World Should Respond Sincerely to Ukrainian President’s Earnest Calls

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed determination to resolutely defend his country’s territory and sovereignty by repelling Russian aggression, which violates the international order. The international community, including Japan, must continue to support Ukraine in response to his earnest calls.

In an exclusive interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, Zelenskyy expressed his belief that the withdrawal of Russian troops from his country is a precondition for an end to the war and peace negotiations.

With Russian forces waging heavy offensives in eastern Ukraine, the war remains at a stalemate. Even if a ceasefire is reached at this point, it would only lead to the Russian occupation coming to a standstill and the Russian military rebuilding its strength. It is reasonable that Zelenskyy is aiming for victory through the withdrawal of Russian troops.

In order for Ukraine, which is inferior in military strength, to counter Russia, arms support from Western countries is indispensable. The president repeatedly stressed the need for ammunition and reiterated calls for assistance to provide Ukraine with fighter jets.

The Western countries have taken a cautious stance toward such support out of concern that if they provide fighter jets that are then used for an attack in Russian territory, Moscow could use it as a pretext to strike them directly.

How can supporting countries strengthen their military assistance to Ukraine while avoiding escalating tensions with Russia? Western countries are urged to handle the situation skillfully.

Zelenskyy made remarks that moved people’s hearts: “Help us win. It means helping yourself win.”

If Russia’s invasion of Ukraine turns out to be successful, it will set a terrible precedent in that a powerful country with nuclear weapons will have brought a smaller country under control by military force. This is not just someone else’s problem.

All countries should take heed of the president’s earnest statement that the people of Ukraine are risking their lives to prevent future invasions.

Zelenskyy said that medical support is urgently needed and sought cooperation from Japan. Even though it is difficult for Japanese medical personnel to enter Ukraine at the moment, it might be possible for them to help treat displaced people from Ukraine in Poland and other neighboring countries.

The president also expressed his hopes for Japanese cooperation on issues related to postwar reconstruction, such as protecting nuclear power plants, clearing landmines and promoting renewable energy technology.

Japan is constrained by restrictions including a ban on providing lethal weapons, but it should be able to lead other countries in assisting Ukraine’s reconstruction efforts.

As the current chair of the Group of Seven nations, Japan is also in a position to respond to Ukraine’s requests to the maximum extent possible. It is hoped that Japan as a whole, including the private sector, will consider what kind of assistance is needed after assessing the situation in Ukraine accurately.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 25, 2023)