (Waikato Times): National records resounding victory in Hamilton West by-election
Adam Pearse (Herald): Hamilton West byelection: National’s Tama Potaka wins, seat flip a blow for Government
1News: National’s Tama Potaka wins Hamilton West seat
Jenna Lynch (Newshub): Government dealt ‘major blow’ as Hamilton West swings hard to National
RNZ: Opposition tout political change for 2023 elections after Hamilton West seat win
Seni Iasona (Newshub): Hamilton West by-election: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern congratulates National’s Tama Potaka following ‘tough’ campaign
Avina Vidyadharan (Stuff): ‘Don’t do nothing, do something’ – Hamilton West’s newly minted MP starts work
1News: Voter turnout essential for Hamilton West by-election – candidates
Mike Hosking (Newstalk ZB): Hamilton West’s result is likely the election result

Luke Malpass (Stuff): Remember how we lived during the pandemic peak? The last political week of a rubbish three years
David Cohen (Telegraph): Our love affair with Jacinda Ardern is coming to an end
Kate MacNamara (Herald): Public Service Commission’s dim view of MfE process related to Mahuta family contracts (paywalled)
Heather du Plessis-Allan (Herald): Split reveals where power lies (paywalled)
Claire Trevett (Herald): Christopher Luxon, the Winston Peters question and why polling in the 40s does matter (paywalled)
Ian Taylor (Herald): The Labour Party I used to know (paywalled)
Herald Editorial: What could change the political outlook in the year ahead? (paywalled)
RNZ: PM Jacinda Ardern on plans for next year: ‘Making sure the economy is our priority’
Andrew Kirton (Herald): Labour needs a plan to address tough economic times and ease voters’ pain (paywalled)
Michael Neilson (Herald): Green Party on their ‘biggest frustration’ around climate change, farm emissions and the 2023 election
John Roughan (Herald): A week of political corrections (paywalled)
Peter Wilson (RNZ): Week in Politics: National’s joy and Labour’s woes
Thomas Coughlan (Herald): Beehive diaries: The PM’s Christmas party and why Finance Minister Grant Robertson can’t travel
Herald: On the Tiles: Three Waters, political resets and retirements, and how the finances are looking
Steven Joyce (Herald): Government on a one-way ride down memory lane (paywalled)
Muriel Newman: Labour’s Decline
Phil Smith (RNZ): The House: Go high: Parliament takes its roof solar
Kelvin McDonald (Whakaata Māori): Māori tourism leader Dale Stephens to contest Christchurch Central for National

Andrea Vance (Stuff): How a council’s weird TikTok account represents everything that is wrong with local democracy
Tom Dillane (Stuff): Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown earmarks $415k to Matthew Hooton and key advisors, after pledge to slash council salaries
Todd Niall (Stuff): Auckland mayor Wayne Brown pays four staff $250k a year – as did his predecessor
Todd Niall (Stuff): Auckland mayoral hopefuls: Efeso Collins’ $410k campaign, Viv Beck had cash leftover
Nick Truebridge (Newshub): Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown shuts down questions on budget proposals and possible asset sales
Anne Gibson (Herald): Potential conflict of interest probe: Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, Eke Panuku both welcome PwC report (paywalled)
Simon Wilson (Herald): Is this the end of tunnelled light rail and the start of moving the port? (paywalled)
Todd Niall (Stuff): New era of joined-up working for Auckland port and transport projects
RNZ: Auckland mayor and Transport Minister agree to cooperate on port and reallocate millions in funds
Oliver Lewis (BusinessDesk): Politicians get city rail link briefing on budget, timing(paywalled)
Luke Kirkness (Bay of Plenty Times): Transport funding package the right decision in the long run (paywalled)
Victor Billot (Newsroom): An Ode for .. Wayne Brown
Georgina Campbell (Herald): Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau’s large campaign spend-up pays off
Erin Gourley (Stuff): Dumped Wellington mayor Andy Foster’s campaign bankrolled by Chow Brothers
John Minto (Daily Blog): Just how despicable are these corporate bankers – and their council minions?
RNZ: Remuneration Authority rejects Dunedin mayor’s salary cut proposal
K Gurunathan (Stuff): Councils should think twice before insulting their Treaty partners
Rachael Kelly (Stuff): Behaviour of Gore Mayor Ben Bell ‘taking a toll on staff’s mental well-being and health’
Steven Walton (Stuff): Phil Mauger’s $1m roving footpath fix-it crew backed by council staff
Alisha Evans (RNZ): RMA reforms: Local voice and environmental conflicts key issues for councils

Thomas Cranmer: Pressure mounts on embattled Minister Mahuta
Graham Adams (The Platform): Ardern’s disregard for democracy on full display
Waatea News: Anti-Māori driving three waters opposition
Waatea News: Three waters no a vote for white privilege
Pattrick Smellie (BuisnessDesk): RMA and three waters reforms plough on (paywalled)
Jonathan Milne (Newsroom): New bills allow rural users to take ownership of drinking water supplies
Bryan Cadogan (Southland Times): Three Waters: Understand massive stakes, or make massive mistakes
John MacDonald (Newstalk ZB): Government’s Three Waters reforms still a dog’s breakfast

