Unity of Japan, U.S., Europe to be tested

Ignoring repeated warnings from the international community, Russia has invaded Ukraine. Why was it not possible to prevent a crisis that had been predicted in advance?

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s continued embrace of a self-serving ideology and view of history, and the decline in power of the United States allowed this to happen, some might say.

During the administration of President Barack Obama, the United States declared that America was “not the world’s policeman,” and its strategy shifted to focusing diplomatic resources and military power on countering China.

The administration of President Joe Biden withdrew all U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan and was reluctant to intervene in Ukraine.

Putin, who appears to have interpreted the hesitancy as a sign of the United States’ weakness, has taken advantage of the situation by launching an attack on Ukraine.

Western democracies have grown increasingly distrustful of Russia and Putin over the years. The latest crisis is a heavy price to pay for their inability to agree on pressure against Russia until recently.

Russia had been welcomed into the international framework comprising the world’s leading economies in the hope that economic development would promote the country’s democratization.

But Russia was expelled from the Group of Eight when it annexed Crimea in southern Ukraine in 2014, after which G7 members failed to reach an agreement on sanctions, and their influence waned.

The latest crisis once again demonstrates the harsh reality of the international community, with democracies losing ground in the face of challenges from authoritarian states.

If Russia’s tyranny cannot be stifled, its actions will inevitably give momentum to China, which is eyeing the unification of Taiwan, and North Korea, which is developing nuclear missiles.

Putin might have achieved his personal goal by invading Ukraine, but Russian public opinion is against war.

Europe has until now been divided in its policy toward Russia. If it unites and imposes severe sanctions, the Russian people would be the ones to suffer.

In reality, the power of the United States to handle this crisis alone is limited. The test will be to what extent Japan and other U.S. allies can do to support the United States.