Russia must pay heavy price for Ukraine invasion / Outrageous act undermines U.N. Charter

Russia has launched a military offensive against Ukraine. This is clearly an invasion that tramples on the sovereignty and territory of another country. It is an outrageous act that violates international law.

This amounts to a fundamental rejection of the principles of the U.N. Charter that stipulates respect for nations’ sovereignty and territory and the peaceful settlement of disputes. It also signals the destruction of the international order after World War II. The international community must impose harsh sanctions against Russia and make it pay a heavy price for its actions.

Putin’s selfishness

Claiming that he was acting to protect pro-Russian residents in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized Russian troops to launch a military operation. He also stressed his intention to pursue the demilitarization of Ukraine.

The Russian Defense Ministry reportedly announced plans to disable Ukrainian military facilities and airfields.

It has been reported that missiles hit facilities belonging to government forces in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv and major cities in the east, and that Odesa in southern Ukraine, which faces the Black Sea, also came under attack. Cyber-attacks on government bodies have also been confirmed.

Given that Russian troops have been amassed to build up a military force near the border with Ukraine since late last year, Putin must have already decided to launch a full-scale invasion.

Russia had called for assurance from the United States that Ukraine would not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a security alliance of countries from North America and Europe. However, Moscow likely never intended to reach an agreement through negotiations, but simply wanted to create a pretext to justify its invasion.

Russia also used military pressure to annex Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. The move came after Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, leaned toward Western countries.

Putin has stressed the historical and cultural integrity of Russia and Ukraine, but Kyiv has increasingly moved away from Moscow in its opposition to the annexation of Crimea. In 2019, a pro-Western government was inaugurated in Ukraine.

It is evident that Putin’s real intent is to block such moves and bring Ukraine under Russian control by force.

The real purpose of the military offensive appears to be weakening the Ukrainian military and forcing the incumbent government to step down, while expanding the scale of Russian military operations. Protecting residents in eastern Ukraine is merely a pretext, so there is no justification for the military action.

If Russia continues its aggression, it cannot avoid clashing with Ukrainian forces. That would cause many casualties on both sides, including among local residents. Putin’s inhumane choice has prompted renewed outrage.

The U.N. Charter respects the territorial integrity and political independence of all states, and prohibits the use of force and military intimidation in territorial disputes. Russia has violated the charter, despite being a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council with a particular responsibility for ensuring world peace and security.

UNSC faces test

Since the United Nations was launched, the permanent UNSC members — the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia — have had veto powers that allow a resolution to be rejected if even one of them opposes it. Russia has taken advantage of its veto for such purposes as avoiding resolutions that condemn it, causing the UNSC to fall into dysfunction.

Putin’s unilateral condemnation of NATO’s expansion after the collapse of the Soviet Union and his attempts to reshape the global security framework to suit Russia are undermining the achievements of the postwar U.N. system.

First and foremost, choosing or changing an alliance is a matter for each country to decide of its own free will, thus exercising its sovereignty. NATO’s expansion occurred as Eastern European countries and former Soviet Union states joined NATO after resonating with democracy and the rule of law, and seeking to strengthen their security.

Russia’s outrageous act is nothing less than a challenge to the postwar order. Japan has touted a U.N.-centered policy as one of its diplomatic principles, and should take the lead in promoting such a stance at the U.N. General Assembly and elsewhere.

Effective sanctions needed

U.S. President Joe Biden said, “The world will hold Russia accountable.” He also said his country and its allies “will respond in a united and decisive way.”

When Crimea was annexed, Japan, the United States and Europe all failed to impose effective sanctions against Russia. Based on that lesson, it is important for the Group of Seven nations to work together to come up with effective sanctions.

The United States is considering strengthening financial sanctions against Russian banks and other institutions to shut them out of the system for settling dollar transactions, as well as restricting exports of advanced technology to Russia. Germany has decided to suspend operations of a new pipeline with Russia. Japan also must take a firm stance.

Support from Japan, the United States and Europe is essential to prevent Ukraine from succumbing to Russian intimidation. Without the withdrawal of Russian troops, negotiations with Moscow are unlikely to happen. Russia must be put under even greater pressure to pull out its troops.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 25, 2022.