Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Sorting through Complex International Issues
Akio Kawato / Former Ambassador to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Newsweek Japan Columnist

May 13, 2022
In addition to environmental problems and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukrainian war and sanctions against Russia, the associated soaring price of energy and raw materials that exacerbates inflation across nations and increased fear of economic bubble collapse, and the structural changes in the supply chain caused by decoupling with China constitute a parade of problems that the world needs to solve. However, all these problems cannot be solved at once. What, then, are the most pressing issues that require earnest efforts on the part of us Japanese?

The Ukrainian war will be a crucial turning point for Putin's Russia. A failed operation in Ukraine will likely cost Russia the confidence of the former Soviet states in the Caucasus and Central Asia regions. Even though Kazakhstan is an ally of Russia, it has already refused to be used to circumvent sanctions against Russia (i.e., western companies transferring contraband to Russia through Kazakhstan). If Russia moves its troops in Armenia and Tajikistan to Ukraine, Russia's influence in these regions will fade, leading to the total dissolution of the former Soviet Union. China will likely abandon an isolated and weakened Russia because Russia would not only be useless, but also a burden in China's efforts to stand against the US. However, in that case, China would find itself stripped bare, as it were, and weakened against the West.

Furthermore, the blunt truth that the Ukrainian war has revealed to Japan is that an armed aggression can easily destroy a civilized life. Further, there is no 100% guarantee for US military support. This is why public opinion in Japan is rapidly leaning towards approval and enhancement of its self-defense capabilities. The Japanese Communist Party, which has historically argued that the existence of self-defense forces is unconstitutional, is also leaning toward tacit approval. As sentiments shift from the previous pacifistic ideologies, I hope that public opinion will not overrun to an excessive arms buildup and to the revival of pre-war nationalism.

Because of the Ukrainian war, some have argued that the world has shifted from the "era of economy" to the "era of politics and security". This view is from people who divide things into their own specialized compartments, such as politics or economics, and avoid thinking holistically. The economy is the foundation of human life and national security, and should always be taken into consideration by political analysts.

This time, the sanctions on Russia have emerged as inseparable from the problem of energy independence. Germany and Japan, which started World War II due to their pursuit of oil interests, have also exposed the vulnerability of their energy infrastructure. Germany cannot suddenly sever its reliance on Russia's natural gas, and Japan must increase its dependence on crude oil from the Middle East if it terminates Russian imports. Europe, China, Japan, and Korea will compete fiercely for imports of oil and natural gas from the Middle East and Africa as well as US shale oil and gas.

Instead of bemoaning the situation, we should use the price increase of crude oil to our advantage and accelerate the development of renewable energy sources. The goal would be to extract hydrogen from seawater using solar energy and develop fusion reactors.

Decoupling trade with China centers on cutting-edge technology. However, in regards to many foreign companies, the size of China's market is likely to decline. To make up for this contraction, Western countries will need to increase their domestic investment in energy source conversion and expand their markets in Africa, India, and other countries.

In these turbulent times, we must not lose sight of the road to the future. Each one of us may take his or her own approach, but I for one would hold dear my own and others’ rights and well-being, in other words, "freedom and prosperity." Furthermore, I believe that we shouldn't force other countries to accept these values (but we do help). Whether it's Russian imperialism, American neoconservatism, Chinese communism, or Japanese ultranationalism, imposing one's own ideology on others never ends well.
Akio Kawato is former ambassador to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. This article appeared in Newsweek Japan of April 19, 2022.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

河東 哲夫 / 元駐ウズベキスタン・タジキスタン大使、ニューズウィーク日本版コラムニスト

2022年 5月 13日







一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Sorting through Complex International Issues