Support Counteroffensive with Reconstruction in Mind

It is the responsibility of the entire international community to bring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to an end as soon as possible and to promote Ukraine’s reconstruction. The Ukrainian military’s counteroffensive will be a test in this regard. The international community must unite to support Ukraine.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive began in early June with the aim of retaking territory in the south and east occupied by Russia. The operation is still in its early stages, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described progress so far as “slower than desired.”

The counteroffensive is said to have been hampered by minefields laid by the Russian military for defense. Tanks and infantry fighting vehicles provided by the West to Ukraine are also believed to have been damaged. The United States has announced that it will provide additional combat vehicles.

Since the fight to retake territory requires breaking through the enemy’s minefields and trenches, it is inevitable that there will be more casualties and loss of equipment than in the defense of territory. It also takes time to achieve results. Countries must be prepared for a prolonged fight and continue to provide support.

The greatest focus will be on the battle for the Zaporizhzhia region in the south. This region serves as a strategic link between the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine, which Russia effectively has complete control over, and the Russian mainland.

If Ukrainian forces are able to recapture key cities such as Melitopol, the supply route of fuel and ammunition from Russia to Crimea will be cut off, and the Russian military will be forced into a difficult situation logistically. It is believed that such a situation would provide an opportunity to force Russian troops to withdraw from Ukraine.

The dam collapse at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant in southern Ukraine caused massive flooding downstream, submerging an area equivalent in size to Tokyo’s 23 wards. In addition to the impact on the war situation, it is argued that this will have a long-term, devastating impact on agriculture, ecosystems and the natural environment.

The immediate and urgent need is to provide assistance to people who have lost their homes due to the flooding, but Russia, which controls the region, has not allowed U.N. staff or other personnel to enter the area. This inhumane response is infuriating.

Although Ukraine is in a state of war, many people are leading their daily lives and are working to restore facilities and homes that were attacked by Russia. In addition to military assistance, medium- to long-term support for reconstruction is also extremely important.

In the United Kingdom, an international conference was held to discuss Ukraine’s reconstruction, with representatives of governments and private companies from 61 countries participating. Participants from the various nations have reportedly pledged contributions totaling around ¥8.5 trillion.

Presenting a vision for the future will certainly bolster the people of Ukraine. Japan should play a central role in such tasks as clearing rubble, removing landmines and rebuilding transportation infrastructure.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 25, 2023)