It has been a month since Russia commenced its military invasion of Ukraine, with the humanitarian crisis in the besieged country only becoming worse. It is concerning that Ukraine could face further damage if the aggression drags on.
This is the most serious humanitarian crisis Europe has faced in the post-World War II era. Already, over 10 million people have been displaced by the conflict and have taken refuge either domestically or abroad. Such evacuees account for one in four members of Ukraine's population.
Private facilities such as houses and schools have come under military attacks in many parts of Ukraine, including its capital Kyiv. In Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine, hospitals and a theater where residents were taking shelter were destroyed. A special rapporteur for the United Nations Human Rights Council condemned the offensive, saying the indiscriminate attacks, which violate international law, have deprived people of their right to adequate housing.
Over the past month, it has become evident that the hard-line stance adopted by Russian President Vladimir Putin has hit a brick wall. Putin apparently aimed to quickly bring Ukraine under control by deploying overwhelming numbers of troops in what the Kremlin calls a "special military operation," but Russian troops have been forced to wage a tougher battle than they had expected.
Russia's Ministry of Defence has put the death toll of its military at 498, but Washington speculates the figure stands at over 7,000. During the former Soviet Union's decade-long invasion of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, approximately 14,000 Soviet soldiers perished. If the U.S. estimate proves true, Russia may have lost half that number of troops in a mere month since the onset of its Ukraine invasion.
President Putin has misjudged the state of affairs in many respects.
The biggest miscalculation was the severity of resistance from Ukraine. Backed by the United States and European countries, Ukrainian forces have been launching persistent counteroffensives against Russia. Even in some cities that the Russian military seized control of, residents have refused to back down, staging anti-Russia demonstrations over and over. Even if Kyiv falls, it will be a far cry from taking control of the whole of Ukraine.
At home, Russia is facing growing waves of anti-war demonstrations from its own people. Russian police have so far detained more than 15,000 people who have taken to the streets to decry the military aggression. Calls for stopping the war against Ukraine have also emerged from among some oligarchs that have supported the Putin administration.
When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, the public was enthralled and Putin's approval ratings spiked, but the climate of opinion has since drastically changed.
Putin apparently resorted to the invasion of Ukraine with the aim of restoring a "great Russia." Yet his actions are only undermining the dignity of his own nation.
In contrast, the international community has banded together, with citizens worldwide expressing their solidarity with Ukraine. The governments of various countries including Japan, the U.S. and in Europe have shown their unity and kept in step with each other in tightening economic sanctions against Russia. Their sanctions blacklist includes not only high-ranking Russian government officials, but even Putin himself for the first time.
It is crystal clear that Russia is now isolated in the global community. In the U.N. General Assembly, a mere four nations apart from Russia itself, including Belarus and North Korea, voted against a resolution condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Even China, a Russian ally, abstained from the vote. Beijing apparently withheld from rallying behind Moscow in the face of the serious humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Ukraine.
Concerns are rising that Putin could resort to yet more dangerous means of attacks as he is driven into a corner.
Washington has pointed out that there are clear signs that Moscow may employ chemical or biological weapons against Ukraine.
One possible alarming scenario is Russia moving ahead with the use of bioweapons on the baseless pretext that the U.S. is studying such weapons in Ukraine.
Some experts on nuclear arms have warned that Russia may use low-yield nuclear weapons to intimidate Ukraine and Western countries. Putin has repeatedly threatened to use such weapons through his words and actions. If Moscow did employ such weapons of mass destruction, it could escalate into a world war involving the U.S. and Europe. Such a scenario must be averted at any cost.
Moscow has long claimed that if Ukraine joined NATO, it could pose a serious threat to Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently remarked that he is dropping a NATO membership plan in a concessionary gesture toward Russia. Moscow ought to take this move seriously and agree to a cease-fire, bringing an immediate end to the pointless fighting.
In a virtual address to Japanese lawmakers, Zelenskyy referred to the U.N. Security Council as becoming dysfunctional, and advocated the creation of a new system that guarantees security to prevent aggression of the kind that has gripped Ukraine. He urged Japan to spearhead discussions toward that end.
In order to have Russia change its course of action, Japan and other members of the international community need to maintain their solidarity and keep applying pressure on Russia.