Russian Aggression 2 Years On: Unity of the World Being Tested / Break Stagnation of Support for Ukraine

If Russia’s aggression against Ukraine should prove successful, the international order based on law would collapse from its very foundations, and moves to change the status quo by force could spread throughout the world.

Now that Ukraine’s counteroffensive is at a standstill, the international community needs to unite and strengthen its support for the country.

Counteroffensive at standstill

Saturday marks two years since Russia launched its aggression against Ukraine. Russian troops remain in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, occupying 20% of its territory. This situation has changed little from a year ago.

While the stalemate has continued, Russian forces won a fierce battle in mid-February and took control of the key eastern town of Avdiivka. Russia’s tactic of sending wave after wave of soldiers, regardless of the casualties, is beginning to yield results.

A year ago, there were high hopes that the Ukrainian military would regain territory in a counteroffensive. The grim current situation indicates that the counteroffensive has ultimately failed.

As the provision of high-performance weapons, such as tanks, long-range missiles and fighter jets to Ukraine, as announced by the United States and European countries, is being carried out in small batches and at a slow pace, effectiveness has been limited. Ammunition shortages in the Ukrainian military are also becoming serious.

During this period, Russia has built trenches and minefields and established a strong defensive posture. The fact that Russia was given time to rebuild its posture is something that should be seriously reflected on.

Ukraine itself has also shown a disarray in its unity. In early February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed the top military commander, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi.

Zaluzhnyi is said to have proposed a counteroffensive plan to concentrate troops in the south of the country, to cut off the supply route between the Russian mainland and Crimea, and to mobilize and increase the number of troops by several hundred thousand.

However, Zelenskyy maintained a strategy of dispersing troops in the eastern and southern parts of the country and did not accept additional mobilization. It is believed that the dismissal came as a result of growing discord between Zelenskyy and Zaluzhnyi, who is a highly trusted figure among soldiers on the front lines.

The driving force behind Ukraine’s resistance against Russian aggression is the high morale of its people and soldiers. Zelenskyy should minimize the negative effects of the uproar over the dismissal. The president should deepen communication with his military leaders and present a concrete plan for victory.

Temporary ceasefire a mistake

In an interview with a former U.S. television host in early February, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he aims for the “denazification” of Ukraine. This is a reiteration of his intention to overthrow the Zelenskyy administration and demilitarize Ukraine and make it a vassal state.

As the aggression has been protracted, some in the United States and European countries have started to voice the opinion that Ukraine should give up the Russian-occupied territories and stop its offensive.

However, even if the fighting is suspended with the current situation remaining, it is unlikely that Putin will abandon his ambitions for Ukraine. Russia will eventually rebuild its military and begin its aggression against Ukraine again to expand the occupied territories, including to the capital Kyiv.

A ceasefire under the current circumstances would merely be a postponement of a new crisis. The idea of a temporary ceasefire is incorrect. Putin should never be allowed to win.

What is important is that Ukraine is successful in its counteroffensive and it retakes the occupied territories.

Limitations on U.S. reliance

Ukraine’s lifeline is the military support of the United States and Europe. It is a serious problem that the United States has been stagnant in its support since last autumn.

Congressional approval of the about ¥9 trillion aid budget promoted by the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has been blocked by the Republican Party. Former U.S. President Donald Trump opposes the aid, and Republican lawmakers have echoed his opposition.

Trump, who is seeking a comeback in the November presidential election, also stated anew his reluctant view about the defense obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the U.S.-European military alliance. This is an extremely irresponsible statement.

A decline in U.S. involvement could trigger new aggression by Russia against countries such as Poland and the Baltic states. It also could possibly make China believe that it would be possible to use force against Taiwan. Europe and Japan should play an increased role for global stability.

It is unfortunate that the international community’s attention is focused on the fighting in the Palestinian territory of Gaza and less on Ukraine. There is no difference between Ukraine and Gaza, where many innocent people are losing their lives on a daily basis.

Never has it been more important for the entire international community to reflect on the preciousness of peace and the weight of life as well as to unite together.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 24, 2024)