NOBLE BATTLE OF UKRAINIANS TO DEFEND HOMELAND TO THE DEATH
As of this writing on March 15, the number of women, children, and senior citizens who have fled Ukraine has reached an estimated 2.8 million. Husbands and sons have stayed put to fight to save their homeland. To protect their children and aging parents, wives have made the difficult decision to seek shelter abroad. Nobody knows if there will be a day when the families will be able to be reunited after these tearful farewells.
Meanwhile, more than 40 million Ukrainians have chosen to stay behind, including not only men but women, children, and seniors of all ages. Foreign media outlets have been reporting on the sentiments behind their decision to remain in Ukraine to fight.
One elderly woman was quoted as saying, “I will absolutely resist the Russian invasion. I may get killed, but I will fight for my country.” Another younger woman said, “I am making nets for camouflage so that our troops will not come under attack from Russian soldiers. This is the least I can do.”
Two male college sophomores, both 18, told a CNN correspondent:
“We learned some fundamental matters such as how to use a gun during our three-day basic military training. We can’t say we don’t feel any fear, because it’s human nature to feel it when it comes to war. But we don’t think about it most of the time, as we are decisively committed to preventing Russia from wresting our motherland away from us. Our mission is to defend Ukraine with all our might. That is the only thing we now have in mind.”
As numerous innocent civilians are daily falling prey to indiscriminate attacks by the Russian Army, one hears various opinions in Japan about the war: “Because ending the evolving tragedy early is what counts most now, Ukrainians must start negotiating with Putin as soon as possible to make a compromise possible”; “China must be asked to mediate a settlement”;‟President Zelensky must stop sacrificing any more Ukrainian lives by resisting the Russians further”; “The US and NATO must admit that, by refusing to deliver Mig-29s to Ukraine, they safeguarded their own security at the sacrifice of Ukraine, and Japan must realize it is equally guilty.” To me, most of these opinions are utter nonsense.
What clearly stands out at this juncture is the unflinching resolve of President Volodymyr Zelensky to fight to the finish a war provoked by a ruthless autocratic neighbor against his homeland. When the US and Britain proposed his escape from Kyiv, Zelensky’s response was a flat “no.” Having made it known to his people—and to the world—that he is putting his life on the line to save his homeland, Zelensky asked for “more weapons,” urged NATO to designate a “no-fly” zone over Ukraine, and warned that “the Russian Army will ultimately attack NATO” unless Mig-19s were made available. Standing valiantly at the helm day and night, Zelensky is inspiring his people to fight to the finish with no thought of surrender. Ukrainian men living abroad are coming home in large numbers in order to join the battle to save Ukraine.
World after Putin’s Defeat
We Japanese must respect this noble resolve on the part of the Ukrainians above all else. Those of us living in countries that are not directly affected by the Russian invasion this time do not qualify to criticize in any way the desperate resolve of Ukrainians to never let Russia wrest their homeland away from them. I strongly feel that voicing an opinion about the posture of the Ukrainians without regard for the fearless nobility of their resolve is like shooting them in the back.
If Ukrainians genuinely wish to avert deaths and survive, an easier way out would be to accept Putin’s demand that Ukraine capitulate and become Russia’s new client state. But they have rigidly refused to budge. Staying put in their homeland, these people refuse to retreat despite persistent bombings by the Russian troops, tenaciously firing back even while their comrades are killed in action on the front line.
The patriotic actions of Ukrainians to defend themselves has moved the world, uniting peoples and nations to take a stand against Putin. The sacrifices the Ukrainian government and its people are making have generated the power to save the nation itself. Candidly speaking, it would not be right to react to those sacrifices sentimentally and superficially, viewing them merely as unfortunate. Isn’t it more sensible to recognize in awe their willingness to give their lives to their homeland so readily?
On March 14, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman indicated Putin was “showing signs of willingness to engage in substantive negotiations” to resolve the Ukrainian crisis. US officials also released information that Putin had requested Xi Jinping to provide Russia military and economic assistance at the outset of the invasion. The prospects for negotiations with Putin remain uncertain. But the primary factor that drove Putin to this alleged point undoubtedly is the valorous battle Ukrainians have put up against the overpowering Russian Army.
Asking China to mediate in the conflict would reflect a failure to understand how Beijing views the Russian invasion. By February 24, when Russia launched a comprehensive assault, the US had asked China a dozen times to urge Russia to refrain from waging war recklessly. The New York Times reported that Washington “beseeched the Chinese to tell Russia not to invade.” And yet, China publicly condemned the US the day before the invasions as the “culprit of current tensions surrounding Ukraine.”
What the world is wary about now is whether China will assist Russia in some form or other after having consistently objected to the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by major democracies like the US, the EU, and Japan.
It is necessary for Japan to think prudently amid the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. What will the world come to after Putin’s defeat, including China-Russia relations, for instance? Although it is questionable of what value a politically compromised Putin would continue to be to Xi, a Russia without its political clout would still be a valuable supplier of natural resources. Russia is a failed industrial state despite being one of the world’s leading suppliers of national resources. Presumably, China would intend to treat Russia as its new junior partner in a scheme to secure resources, under which it would plunder Russia’s precious natural resources at will as it has steadily from Uyghur and Tibet over the years. That would mean China strengthening its control of the Eurasian Continent—a major geopolitical development that would constitute a primary threat to Japan, the US, and Europe.
Prepare for Worst-Case Scenario
In the next stage of its evolution, we would expect Xi’s China to become perhaps the biggest threat to the Free World. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) intends to dominate the world by utilizing virtually everything in its power, from the Wuhan virus to the Russian invasion of Ukraine so long as they contribute to China’s national rejuvenation. And the CCP’s number one target is Taiwan, followed closely by Japan. We Japanese should detach ourselves from an emotional view of the Ukrainian situation and instead judge its impact on Japan from a broad national perspective.
While it is natural for Japan to extend maximum possible support to Ukraine against the Russian invasion, we should go a step further in light of the possibility that Japan may be the next target of invasion by an autocracy. Based on that realization, we must figure out what must be done in order to fully bolster our national defense. The important thing is to imagine the worst-case scenario and expedite preparations for it.
China is formidable for sure, but there is no need for us to be pessimistic about our future. The Chinese are ridden with a host of serious problems. For instance, how long can the CCP leadership keep the Chinese people under control through its national surveillance scheme? Or, how much longer will Beijing be able to intimidate nations of the world with its economic and military might? We in the democratic camp have individual free will and the power of each person to take action on their own. This time, Ukrainians, from their president down, are making the most of these advantages through the versatile use of SNS. With a system based on human freedom, the nations of the world can be united in a concerted effort to repel Chinese autocracy.
Let us view the situation with as wide a perspective as possible, facing the world based on facts, not fiction. Let us break taboos and try to address matters that we ordinarily shy away from. In terms of national defense, for instance, it is far from sufficient to leave members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces alone to defend our homeland. We will never be able to protect ourselves from the threat of China unless every single Japanese is committed to readily playing a part. It is crucial that we bolster our nation defense not only from a military perspective but from an economic, legal, and spiritual perspective as well.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 992 in the March 24, 2022 issue of The Weekly Shincho)