U.S., Europe must work together to prevent Russian invasion of Ukraine

There is growing speculation that Russia will invade Ukraine, and the situation is increasingly tense. The United States and Europe must work together to prepare effective sanctions against Russia and prevent such an outrageous act.

About 100,000 Russian troops amassed at the border with Ukraine are ready for battle. Russian troops have also begun to enter Belarus, which has close ties with Russia, “for joint military exercises.” Ukraine is effectively under siege.

Repeated talks between the United States and Russia have failed to find a way to solve the problem. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approach of unilaterally escalating tensions and then demanding security guarantees for Russia amounts to a threat. The withdrawal of Russia’s troops must come first.

Putin has called on the United States to ensure that Ukraine and neighboring nations will not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, saying NATO’s expansion poses a threat to Russia.

It is reasonable that each country should choose of their own free will whether to join NATO, the military alliance of the United States and Europe, and NATO should decide whether to accept them. Russia’s demand undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Russia’s intention to change the security framework in Europe to suit its own interests can also be seen through its insistence that NATO troops should be withdrawn from Eastern Europe. It is only natural that the United States rejected Russia’s demands.

The possibility cannot be ruled out that Putin could launch an invasion of Ukraine as the next step toward establishing a pro-Russian government or dividing Ukrainian territory.

The United States and other NATO members are not obligated to defend Ukraine, but they cannot tolerate acts of aggression that violate international law. If left unanswered, it would send the wrong message to China, which has not denied it would seek to unify Taiwan by force.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has stepped up military support for Ukraine, while warning Russia that the United States will impose harsh economic sanctions should it move to invade Ukraine. The U.S. government is considering regulating exports of advanced technology to Russia and imposing financial sanctions, among other measures.

The question is whether European countries, which depend on Russia for energy such as natural gas, will be able to take concerted action with the United States. Russia may take countermeasures in response to the sanctions, such as cutting off gas supplies to Europe.

Strong sanctions will inevitably deal a certain blow to those who impose them, but the negative impact of war will be far greater. The United States should show its determination to resolutely prevent a Russian invasion.

As a member of the Group of Seven advanced nations, Japan needs to take a resolute stance based on international principles that do not allow the status quo to be changed by force.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 3, 2022.