War Spreading around The World: Don’t Lose Sight of Basic Values of Upholding Law, Human Rights / Devise Ways to Overcome Divisions, Conflicts

The devastation in Ukraine and the Palestinian territory of Gaza is beyond description. Although the number of victims of illegal and inhumane attacks is increasing daily, the international community has failed to unite in dealing with the situation.

Where is the spirit of the U.N. Charter, which was established by reflecting on the past two world wars, calling for equal sovereignty, respect for international law and fundamental human rights? The current situation, in which the world is controlled by a logic of the weak being victims of the strong, cannot be left unaddressed.

Time of change for intl order

With the spread of economic globalism and the internet as the 21st century began, it was believed that the walls separating countries would be lowered. In reality, however, the world appears to be rapidly becoming more divided and confrontational.

The “tripolarization” of the world into three camps is a representative example of this: the democratic camp of the United States, Europe, Japan and other countries; the authoritarian camp of China, Russia and others; and the camp of emerging and developing countries known as the Global South.

While the United States, Europe and Japan seek to maintain a free and democratic international order, China and Russia aim to reorganize the order under the banner of “breaking away from U.S. domination.” Emerging and developing countries are aiming to create rules favorable to themselves, but they are not a monolithic group internally.

It can be said that this ongoing transformation of the international order makes it difficult for countries to unite over the issues of Ukraine and Gaza, and is keeping them from finding solutions to the problems.

A U.N. General Assembly resolution in February 2023 calling on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine was supported by 141 countries, including the United States, Europe and Japan, out of a total of 193 member nations, but seven countries, including Russia, opposed it, while 32 countries, including China, India and some developing countries, abstained from voting.

Another U.N. General Assembly resolution in December 2023, calling for an immediate ceasefire for humanitarian purposes in Gaza, was supported by 153 countries, including Japan, China and Russia, but 10 countries, including the United States, opposed it, with 23 countries, including Britain and Germany, abstaining from voting.

Although Russia’s unilateral aggression and Israel’s attacks on Gaza cannot be equated with each other, they have much in common in terms of the illegality and inhumanity of the attacks, which have caused tremendous harm to civilians. The ideal approach would be to vote in favor of both resolutions, as Japan did.

Limits to relying on U.S.

There is no denying that a decline in U.S. power lies behind the shakiness and divisions of the international order. The era of U.S. military, economic and technological dominance is over, and Washington is being fiercely pursued by Beijing in those sectors.

Without a surplus of national power, to what extent should the United States be involved in international affairs, and what role should it play in maintaining global stability? This will be a major issue in the U.S. presidential election in November.

It cannot be said that the strong support for Ukraine that U.S. President Joe Biden is promoting enjoys overwhelming U.S. public support. More than a few Americans believe Washington should focus on domestic issues rather than intervening in other countries’ conflicts.

The “America First” policy touted by former U.S. President Donald Trump is still strongly supported, especially among the rural working class who feel left behind in the global economy.

Trump has refused to accept his defeat in the previous presidential election and has damaged U.S. democracy and prestige. Nevertheless, he still enjoys the strongest support among Republican presidential candidates for this year’s election.

There is a gap between the role that other countries expect the United States to play and what the American people want from their president. The gap appears to only be widening.

In addition, no matter who wins the presidential election, it will be impossible for Washington to suppress all threats on the three fronts of “China,” “Russia” and the “Middle East,” for reasons of both military capabilities and domestic politics.

The role of U.S. allies, such as Europe, Japan and South Korea, will become even greater. Japan should act proactively for world peace in close cooperation with the United States and Europe, which share the same values, while also making the most of its friendly relations with emerging and developing countries.

Taiwan’s presidential election will be held on Jan. 13, and Russia’s will be held in March. The substance of the elections will be vastly different between the two countries. Democracy is well established in Taiwan, while in Russia, opposition to the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been neutralized.

Discern will of the people

Many Taiwanese voters hope to maintain the status quo, rather than seeking unification or independence, with respect to relations with China, even as Beijing intensifies pressure on Taiwan for unification. The major presidential candidates in Taiwan share the people’s view.

If Beijing thinks it can manipulate the will of the Taiwanese people, it is mistaken. Such an act would only accelerate Taiwan moving away from China and make China stand out as different from the rest of the world.

In Russia, there is no doubt that Putin will be reelected. Voter turnout will be an indicator of the degree of public support for him.

How do voters really feel about Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, now in its third year? Have the heavy emphasis on military spending in the national budget and the sanctions by Western nations against Russia had an impact on people’s lives? It is necessary to keep a close eye on the “will of the people.”

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 5, 2024)