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EDITORIAL | Intensify Pressure on Putin to Withdraw from Ukraine

Putin, who intends to be president for life, begins his new term trampling on human rights and staging tactical nuclear weapons on the Ukraine border.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin takes the oath of office during his inauguration ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia May 7, 2024. (@ Sputnik/Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Pool via Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun his fifth term, even as Russia continues its brutal invasion of Ukraine. 

Putin was first elected president in 2000. Under the current system, he is able to serve a maximum of two 12-year terms. In effect, that means he is able to be president for life ー until 2036, when he turns 83. He thus has the potential to eclipse Soviet leader Joseph Stalin as Russia's longest-ruling dictator. 

In his inaugural address, Putin declared his "overwhelming victory" in the March presidential election. He said it demonstrated that, "We are a united and great people and together we will overcome all obstacles and realize our plans."

Putin thereby made it abundantly clear that Russia's invasion of Ukraine would continue. He had in no way abandoned his ambition to ultimately deprive Ukraine of its freedom and independence, turning it into a vassal state. 

Playing Victim

Putin and other rampaging dictators who are determined to destroy the post-Cold War international order must be stopped. 

He said he would not refuse dialogue with Western nations, but he then lashed out: "The choice is theirs. Do they intend to continue trying to restrain the development of Russia, continue the policy of aggression, continuous pressure on our country for years, or look for a path to cooperation and peace?"

Russian incumbent President Vladimir Putin marks the 10th anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, March 18, 2024. (@ Reuters/Stringer)

His suggestion that it is Russia that has been the real victim of aggression was nothing but an exercise in surrealistic sophistry. 

Putin's invasion of Ukraine, which lacks justification or honor, has been ongoing for more than 800 days. Furthermore, the number of innocent victims in Ukraine continues to rise. And within Russia itself, the crackdown on human rights and freedom of speech has intensified. It is an effort to stifle all anti-war or anti-regime voices. 

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Standing Up to Nuclear Threats and Dictators

Military assistance from the United States, which had been delayed for roughly half a year, has finally begun to reach the Ukrainian military. Nevertheless, Ukraine's soldiers are believed to be badly outnumbered. The West should take this opportunity to renew its solidarity with Ukraine and increase pressure for a complete withdrawal of the Russian military, which would serve to thwart Putin's ambitions. 

As US President Joe Biden has said, we must stand up to dictators and not give in to Putin.

On the eve of Putin's inauguration, the Russian military announced that missile units equipped with tactical nuclear weapons would soon conduct military exercises. Those units are stationed in Russia's Southern Military District, which borders Ukraine and includes Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin reviews honour guards of the Presidential regiment following his inauguration ceremony at the Kremlin. May 7, 2024. (@ Sputnik/Ramil Sitdikov/Kremlin via Reuters)

Russia claims that the move is a response to provocative statements made by Western officials about the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine. However, threatening nuclear-related military exercises is outrageous by its very nature. 

Putin has also vowed to strengthen relations with states that "trust" Russia. In fact, he is planning a visit in the near future to North Korea and China. Both are dictatorships with which Moscow has been strengthening economic and military ties. 

Putin has said that he considers it his historic mission to build a new international order that will be conducive to guaranteeing Russia's own security. However, he needs to realize that changing the status quo by force is totally unacceptable to other nations. 

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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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