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[Tokyo Outlook] The Ukraine War Cannot Be Explained By Western Rationality

The Ukraine war is motivated by a Russian imperialism that rejects the Western-led order and a belief that Russia will one day emerge as the world's savior.

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A worker inspects a site in a residential area damaged during a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine September 21, 2023. (Adapted from ©REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko)

"How long will the war in Ukraine continue?"

On February 24, it will be exactly two years since Russia launched its large-scale invasion of Ukraine. As the war enters its third year, people from different backgrounds have been asking me this question.

Just the other day, I was discussing various topics with a Western diplomat who was knowledgeable about global affairs. Suddenly he asked me, "Do you think Russia will invade Europe?" It seems that everyone is desperate to understand what this war will bring in the future and when and how it will end.

In 2021, just three months before the war began, JAPAN Forward published an article predicting that Russia would invade east Ukraine around the time of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. 

We subsequently published a Japanese article titled "This Winter, Keep Maximum Vigilance Against Russia and China." However, at that time, most experts did not anticipate a large-scale invasion by the Russian military. They were aware of Russia's intense resentment towards Ukraine, a fellow Slavic country seeking closer ties with the West. However, most did not believe that Russia would resort to a military invasion at the expense of its relations with the West.

Smoke rises in the sky over the city after a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine September 21, 2023. (©REUTERS/Vladyslav Sodel)

Nationalist Imperialism

So why did JAPAN Forward's prediction unfortunately come true? Because the author did not rely on Western rational analysis of Russia. Instead, she focused on the Russian people's nationalist conservatism, which represents the majority's position. While her prediction was accurate, it's not as if she consulted President Vladimir Putin himself.

Even though JAPAN Forward predicted the invasion, it is extremely difficult to estimate when the war will end. Furthermore, it is not possible at the moment to determine the likelihood of a Russian invasion of Europe. 

Therefore, in response to the diplomat's question, I could only share my concerns based on my over ten years of experience as a Moscow correspondent.

Russian nationalists reject the current world order created by the West. They believe that it is flawed and destined to collapse or be destroyed. In their minds, Russia, with its vast lands and resources, will survive and fulfill a divine mission as the world's savior.

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At least, that is what they believe. Some even desire a third world war that will destroy the Western-dominated order, with Russia emerging from it as the ruler of the world. 

Naturally, there is a logical disconnect with people holding such views. That is why it is so difficult to predict Russia's actions from the rationality of a Western perspective.

In the article below, Ukrainian political scientist Andrii Gurenko pointed out that we cannot ignore the imperialistic views of the people when discussing Russia. And he's absolutely right.

International political scientist Andrii Gurenko, the author of this article, at The Sankei Shimbun Osaka Head Office on February 2, 2023. (©Sankei by Mizue Torikoshi)

Japan's Role as a Beacon

JAPAN Forward's most-read article for the past month since its publication on January 24 is about a Ukraine-born naturalized Japanese citizen who had been crowned Miss Japan. Unfortunately, when it was later revealed that she had an affair with a married man, she gave up her title.

On February 15, the Japanese government is coordinating several conferences in Tokyo to discuss reconstruction aid for Ukraine. It is unknown when the Ukraine war will end, but it will end eventually, and Japan will be there to help it rebuild.

Some countries do not proactively support Ukraine. However, without support, Ukraine will inevitably suffer defeat. If this happens, the world faces the risk of being plunged into a new era of imperialism. 

Therefore, Japan must serve as a beacon, alerting the world to the dangers of new imperialism and striving to prevent its resurgence. JAPAN Forward remains dedicated to sharing Japan's ongoing efforts with the global community.

Watch for the next issue on March 11.

JAPAN Forward is now in its seventh year. Join us as we continue to share the true face of Japan with the world. For inquiries, please call 0570-033-433 (Sankei iD) or email us at info@japan-forward.com.

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(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Yasuo Naito, Editor in Chief, JAPAN Forward

Stay up to date with the latest from our JAPAN Forward team and the projects we are engaged in. Explore topics we find important and discover the news we are prioritizing, penned by our Editor in Chief, Yasuo Naito.

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Stay up to date with the latest from our JAPAN Forward team and the projects we are engaged in. Explore topics we find important and discover the news we are prioritizing, penned by our Editor in Chief, Yasuo Naito.

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