Aiming to whip up war fervor, Putin makes untrue arguments / Attempt to justify Ukraine invasion has failed

No matter what reasons Russian President Vladimir Putin uses, it is impossible for him to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which destroys the international order.

The international community needs to step up its sanctions against Russia and its military support for Ukraine, and to continue to press Moscow to agree to a ceasefire and withdraw its troops.

Equating with Nazis misses the point

On May 9, Russia held a ceremony and a military parade in Moscow to mark Victory Day, which celebrates the Soviet Union’s victory over Germany in World War II.

In his speech for the occasion, Putin stressed that Russian soldiers are fighting for the motherland and for its future in the eastern areas of Ukraine. He also expressed his view that the clash with Ukraine was inevitable because Russia’s security has been threatened due to the growing military influence of Western nations in Ukraine.

It must be said that these statements are no more than egotistical falsehoods. It is Ukraine, not Russia, whose motherland has been invaded. Military support for Ukraine from the United States and Europe is being provided to protect Ukraine because it is under threat from Russia.

In addition, Putin expounded his view equating the administration of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Nazi Germany in his address.

During World War II, the Soviet Union fought Nazi Germany together with other countries, including the United States and Britain. For the Russian people, the war is a glorious historic event won at tremendous cost in terms of war dead.

However, this has nothing to do with the current situation in Ukraine. Ukraine, as a state, has never invaded other countries or persecuted other ethnic groups. Putin’s claims are no more than an attempt to justify his unreasonable aggression and rouse war fervor on the anniversary, when the Russian people feel heightened patriotic sentiment.

Did Putin think that by portraying the other side as Nazis, Russian troops would be welcomed in Ukraine? His claims may also serve his intention to justify war crimes, such as attacks on civilian facilities and the massacre in Bucha, near the capital Kyiv.

Foreign heads of state, usually invited to the ceremony in previous years, were nowhere to be seen. The number of weapons, and officers and soldiers, in the parade was also smaller than last year. This can be said to symbolize the current situation in which Russia is unable to proceed with its aggression against Ukraine as it had expected due to staunch resistance from the Ukraine military, and in which Moscow is becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the international community.

Russian govt walks on hazardous ground

Two and a half months have passed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia has expanded the areas under its control in eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, but has for now given up its effort to seize control of the capital and has yet to fully take control of the eastern parts of Ukraine, where Moscow has concentrated its forces. The deaths of commanders, loss of weapons and sinking morale among officers and soldiers are conspicuous.

Soldiers in the field may not be able to understand the purpose of the invasion and may be increasingly confused or frustrated that the battle is taking longer than expected.

The Russian government calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation.” According to an April survey in Russia, 74% of respondents said they supported the operation, down seven percentage points from the previous month. About half of those who see the operation as a “failure” cited the “prolongation” as the reason.

Not only was the invasion a miscalculation, but it is also producing results contrary to Putin’s aims.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which Putin takes a hostile view, has not only strengthened its solidarity, but also has begun to expand, with some Northern European countries moving to apply for membership. If sanctions against Russia and Europe’s decoupling from it in terms of energy supply accelerate, Russia’s national power will inevitably decline.

It seems that Russia is stepping into dangerous territory both in terms of the enhancement of its national power and the stability of its administration.

The Group of Seven advanced nations have reaffirmed their unity and support for Ukraine at an online summit. Zelenskyy aims to push Russian forces back to their pre-invasion state. As soon as heavy weapons supplied by the United States and Europe arrive, Ukraine is poised to launch a counteroffensive.

Bring China, India into solidarity with G7

If Russian control becomes a fait accompli in the areas that Russian troops have occupied, the international order based on the U.N. Charter — which prohibits aggression — would collapse. This is a problem that would affect not only Ukraine but also the international community as a whole.

With the war’s intensification and prolongation unavoidable, the international community needs to strengthen its cooperative frameworks.

On the military front, it should back Ukraine to make Putin realize the failure of his aggression. On the other hand, a situation must be avoided that could induce Russia to use nuclear weapons, or that could escalate into World War III.

Economic sanctions and decoupling from Russia in the energy field are beginning to damage the Russian economy, but more time will be needed to have the effect of making it harder for Moscow to wage war. Countries imposing such sanctions also cannot evade the pain of price hikes and other effects.

On the other hand, countries with close ties to Russia, such as China and India, have created loopholes in the sanctions, such as by importing Russian oil. This should not be left unaddressed. Japan, the United States and Europe should step up diplomatic efforts toward the international community’s common goal of preventing aggression.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 10, 2022)