A religious woman holds a cross as she prays on Independence Square in Kyiv in the morning of February 24, 2022. Air raid sirens rang out in downtown Kyiv as cities across Ukraine were hit with what Ukrainian officials said were Russian missile strikes and artillery. - Russian President announced a military operation in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a "full-scale invasion" was underway.

New Zealand last night moved to impose travel restrictions on targeted Russian individuals and limited sanctions on exports of military equipment to Russia in protest at Russia’s invasion of  Ukraine.

The move was announced in a joint statement by the Prime minister, Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta (who is currently travelling in Europe).

“New Zealand strongly condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and joins the international community in calling on Russia to immediately cease military operations in Ukraine,” Ardern said.  

“This is an unprovoked and unnecessary attack by Russia. By choosing to pursue this entirely avoidable path, an unthinkable number of innocent lives could be lost because of Russia’s decision.

“We call on Russia to do what is right and immediately cease military operations in Ukraine and permanently withdraw to avoid a catastrophic and pointless loss of innocent life.

“It is through diplomacy, not unnecessary death and destruction, that all parties can find resolution,” Jacinda Ardern said.

 Former Prime Minister Helen Clark, a former Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and former candidate for the UN Secretary Generalship, said yesterday that Vladimir Putin was the “kind of guy” who, if you gave him an inch, would take a mile.

Clark was commenting on the situation in Ukraine during the University of Waikato Economic Forum.

“He is testing the boundaries; how much will the West doif I do that,” she said.

Clark said that Putin’s assessment has been that currently, the West is weak and divided.

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“He will have looked at the Afghanistan debacle; he will look at a world distracted by Covid; President Biden distracted by the major lack of political cohesion and shared purpose in the United States.

“He will look at a US also somewhat distracted by China, and he’ll think I can buddy up with China and start recreating the Soviet Union, the demise of which he said was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century.

“But that’s the mindset.

“So he’ll just keep nibbling, and the US and NATO have got their sort of escalating sanctions.

“But at the moment, a slap on the wrist is not going to deter him.”

Clark said she had recently spoken to former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who said the challenge facing the world was how could it try to return to some kind of managed strategic competition such as we had seen during the Cold War.

“We know there’s all the difference in the world between the political system of New Zealand and China and Russia,” she said.

“But does that have to be the first roadblock every time we have any kind of interaction?

“Or can we sort of more pragmatically scope out where we need to work together and where we’re going to continue to have differences?

“Can we try to manage this better?

“Actually, we managed it better during the Cold War, but that we’ve never really found the balance since and since then, China’s been on the rise, and Russia’s felt that it’s been on the decline, trying to lift itself up again.

“These are very challenging times.”

Clark argued that Covid had changed the world and that globally it had been exacerbated by pre-existing inequalities and marginalisation between countries and within countries.

“We are not an exception to that.

“This has exposed fractures, and I think the smart minds need to be very much tuned to how do we build social cohesion?”

 “How do we build an economy and society that everyone really feels they do have a stake in, and we don’t leave people behind?”

It was a theme echoed at the conference by her predecessor as Prime Minister, Jim Bolger.

He was concerned about the environment and growing inequality.

“Going forward, we could hopefully agree that the environment is a common good belonging to all and meant for all,” he said.

“So we should treat it accordingly.

“Can we also agree in principle with the goal of meeting the needs of all rather than the unlimited wants and greed of the few?

“If you sign up to those two points, you are signing up to a big change in how we measure progress.”

But Bolger went further; he supported his former National caucus colleague Marilyn Waring who has long argued that GDP is too simplistic a measure of a nation’s wealth.

Waring has come at this from a feminist perspective arguing that GDP does not measure unpaid work.

“We must develop a more inclusive index that not only measures money transactions, but also important personal and community issues such as health education, housing, pollution and broader environmental issues to replace GDP as a measure of progress.”

Both Clark and Bolger had prepared their speeches before the Ukraine invasion, but both agreed that the world was facing substantial and fundamental change as a consequence of Covid.

Ukraine is both a consequence of that and the likely catalyst for (at the very least) an economic shock.

Between them, Russia and Ukraine produce 30 per cent of the world’s wheat, and wheat futures were rising last night by five per cent, as were oil futures, with Brent crude now trading at over $US100 a barrel.

The Government last night announced limited sanctions on Russia in protest at the invasion.

These include the prohibition on exporting all goods intended for use by the Russian military and security forces, including any armed force, a paramilitary force, police force, or militia. This includes weapons, dual-use technology and goods that have a civilian use but that are intended for military use or that may have military applications.

But New Zealand has a limited export trade with Russia; in 2019, $211 million of exports went there, mainly butter and other dairy products.

These are not included in last night’s sanctions.

Australia has imposed similar sanctions but has also included dealing with Russian banks or investment services.