Japan Should Continue Advocating for Compliance With International Law

Seiji Fuji

The Ukrainian aid budget may run out this year

 On December 4, The Sankei Shimbun published an article in its Global Points at Issue opinion column, entitled “What Will Happen With American Aid to Ukraine?”

“This will be the second winter since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. The war has become prolonged, and Ukraine has achieved no decisive victories in its counterattacks to recapture territory. Conflict broke out in the Palestinian Autonomous Territories of Gaza in October. Amidst this international tension, there are signs that Western countries are taking a different tone on aid to Ukraine. In the United States – where a presidential election will take place next year – some are saying that a ceasefire should be considered, and there are different views in the European Union (EU) about how to deal with two simultaneous conflicts.”
Regarding the situation in the U.S., the article reads:
“The Wall Street Journal website published a report on November 12 about the battlegrounds of Ukraine’s counteroffensive during this stalemate.” “The report says the West has trained tens of thousands of troops and provided equipment to Ukraine. Despite this, Ukraine has been unable to break through the Russian lines to reach the Sea of Azov. While Russia is increasing attack drone production, Ukraine is struggling because it must procure weapons from Western nations. The article also included statements from experts calling for Ukraine to utilize a different strategy. Instead of continuing onslaughts to recover small pieces of territory, these experts believe it would be safer for Ukraine to switch to a defensive posture that will exhaust Russia’s military force and equipment.” “The U.S. has taken the initiative to send aid to Ukraine, but there is concern that die-hard conservative resistance in the Republican Party will pose difficulties to passing the supplementary aid budget. According to a November 12 article on The Washington Post website, Russia is ready to devote an endless amount of human life and assets to the fight, which will make Ukraine face the hard reality that it must negotiate with Russia.” “The website of Foreign Affairs magazine ran an article on November 17, titled ‘Redefining Success in Ukraine.’ One of the authors was President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass, a pundit who was special assistant to Republican President George H. W. Bush.” “Even if the U.S. gave F-16 fighters to Ukraine, the essay says that Ukraine would not be capable of dealing a decisive blow. According to the authors, the more pragmatic option would be for Ukraine to defend its current territories and prioritize their rebuilding, rather than striving to regain other territories.” “They also sounded a warning for America, mentioning the current issue of defense aid to Israel after the Gaza conflict broke out in October. They stated that the American defense industry has limited production capabilities, and that the U.S. cannot provide sufficient assistance for wars in two partner countries.” “Next year’s presidential election is one factor behind the increasingly prominent view that a ceasefire should be declared. Former President Donald Trump has the highest approval rating of any Republican candidate. Haass warned that Ukraine may face a dilemma depending on who wins the election, and called for Ukraine to promptly switch strategies because Ukraine and America should not take on these risks.”

 The Forbes website posted an article on December 5, “U.S. Running Out Of Funding For Ukraine, White House Says.” According to the American Office of Management and Budget (OMB), supplemental aid for Ukraine – totaling $111 billion dollars (approximately 16.3 trillion yen) – has mostly been used up as of mid-November. Ukraine will not be able to keep fighting unless Congress swiftly approves President Joe Biden’s emergency budget proposal. It is impossible to predict whether the budget will pass the House of Representatives, where there is a Republican majority.

While Ukraine is at an impasse, some are calling for a new strategy

 The Sankei Shimbun’s Global Points at Issue column also described the situation in Europe, where more people are asking for cuts to Ukrainian aid.

“French newspaper Le Figaro reported on November 30 that prospects for Ukrainian aid seem dim in the EU as well.” “At the EU summit in December, Le Figaro predicts that some member states may oppose the plan to provide 50 billion euros of aid (approximately eight trillion yen) to Ukraine by 2027, resulting in unavoidable cuts. The EU is becoming increasingly unfavorable to Ukraine; Poland and Slovakia are speaking out against damage to their domestic markets due to the influx of low-priced grain from Ukraine, and Hungary is asking the EU to reconsider its aid strategy.”

 Other media outlets are also reporting on the impasse in Ukraine. FNN Prime Online posted an article on December 5, “America’s Washington Post Analyzes Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Started in June: Failed Efforts Lead to Stalemate.” It read:

On December 4, The Washington Post (an American newspaper) published an article analyzing the counteroffensive that Ukraine began in June. The newspaper says this has been a failure, resulting in a stalemate.” “According to The Washington Post, military leaders from Ukraine, the U.S., and the United Kingdom conducted eight tabletop exercises for the counterattack with the goal of advancing to the Sea of Aziv to the south of Ukraine. They interpreted the results as showing that Ukraine could reach the sea in as little as two or three months, and could cut off the Russian military.” “However, this tactic has not worked, and the Ukrainian army moved just 12 miles in the past six months.” “The U.S. asked Ukraine to begin its resistance in April. The article describes the main causes for this stalemate as follows. Although Ukraine received additional weapons and training, it was not able to launch its resistance until June, and Russia used land mines to fortify its position during that period. In addition, forces with almost no combat experience have joined the fight.”

 The circumstances remain grim for Ukraine, including the progress of the war and the amount of aid it will receive. The global community maintains its stance of renouncing the Russian invasion as a clear violation of international law. But on the question of when this war will end, it seems Ukraine has entered the phase when it must consider a different approach.