Chris Trotter: Willie Jackson’s New Network Will Go Fishing For a New Audience
Herald Editorial: RNZ/TVNZ merger bites back (paywalled)
Colin Peacock (RNZ): Media merger meets mounting resistance as clock ticks
Tom Pullar Strecker (Stuff): Willie Jackson: Here’s why Google and Facebook should help fund the media
Mark Quinlivan (Newshub): TVNZ-RNZ: National’s Erica Stanford calls for mega-merger to be first policy scrapped after PM signals backtrack on some reforms
RNZ: Stuff’s regional rejig – and staff strife
Peter Griffin (Herald): Rebuilding Better: A prime opportunity to create the social media we want (paywalled)
James Perry (Whakaata Māori): Indigenous broadcasters beef up push for cultural revitalisation

Tim Murphy (Newsroom): Vale, John Amstrong
David Farrar: RIP John Armstrong
Herald: New Zealand Herald political journalist John Armstrong dies, aged 68

Janet Wilson (Stuff): Where’s the outrage about our child poverty rates?
Damien Grant (Stuff): The big mistake we have made in setting the price of our money
Craig Renney (BusinessDesk): Reducing inflation requires investment, not tax cuts(paywalled)
Jenny Ruth (BusinessDesk): Central banks are likely to overshoot in their inflation battles(paywalled)
Rachel Thomas and Gianina Schwanecke (Stuff): How the cost of living crisis is hurting frontline New Zealanders
Rob Stock (Stuff): Supermarkets paying more for almost 8000 grocery items, causing pain at the till
1News: 43% of Kiwis tightening their belts this Christmas – poll
Aimee Shaw (Stuff): New Zealanders struggling to pay for Christmas
Eric Crampton (Stuff): What to do about competition and costs in the building industry?

Dileepa Fonseka (Stuff): RSE workers being treated ‘like slaves’, Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner says
Anna Whyte (Stuff): Strike notices much lower than previous years despite ‘perfect storm’ for action
Rob Stock (Stuff): Rise in government workers cashing in annual leave for extra pay

Brian Easton (Pundit): Should We Nationalise The Electricity Industry?
Tom Powell (Stuff): New Zealand’s broken electricity market
Maria Slade (NBR): Tortured funding tale shakes faith in government startup support(paywalled)
Duncan Greive (Spinoff): The troubling backstory and new legal chaos engulfing We Are Indigo
BusinessDesk: Queenstown ‘non tourism’ fund makes first investment (paywalled)
Rob Stock (Stuff): Woman loses home after insurer turns down brain tumour claim
Catherine Hubbard (Stuff): Local contractors ‘heartbroken’ at being left on the sidelines
Daniel Smith (Stuff): Trade Me ‘no safer than Facebook marketplace’ says scam victim
Jamie Gray (Herald): Tiwai’s charm offensive: Chris Blenkiron on the new, improved Rio Tinto (paywalled)
Tom Pullar-Strecker (Stuff): Aluminium smelter boss sets out why Kiwis should want it to stay
Dan Brunskill (BusinessDesk): Mindful Money calls out fund managers for not upholding exclusions (paywalled)

Rachael Kelly (Stuff): Ardern agrees to meet Groundswell NZ leaders after long stand-off
Ian Llewellyn (BusinessDesk): Dire warnings over carbon forests’ impact
Keith Woodford (Interest): Government foreshadows new ETS sequestration categories but then creates yet another communication muddle
Catherine Hubbard (Stuff): NZ’s first rural telethon aims to raise one million meals

Benn Bathgate (Stuff): Rotorua will phase out motel emergency housing to ‘near zero’ with new accord – Housing Minister
Felix Desmarais (Local Democracy Reporting): Rotorua housing accord will see emergency motels dwindle
Miriam Bell (Stuff): Are we on the brink of a wave of mortgagee sales?
Miriam Bell (Stuff): Radical rethink necessary to rebalance housing demand
Susan Edmunds (Stuff): Why does no one get it right when forecasting house prices?

Herald: Rebuilding Better: Poll reveals what Kiwis trust the most
Max Harris (Herald): Rebuilding Better: New Zealand experienced ‘social distancing’ of a different kind well before Covid-19. Here’s how to fix it.(paywalled)
Jamie Ensor (Newshub): Kauri Lounge: Pictures of secret lounge for VIPs emerge, Jacinda Ardern doesn’t want upgrade to be ‘significant project’
Jem Traylen (BusinessDesk): Public service needs to break down siloes (paywalled)
Stewart Sowman-Lund (Spinoff): How an open letter in The Listener set off a still-boiling battle over free speech
Bridie Witton (Stuff): Hate speech legislation ‘cherry picking’ human rights
Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom): Government finally introducing emergency response law
Herald: Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson heads to Paris to kōrero about indigenous language