Devnet – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Japan

Fumiyasu Akegawa – Chair & CEO DEVNET International/Japan

1. Purposes of the invasion.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is said to have had three purposes. The first is the protection of residents of Russian descent in the Lugansk and Donetsk oblasts of eastern Ukraine. 700,000 of them are Russian citizens. The second is to eliminate the military threat from Ukraine. In other words, disarm Ukraine and prevent it from joining NATO.  And, although this is a Russia’s claim, they are also trying to seize 11 U.S.-funded military biological laboratories in Ukraine. They may also be trying to put a series of nuclear power plants under control for fear that they may lead to nuclearization.  The third is to topple the pro-U.S., anti-Russian Zelenskyy regime and return the Ukrainian regime to its pre-2014 pro-Russian course.

Flag of Ukraine           President Vladimir Putin

2. Ukraine for Russia.

Why is Russia so concerned about Ukraine? In the summer of 2021, President Putin stressed in the article titled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” that Russians and Ukrainians were one people – a single whole.  Ukraine is the land of “roots” for Russians, as a country called “Kievan Rus” was born since the ninth century around the capital city of Kiev. European countries are often multi-ethnic rather than mono-ethnic, but in the case of Russians and Ukrainians there are few ethnic or religious differences.

Matryoshka dolls            Kiev

3. Minsk Agreements

On February 8, 2022, before the current invasion occurred, French President Emanuel Macron met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and urged him to implement the Minsk Agreements to avoid a Russian invasion. The Minsk Protocol was drafted in September 2014 to end the war in the Donbass signed by Ukraine, Russia, the unrecognized “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the “Lugansk People’s Republic” in the Donbass region by the support from Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  Since this did not work, a further comprehensive measure, again signed in February 2015, mediated by Germany and France, was Minsk II. They include: 1) an immediate cessation of the use of weapons by both Ukraine and the separatists; 2) monitoring of the ceasefire by the OSCE; 3) establishment of a safe zone between Ukraine and Russia and monitoring by the OSCE; 4) withdrawal of illegal armed forces, fighters and mercenaries from Ukrainian territory; 5) adoption of the Law on the Special Status of Donetsk and Lugansk; elections in both provinces. Ukraine, which suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Russian forces during the annexation of Crimea, feels strongly that it was forced to sign the agreement on unfavorable terms, and President Zelenskyy, elected in 2019, has been trying to defy the Minsk agreements through 2021. This is because as long as the Minsk Agreements are in place, elections will have to be held in the Donbass region and a high degree of autonomy will have to be granted, creating a legal basis for secession. Neither President Zelensky nor former President Petro Poroshenko have had direct dialogue with Donetsk or Lugansk representatives.

4. NATO accession

NATO is a military alliance created to counter the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries during the Cold War after World War II. The declaration of the 2008 NATO summit also called for the future membership of Ukraine and Georgia. Ukrainian President Zelensky has also stated his country’s desire to join NATO. Russia sees Ukraine’s membership in NATO as a threat to its own country, which shares a long border with Russia. There is also anger that Russia has been “cheated” (Putin) by NATO, because during the 1990 negotiations over the unification of East and West Germany, then-Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev was told by the West that NATO had promised not to expand eastward.

NATO fighter aircraft

5. Japan’s role.

The crisis in Ukraine is not just a fire on the other side of the river. Japan has a territorial dispute with Russia and is the only country to have experienced the atomic bombing. Therefore, Japan has a responsibility to send a message to the international community that goes beyond mere solidarity. In addition to appealing once again for the ownership of the four northern islands, on which Japan and Russia have yet to reach a decision, we should make clear that our policy of “no expansion of territory through war” is based on the principles of the UN Charter, and that we categorically refuse to recognize the invasion of Ukraine by Russian military action, which is in effect a “war for territorial expansion. We must also consider the impact on the issue of China and Taiwan, as well as on the other territorial issues surrounding Japan, namely, Takeshima and Senkaku.

Another important point that Japan, as the only A-bombed country, should insist on is that this invasion is an invasion by a nuclear power against a country that does not possess nuclear weapons. At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine, as the world’s third largest nuclear power, had the intention of continuing to possess nuclear weapons, but after negotiations with the international community, it gave up its nuclear weapons. It must be noted as a leading model of denuclearization among nuclear weapon states. Japan should join the Nuclear Weapons Convention and lead the formation of rules that prohibit, among other things, nuclear powers from attacking countries that do not possess nuclear weapons.

After World War II, Japan concentrated on building a successful nation centered on its industrial production capacity; in 1994, Japan accounted for 17.9% of the world’s total GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Today, however, it accounts for only 5-6%. In response to the current crisis, which includes the possibility of nuclear war while Japan’s economic power is buried, Japan should stop simply following the US and contribute to the realization of peace as one of the leaders in the multi polarizing world.

Japanese Northern Territories        A-bomb cloud

6. United Nations

The UN General Assembly (193 nations) adopted a resolution condemning Russia at its emergency special session on March 2, 2022.  The League of Nations, created after World War I, ended after 25 years. The United Nations celebrated the 75th anniversary of its founding last year, but the permanent members of its key body, the Security Council, remain the five victorious powers of World War II.  The condemnation resolution by the General Assembly was the result of the rejection of a Security Council resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops, which was vetoed by Russia. However, unlike the Security Council resolution, it is not legally binding. The UN has not been able to fulfill its function of stopping an actual war.