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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may harden US Indo-Pacific allies

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may harden US Indo-Pacific allies

Russia’s war against Ukraine has up-ended decades of entrenched defense policy in Europe. The effects of the war stretch worldwide as countries monitor Ukraine’s unfolding tragedy to glean possible lessons for their own security. Halfway around the world, two of America’s staunchest allies, Australia and Japan, are closely watching the situation, actively supporting Ukraine and the West’s efforts to stop Russian aggression.

At the same time, Russia’s actions may serve as a warning to U.S. allies in the region, which see a possible future crisis in the Indo-Pacific brought on by China. Understanding how Australia and Japan are perceiving the Ukraine conflict could be critical for allied strategy in the region going forward. 

Consider first Australia. Leading into the recent federal election, Australia’s response to Russia’s invasion had been partly influenced by a conservative government seeking to look tough on national security and take a leadership role in foreign affairs. Australia has applied sanctions against Russian enterprises, agreed to send a modest number of armored troop carriers to Ukraine and pledged around $65 million in humanitarian aid.

Australia also provided temporary humanitarian visas to Ukrainian citizens. With Russia and Australia on opposite geographic poles and virtually no trade to speak of, Australia has felt freer to criticize Moscow with impunity — unlike China, where its criticism carries a much greater cost. Australia is likely to maintain its political and practical support to Ukraine and its current hardline approach to Russia. 

Compared to Australia, Japan has more skin in the game with Russia, but has adopted a similar approach regarding Ukraine. Despite being relatively new to office, Japan’s prime minister, Kishida Fumio, has been tough and resolute in his response. For a country that historically does not rely on economic sanctions, Kishida surprised many by imposing harsh financial and economic sanctionsagainst Russia, a sharp contrast to Japan’s tepid response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. 

Kishida’s decision came at a cost, promptinging Russia to declare it was abandoning peace treaty talks over disputed territory with Japan (that were not really going anywhere anyway). The Kishida government also recently released its annual Diplomatic Bluebook that, for the first time in almost two decades, declared the Southern Kuril island chain (northern territories in Japan) as “illegally occupied by Russia.” And, like Australia, Japan provided limited defense assistance to Ukraine: bulletproof vests, helmets, protective masks and clothing against chemical weapons, and other nonlethal equipment.

In addition to similar responses, the conflict has affected security discussions in these countries in common ways. In Japan, it has not led to a fundamental rethink in Japan’s defense priorities. For example, discussions on issues such…

Read Full Story At: The Hill.

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