G7 Shows Strong Determination to Uphold International Order / Respond to Zelenskyy’s Appeal

It is highly significant that the leaders of the world’s major countries and Ukraine gathered together to demonstrate their determination to protect Ukraine from Russia’s invasion and to maintain the international order. It is hoped that this will lead to unity in the international community.

The summit of the Group of Seven nations, held in the city of Hiroshima, has ended after three days of discussions. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also attended the summit and called for more support.

It was the first time that Zelenskyy has attended a G7 summit in person or visited Asia since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

Ahead of counteroffensive

Ukraine is making final preparations for the launch of a large-scale counteroffensive aimed at liberating the territory occupied by Russia.

If the counteroffensive is successful, it is expected to lead to a ceasefire with the withdrawal of Russian troops and the restoration of Ukrainian territory. On the other hand, if the counteroffensive is not successful, it could lead to support fatigue in the United States, Europe and other countries, and the invasion could become even more prolonged.

The reason why Zelenskyy made the long trip to Japan must be because he judged it necessary to appeal to the G7 leaders and the entire world for support as the war enters a critical phase.

At a G7 summit session on Sunday, Zelenskyy said, “The question is … how many air defense systems we have,” as he sought additional military support.

The U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets that Ukraine had requested are now expected to be provided by European countries.

The West has so far been cautious about providing offensive weapons on the grounds that doing so would unduly provoke Russia. The prolonged aggression may be the reason for the change in policy, and the provision of the F-16s could significantly change the situation.

Russia has protested that the provision would escalate the situation, but it is obvious that Russia is responsible for aggravating the situation as it has not immediately withdrawn its troops nor agreed to a ceasefire.

In addition to meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Zelenskyy met separately with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has strengthened his presence from a neutral position as India has not imposed sanctions against Russia.

Immediately prior to traveling to Japan, the Ukraine president visited Saudi Arabia, another country taking a neutral stance, and directly called on the leaders of Arab countries to support Ukraine.

In order to press Russia to withdraw from Ukraine, it is essential to secure broad cooperation from countries, including emerging nations collectively known as the “Global South.”

Cooperate with emerging countries

Emerging and developing countries have their own individual circumstances that distance them from the West, such as opposition to developed countries and emphasis on military and economic relations with China and Russia.

However, if a behavior that undermines international law, such as Russia’s invasion, is tolerated, the order will collapse and the security of their own countries will be threatened in the future. It is hoped the countries that heard Zelenskyy’s heartrending plea first-hand will join with the G7 in imposing sanctions against Russia.

Zelenskyy visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. At a press conference afterward, he criticized Russia by saying, “Russia is using the nuclear power plant as a shield to attack Ukrainian cities.” He also mentioned the reconstruction of the atomic-bombed city of Hiroshima and expressed his determination to rebuild Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been making nuclear threats against Ukraine. Putin should take seriously the various messages that Zelenskyy and the G7 leaders sent from the atomic-bombed city.

The G7 leaders issued a statement that has as its main pillar a call for Russia to withdraw immediately and unconditionally from Ukraine. The leaders urged third-party countries supplying arms to Russia to stop their support and warned that they would face “severe costs” if they failed to comply.

At a press conference following the closing of the summit, Kishida emphasized that “we have demonstrated the unwavering solidarity between the G7 and Ukraine to the world.”

Japan holds the one-year G7 presidency this year. Its role did not end with the summit. Japan must demonstrate its leadership through such means as holding online summits from time to time.

United over Taiwan Strait

Another major topic of discussion at the summit was how to deal with China, which is increasing its hegemonic behavior. The summit leaders’ communique reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and included a call for “a peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.”

Over the Taiwan situation, disarray within the G7 had been exposed due to French President Emmanuel Macron’s comments that seemed to acknowledge differences with the United States. It is highly significant that the G7 reaffirmed that the group is united in its recognition of the situation in Taiwan.

However, it is true that Europe, which is geographically distant from China, tends to emphasize economic relations with China and be less cautious about security threats. Japan needs to continue to appeal to European countries about how China threatens peace and stability in Asia.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 22, 2023)