Solidarity and Determination Needed to Halt Reign of Violence / Support Ukraine’s Fight against Aggression

It has been a year that has made us aware of the cruelty of aggression by a major power and the importance of thoroughly resisting such savagery.

The world is at a crossroads over whether it will yield to the “rule of force.” Every nation must share a sense of urgency by putting itself in Ukraine’s shoes and work to restore the law-based international order.

Ukrainian morale

Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, one year ago. It seems that the Russians initially planned to capture the capital city of Kyiv and bring Ukraine under their control in a short period of time. However, their advance was blocked by fierce counterattacks and they were forced to retreat from the doorstep of the capital.

In eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, Russia has expanded its occupied territory, but there has been a stalemate on the front lines since autumn last year. Casualties on the Russian side are estimated to have exceeded 200,000, forcing Moscow to mobilize reserves.

Given the difference in national and military power between Russia and Ukraine, not many must have been able to predict such a situation a year ago.

It can be said that the determination of Ukrainians to defend their country against aggressors to the bitter end and their efforts to establish a defense system have sustained Ukraine’s resistance.

Russia unilaterally annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and then continued to be involved in military intervention in the eastern parts of Ukraine. In response, Ukraine strengthened its military preparedness and enhanced its arsenal. Since last year’s invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has remained in Kyiv, appealing to his people for unity and calling on the world for support.

According to an opinion survey in Ukraine, 90% of respondents said they would not stop fighting until all territory, including Crimea, is retaken.

Ukraine had a population of 41 million people before the outbreak of war. Eight million have fled the country, and those who remain are under daily missile fire, but there is no sign of a decline in morale. This is probably because they believe that a ceasefire under Russian rule is impossible.

For many countries, including Japan, there seem to be many things to learn.

Russia may have miscalculated by failing to anticipate that Western countries, which had initially adopted a wait-and-see approach, would become united after confirming the determination of the Ukrainian people to fight against Moscow and expand their military assistance to Kyiv.

Unity vital among U.S., Europe, Japan

U.S. President Joe Biden visited Kyiv for the one-year anniversary of the invasion and promised unwavering support.

The footage of Biden and Zelenskyy walking together while air raid sirens were going off must have sent a symbolic message that Ukraine will not yield to Russia’s military intimidation.

Over the past year, the Group of Seven advanced nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have become more united. The Nordic countries of Sweden and Finland have applied to join NATO as they judged that they are no longer able to maintain their safety through a policy of neutrality.

This is because the Nordic countries share a sense of urgency that if Russia’s aggression goes unchecked, the world will become a place in which major powers dominate small nations by force.

However, there is concern that Ukraine’s supporters will become increasingly dissatisfied with high energy prices and fiscal burdens amid a prolonged conflict and reduced trade with Russia. A situation must also be avoided in which an intensification of hostilities with Russia leads to a nuclear conflict or World War III.

How is it possible to achieve a ceasefire in a manner that satisfies the Ukrainian people, and establish a security framework that ensures Ukraine will never again be subjected to aggression? The United States, Europe and Japan must continue to provide appropriate and strong support.

The world has witnessed brutal war crimes by the Russian military over the past year. In Bucha near Kyiv, many civilians were tortured and massacred.

Throughout Ukraine, nuclear power plants and other infrastructure facilities, houses and even hospitals have been attacked. Large numbers of children have been taken to Russia and most have not been able to return to their home country.

The international community must pursue these Russian war crimes and punish those who are responsible.

Push Putin into a corner

The responsibility for the war predicament lies entirely with Putin, who has refused to face up to his mistakes. He has stated publicly that he will not stop fighting until he achieves the goal. There are no signs that he will abandon his ambition to subjugate Ukraine.

He probably believes Ukraine and Western nations will be worn down in a war of attrition, and he will be able to bring about a ceasefire in Russia’s favor.

To drive Russia into a corner, it is important that the “Global South” of emerging and developing countries joins the efforts of the United States, Europe and Japan. It is necessary to persuade those countries that opposing aggression and upholding international order would lead to their safety and protect their interests.

Many of the countries are suffering from soaring energy and food prices. Japan, together with the United Nations, should take the lead in supporting developing countries and expanding the circle of cooperation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 24, 2023)