After a Year of Russian Aggression in Ukraine, the World Must Act Together to Ensure International Law Will Prevail

Courtesy of European Union
Josep Borrell, European Union high representative for foreign affairs

Recognizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a challenge to the international order, the European Union has led the way in sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine. Josep Borrell, European Union high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, contributed the following article to The Yomiuri Shimbun to mark one year since the start of the aggression.

Feb. 24, 2022, will forever be recalled as the day when Russia started its brutal, unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine. This was and remains a case of pure aggression and a clear-cut breach of the U.N. Charter. This war is neither “just a European issue,” nor is it about “the West versus the rest.” It is about the kind of world we all want to live in: No one is safe in a world where the illegal use of force — by a nuclear power and permanent member of the U.N. Security Council — is somehow “normalized.” That is why international law must be enforced everywhere to protect everyone from power politics, blackmail and military attack.

One year on, there is a risk that people will become inured to the images of war crimes and atrocities that they see — because there are so many that the words we use lose their significance with repetition, because we get tired and our resolve weakens, because time is passing and the task at hand is hard.

This we cannot allow. Because every day, Russia keeps violating the U.N. Charter, creating a dangerous precedent for the whole world with its imperialist policy. Every day, Russia keeps killing innocent Ukrainian women, men and children, raining down its missiles on cities and civilian infrastructure. Every day, Russia keeps spreading lies and fabrications.

For the European Union and our partners, there is no alternative to staying the course of our “triple strategy”: supporting Ukraine, putting pressure on Russia to stop its illegal aggression and helping the rest of the world cope with the fallout.

This is what we have been doing for one year now — successfully. We have adopted unprecedented sanctions, we have cut our dependency on Russian fossil fuels, and in close collaboration with key partners we have reduced by 50% the energy revenues the Kremlin gets to finance its aggression.

Working together, we have also mitigated the global ripple effects with food and energy prices declining, partly thanks to our Solidarity Lanes and to the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

It is not enough to say that we want Ukraine to be able to defend itself — it needs to have the means to do so. So, for the first time ever, the EU has supplied weapons to a country under attack.

Indeed, the EU is now the leading provider of military training for Ukrainian personnel so they can defend their country. We are also offering significant macro-financial and humanitarian aid to support the Ukrainian people. And we have decided to respond positively to Ukraine’s request to join the EU. Finally, we are working to ensure accountability for the war crimes that Russia has committed.

Ukraine has shown its remarkable resilience, partly thanks to this support. And Russia has grown more isolated, thanks to global sanctions and international condemnation by the overwhelming majority of states in the U.N. General Assembly. Our collective goal is and remains a democratic Ukraine that prevails: pushing out the invader, restoring its full sovereignty and, with that, restoring international legality.

Above all, we want peace in Ukraine, a comprehensive and lasting peace in line with the U.N. Charter and international law. Supporting Ukraine and working for peace go hand in hand.

If Russia’s illegal aggression were to succeed, the repercussions would spread globally. In regional hotspots in Asia, such as the South and East China Seas, the Taiwan Strait and elsewhere, the risk of open conflict would increase. That is why Europe and its partners in the Asia-Pacific have to take a joint stand. The support of many Asian countries at the U.N. and elsewhere for the principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty and international law has been crucial.

And such support goes both ways. The EU is fully committed to upholding international law everywhere, not just in Ukraine. We work for peace and security around the world, including in the Asia-Pacific.

We need to be clear that Russia’s actions are responsible for the economic shockwaves in terms of food, energy and fertilizers. We have always exempted food and fertilizers from EU sanctions and we are monitoring any possible unintended effects.

More broadly, the Russian invasion has underlined the need for both Europe and Asia to avoid excessive dependencies. We must reinforce our collaboration to build more resilient and inclusive economies, protect our democracies and strengthen social cohesion.

History and justice are on the side of Ukraine. But to accelerate history and achieve justice, we need to amplify our “triple strategy.” We know this is a collective task. That is why the EU is counting on all its partners to act in a spirit of joint responsibility and solidarity: to ensure that aggression fails and international law prevails.

Josep Borrell

Josep Borrell is European Union high representative for foreign affairs and security policy and vice president of the European Commission.

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