By Kurokawa Nobuo
Gurenko Andrii, a Ukrainian expert on international politics living in Japan, sat down for an interview with the Sankei Shimbun to share his thoughts on Ukraine, where concerns are growing over a potential Russian military invasion. Gurenko commented: “There is a growing chance of invasion” and “the level of crisis is unprecedented.” He went on to say that Japan should keep in step with the U.S. and participate in sanctions against Russia.
Gurenko says Russia continues to apply military pressure on Ukraine because President Vladimir Putin is constantly trying to take control of the former Soviet bloc countries again, because he thinks the collapse of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century. Gurenko also said Putin thinks the Soviet breakup deprived Russia of its territory and defines the control of Ukraine as “[a restoration of] historical justice.”
If Ukraine joins the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Putin will not be able to achieve his goal. So Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine in 2014 and effectively gained control of eastern Ukraine because Russia thought that a nation with an unresolved territorial issue cannot join the NATO.
But at a press conference in June last year, U.S. President Joe Biden made remarks to the effect that Ukraine can become a NATO member even though its territory is occupied by Russia. Gurenko believes Russia has begun to heighten military tensions in an area bordering Ukraine because President Biden’s remarks “virtually ruined the intervention that Russia carried out in Ukraine.”
Gurenko also said the possibility of Russia invading [Ukraine] is “very high.” He added that the way the U.S. issues warnings “seems to be different from in the past” and underscored, “Though I can’t say with certainly [that Russia will invade Ukraine], we should be aware that the crisis is at an unprecedented level.”
As for whether the possible invasion will lead to an all-out war or a local war, Gurenko says, “Both are possible.”
He went on to say that even though the recent invasion was carried out on small scale, “Russia will just wait for the next opportunity,” so we should not let our guard down.
Gurenko refuted the idea held by some people that Ukraine should become a neutral country in consideration of Russia’s opposition [to Ukraine’s bid to join NATO], saying: “Even if Ukraine is a neutral state, it can’t prevent Russia from taking over. Ukraine has no choice but to join NATO.”
If Russia actually carries out an invasion, it is believed the U.S. will impose sanctions on Russia and “ask its allies to take similar actions.” Gurenko says: “Japan should keep pace with the U.S. and promote a ‘values-based diplomacy’ as a member of the international community. I would like to see Japan act in accordance with human rights, nationalism, and international justice and not act based on trade or business interests.”