Accelerate creation of international system to get nation through winter

Whether the people of Ukraine, who have been cut off from electricity and heating due to Russian attacks, will be able to survive the severe cold season will determine the direction of the war. The international community needs to provide firm support.

An international conference was held in Paris to discuss assistance for Ukraine so that its people can make it through the winter. The meeting was attended by representatives from 50 countries and 24 international organizations, with the total amount pledged reaching about ¥145 billion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for about ¥116 billion in emergency aid, citing a particular shortage of electricity for heating. Countries should swiftly implement the provision of electricity generators, LED bulbs and other supplies.

Since October, the Russian military has repeatedly carried out missile and drone strikes that have destroyed power plants and other critical infrastructure facilities in Ukraine, though it continues to be on the back foot with little expansion of its occupied territory.

All thermal and hydropower plants in Ukraine have been damaged in some way. About a quarter of the population, or 10 million people, were temporarily without power or heating. Power failures are becoming the norm as restored facilities can come under attack again.

If a number of people freeze to death in the bitter cold, it could weaken the Ukrainian people’s will to fight and their support for the government’s position of resistance. There is also the possibility that a large number of refugees could flee to neighboring countries such as Poland, which could cause serious turmoil.

Russia deliberately continues to carry out attacks on civilian facilities in violation of international law in an attempt to create this kind of situation, intending to reverse its poor footing in the war. It is absolutely necessary not to let this continue as Russia hopes.

Along with winter aid for the people of Ukraine, it is important to build an air defense system to protect infrastructure from Russian missiles. The United States is expected to decide soon on the supply of its Patriot interceptor missiles. Such support would be timely.

In Europe, where many countries have relied on Russian natural gas, the challenge is to continue providing long-lasting support to Ukraine while dealing with rising energy prices.

It is cause for concern that Germany and France, which should lead the European Union, are at odds over how to curb soaring gas prices and other measures. Any discord between them will benefit Russia. It is vital to maintain unity so as not to give Russia an opportunity to take advantage of such a situation.

Japan has been providing electricity generators and implementing humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. However, the amount of aid it has pledged so far is about ¥202.5 billion, a smaller amount than that of major Western countries.

Next year, Japan will lead the Group of Seven advanced nations as chair. It needs to increase the amount of its assistance.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 15, 2022)