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Editorial: Russia's actions in Ukraine are reckless assault on global order

Russian President Vladimir Putin has recognized the eastern Ukraine regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states, and ordered troops into both as "peacekeepers." These are reckless acts that shake the rules- and laws-based global order.

    This use of force comes after weeks of pressure on Ukraine imposed by a large-scale Russian troop deployment near its borders. A one-sided rewriting of a state's borders is unacceptable. We condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

    It is an infringement of the unity of another country's sovereignty and territory, and clearly contravenes international law. It flies in the face of the Minsk agreements intended to stop fighting in eastern Ukraine, which Russia also signed.

    Leaders of the pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukraine regions sought to be recognized as independent without holding a referendum, as required by the Constitution of Ukraine. They claim they were "abused" by the Ukrainian government, but no proof has been forthcoming.

    We are shocked at the arrogance of Putin, who will not stop at trampling international norms to expand his sphere of influence. He should immediately rescind the recognition of Donetsk's and Luhansk's independence, and withdraw his troops.

    His actions appear to mock the U.S. and Europe. Just a day before, Putin had agreed in principle to an emergency summit between him and U.S. President Joe Biden, but no sooner had he made this promise than he began making these latest aggressive moves.

    In a speech to the Russian people, Putin maintained that "Ukraine is an indivisible part of our history, culture and psyche." He also stated, "The U.S. and Europe have completely ignored our concerns, objections and warnings." But no matter how he puts it, there is no justifying illegal actions that infringe on national sovereignty.

    Russia claims that NATO has piled pressure on the country by progressively expanding its membership into former Warsaw Pact states and Soviet republics. The United States' NATO expansion policy has certainly enflamed Russia. Out of consideration for Russia's concerns, the U.S. indicated it was willing to cooperate on force reductions, among other measures.

    But based on Putin's actions in this crisis, the diplomatic efforts on NATO's eastward expansion appear to have been for show, and there are suspicions that Putin is pushing ahead with his planned aggressive expansion of Russian interests. If Russia thinks that it can coax the U.S. and Europe into negotiations after it has used force to gain a favorable bargaining position, then it is mistaken. The only actor in this crisis who has limited the options for diplomacy is Russia.

    The U.S. and Europe must take steps to contain Russia's actions. The G-7 nations, of which Japan is one, must join to oppose them.

    Already the U.S. and Europe have announced limited sanctions against Russia. If it becomes clear that military intervention is taking place, they intend to implement harsher economic sanctions. Among the measures reportedly under review are sanctions on Russian banks, bans on transporting technology which could be adapted to military use, and the suspension of Russia-related energy businesses.

    What needs to happen quickly is preparations in case Russia retaliates to sanctions by ending the supply of Russian natural gas to Europe and elsewhere. Partnerships need to be strengthened to stop order breaking down.

    It is unlikely that more severe opposition between Russia and the U.S. and Europe can be avoided. The post-Cold War world's power relationships could be rewritten. That diplomacy has hit a dead end shows that the world order as led by the United States for the past 30 years or so is on the brink of collapse.

    One apparently major factor is that the U.S. is losing influence after so many years trying to guarantee international stability with its sole-superpower status.

    In summer 2021, the United States pulled its troops out of Afghanistan and focused its attention on responding to China. Discrepancies between it and Europe's vigilance toward Russia were apparent. Putin exploited that weakness.

    The image of a nation brazenly pursuing expansionist policies backed by military might invokes memories of the imperialist age, when great powers would do as they saw fit with smaller countries. We cannot forget history's lessons. Conflicts to seize territory have twice led to world wars. And now, the risk of nuclear war also enters the equation.

    While U.S. leadership may have weakened, the foundations of world security and prosperity are none other than freedom and the democratic order. To firmly stand up to actions that would damage this order, international society must strengthen cooperation to reject oppression and authoritarianism.

    Japan's role is also in question. While its relationship with Russia, fostered through energy cooperation, is important, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida must thoroughly communicate the seriousness of the present situation.

    If international conventions are broken, there must be a price for those actions. Russia should be cognizant of this, and not worsen the situation further.

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