Policy Alert: Ukraine Crisis Sparks Reactions from Rising Powers
The hope for peace following the Sochi Olympics was overshadowed by mounting conflict in Ukraine after Russia sent its troops to Crimea, despite growing international pressure. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from Russia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil on the Ukraine crisis.
Commentary in Russia expressed divided views on Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.
- The Russian Foreign Ministry slammed a U.S. State Department report claiming that facts cited by President Vladimir Putin in a news conference on Ukraine were false. “Obviously, Washington is unable to adequately perceive events using standards other than the American ones,” the statement said.
- “The Kremlin believes that the current Ukrainian leadership will manipulate the elections planned for May 25 to install a single leader or coalition government,” wrote Sergei Markov, director of the Institute of Political Studies in Moscow. “…Ukraine could easily become a radicalized, anti-Russian state, at which point Kiev will fabricate a pretext to justify taking subversive action against Moscow.”
- An op-ed in the Moscow Times criticized Putin for destabilizing Ukraine and carrying out a “creeping annexation…Russia’s move into Crimea will undermine the post-Cold War political system in the region and make former Soviet satellites, already apprehensive of Russia, extremely nervous.”
- Another editorial in the Moscow Times identified Ukraine as a “zero-sum game for Putin from the beginning. When it became clear that events in Ukraine had turned against Moscow’s interests, it instinctively attributed it to Western interference…it is inconceivable to Moscow that Ukrainians could revolt against their rulers without foreign instigation.”
Chinese media uniformly supported China’s impartial stance in the Ukraine crisis, encouraging “consultation and dialogue” within the international community to resolve the conflict.
- “Based on the fact that Russia and Ukraine have deep cultural, historical and economic connections, it is time for Western powers to abandon their Cold War thinking, stop trying to exclude Russia from the political crisis they have failed to mediate, and respect Russia’s unique role in mapping out the future of Ukraine,” said one state-run Xinhua commentary.
- Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang reiterated China’s support for settling the crisis through political and diplomatic channels.
- In an China.org op-ed, Zhao Jinglun observed, “the conflict is a proxy fight between major powers on opposite sides of the globe, backed by Russia on the one hand and the United States and EU on the other.”
Indian newspapers unanimously condemned Russia’s military action, calling for a peaceful settlement in Ukraine.
- The Hindustan Times criticized Russia’s military intervention as a clear sign of its inability to “put behind its past as a great power…[and] accept Ukraine as an independent and sovereign State.”
- The Indian Express urged Russia and the West to exercise restraint and focus on their common interest in “forestalling a civil war in the heart of Europe.”
- The Times of India agreed, calling all parties to dial down their “Cold War rhetoric” and for Russia to withdraw its troops and join the international community in drawing up a road map for Ukraine’s future.
- The Business Standard bashed the indecisive reactions of the US, EU, and UN to Russia’s aggression as the “impotence of the world’s major powers since the Cold War.” The newspaper warned that if President Putin gets away with impunity in Ukraine, this may encourage China to “unilaterally extend its sphere of influence.”
The Ukraine crisis has placed Japan in a difficult position, as Tokyo joined other G7 countries in criticizing Moscow amidst recent efforts to promote economic relations and solve the territorial dispute with Russia.
- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was careful to tone down his criticism against Russia, saying “I strongly hope that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine will be respected.”
- Asked whether Japan will keep expanding economic and political ties with Russia, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga avoided the question, stating, “Our country hopes all the parties involved will behave carefully with self-restraint and responsibility.”
- The Mainichi Shimbun noted that Japan “is placed in a difficult position,” but added that the country “should stand by the principles of international law that territorial disputes should never be settled by the use of force and call upon Russia to refrain from military intervention.”
- Toshihiro Nakayama, Professor of American Politics and Foreign Policy at Aoyama Gakuin University, explained Japan’s move as targeted toward China’s military aggression in the East China Sea. “Abe’s administration has been diplomatically reinforcing a law-based international order [in response to the Senkaku Islands dispute]. Therefore, it judged the violation of [Crimea’s] sovereignty unacceptable.”
- The Yomiuri Shimbun took a firmer stance, calling Russia’s military intervention “absolutely unacceptable.” The newspaper strongly urged President Putin “to listen to voices from the international community and do his utmost to avoid the chaos and bloodshed that could be brought about by military intervention.”
South Korean media remained critical of Russia’s incursion into Crimea.
- The JoongAng Ilbo argued that Moscow must “exercise reason and restraint,” urging President Putin to seek diplomatic solutions to ensure the safety of Russian-origin citizens in Crimea. The newspaper added that both the West and Russia must help Ukraine “rebuild itself through the democratic process.”
- The Dong-A Ilbo criticized President Putin’s handling of the Ukraine crisis, claiming “The ambition of a Great Russia, which was displayed through the Winter Olympics, should not be extended to Ukraine.”
Brazilian press argued that a divided Ukraine is not of interest to Ukrainians.
- Estadão cited a host of economic and cultural evidence describing the degree to which each region of Ukraine is more reliant on exports to the EU than Russia, including heavy ethnic Russian regions such as the Crimea. Additionally, it suggested that most Ukrainians are more interested in strengthening these ties between EU nations rather than Russia. While there do exist ethnic differences, the paper claimed that “it is likely these are being highly overestimated.”