The Gaza conflict involves many different powers, and no one knows how it will end

 The Israel-Hamas war in Gaza poses additional difficulties for aid to Ukraine from across the globe. There is no clear path for ending this deep-seated conflict; not only are the involved parties in complicated positions, but other countries are facing complex circumstances as well. Vol. 82 of Gaiko (“Diplomacy”) magazine included an article, “Hamas, Israel, and Global Aporia,” with a conversation between three Middle East researchers: Kota Suechika of Ritsumeikan University, Ryoji Tateyama of the National Defense Academy, and Aiko Nishikida of Keio University. According to them, war has once again broken out in Palestine due to Israel’s longstanding lockdown of Gaza. Palestine is not functioning as a fully independent state, Israel has disregarded Hamas for a long time, and in recent years there has been talk about Israel improving its relationships with Arab nations. One interviewee stated that a factor in the attack was Hamas’ unwillingness to allow the Palestine problem to be ignored.
 Other nations are responding in different ways to the Gaza conflict. In the past, Arab countries could not earn citizen support without bringing up the “Arab cause” of Palestine liberation. Now that these nations are stable thanks to oil income and other factors, policymakers have forgotten about Palestine and drawn closer to Israel. However, the article says that Arab citizens still feel powerful animosity towards Israel, while Western politicians “who do not show their approval of Israel may be branded as anti-Semites by Jewish citizens in their countries.” However, more Jewish Americans of young ages believe “they should not endorse Israel’s occupation policy that disregards human rights.” Muslims in Indonesia and other Asian countries support Palestine for religious reasons. The Global South opposes Israel’s “neocolonialism,” and there is a movement showing sympathy for the people of Palestine.
 In addition, more young Americans reject the idea of intervention in the Middle East. Presidential candidates cannot become deeply involved in this conflict if they want to win the 2024 election. China traditionally has few ties with the Middle East. Although Russia has relationships with both Hamas and Israel, it is currently occupied with the Ukraine war. According to the article, resolution to the Israel-Hamas war is delayed because no major powers are able to play significant roles in resolving this dispute.

German citizens are divided on the government’s pro-Israel stance

 Looking at Western countries, there are particularly deep divides among German citizens. NHK Global News Navi described this in detail in its December 1 article, “Doubts About Germany’s Staatsräson.”

“November 9 marked the 85th anniversary of Germany’s Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.” “Nazis attacked Jewish homes and shops over 10 days starting on November 9, 1938 during the Nazi regime led by Adolf Hitler. They destroyed Jewish synagogues and killed many Jewish people.” “Annual memorials are held in various locations to remember this incident, which led to the Holocaust in which six million Jewish people were slaughtered.” “Through these yearly events, German society as a whole takes time to reflect on the Nazis and pledge that the Holocaust must never be repeated.” “Germans have special feelings about Israel, the Jewish nation founded after World War II. Due to this history, it has been said that Germans have a special responsibility to defend Israel. The German government has consistently displayed a pro-Israel stance in this military conflict.” “This attitude is symbolized by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s frequent use of the term ‘Staatsräson,’ or ‘reason of state.’ On October 17, Scholz was the first Group of Seven (G7) leader to visit Israel since the war began. He stated that Germany’s efforts to ensure Israel’s safety are part of its Staatsräson.” “The German government constantly emphasizes that Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas during this conflict, saying that civilian casualties should be avoided and supporting pauses in the combat to deliver supplies. However, it takes a negative view on a ceasefire and has not asked Israel to cease its offensive.” “However, more civilians are being injured and killed in Israel’s fierce attacks on the Gaza Strip, and an increasing number of German citizens are voicing their opposition to the government’s pro-Israel stance.” “Protests and assemblies are taking place to demand that the government call for a ceasefire, drawing 17,000 people in Dusseldorf and 9,000 in Berlin on November 4 (numbers provided by the local media).” “Noticeably, the participants included German citizens of Middle Eastern ancestry, many of whom are descended from immigrants to Germany after the war.”

 It seems like this division is unavoidable, considering Germany’s history and current situation.

Japan should maintain a neutral stance regarding conflicts in the Middle East

 It makes sense that Japan’s responses to the Gaza conflict differ from Western countries that have close ties with Jewish people. On October 22, six G7 nations released a joint statement expressing support for Israel’s right to self-defense, and asking for compliance with international humanitarian law regarding civilians. Of course, Japan did not take part in this statement. Although Hamas’ October 7 surprise attack in Israel was a clear act of terrorism, there is a high possibility that Israel is breaking international humanitarian law through its Gaza Strip counteroffensive. Japan does not have strong ties with the Jewish people in this region. Rather than simply following the U.S., I think Japan should maintain a neutral position – a stance that is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Islam – while calling for the war to end and keeping an eye on circumstances as they happen. Japan must hold firm in advocating for compliance with laws of the international community, both in Gaza and Ukraine. This is the basis for Japan’s severe disapproval of Russia; if Israel is violating international law, then it should be denounced as well. I believe it is entirely wrong to assume this means taking the side of Hamas, and that criticisms of that type should be avoided.

December 13 (Wednesday), 5:00 p.m.