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Kiyofumi Iwata

【#1158】Take All Possible Measures to Counter New Axis of Evil

Kiyofumi Iwata / 2024.07.02 (Tue)

July 1, 2024

On June 14, the Group of Seven leaders’ communique expressed “deep concern” about China’s support to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. “China is supplying the ability to produce weapons and the technology available to do it,” said U.S. President Joe Biden. “So it is, in fact, helping Russia.”

As pointed out by Biden, China’s support to Russia over the past two years has gradually been unveiled. For example, it was reported that excavators exported from China contributed much to constructing Russia’s strong trenches that led to the failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in June last year. In addition, China exported nitrocellulose used to propel rockets as well as drones, semiconductors, ball bearings, and machine tools to cite a few examples.

The West is inferior in the number of ammunition rounds

China is not the only country that is supporting Russia. Russia is said to have launched about 4,600 Shahed suicide drones provided by Iran. North Korea has reportedly provided Russia with one million to 2.3 million rounds of ammunition and about 50 ballistic missiles. Russia and North Korea signed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Treaty on June 19, forming a de facto alliance. We should beware that Russian technology will be provided to North Korea in the future, allowing improved North Korean ammunition and missiles to be given to Russia.

It is precisely these four countries that are strengthening their unity as a new “axis of evil” and attempting to make the rule by force a fait accompli. An April report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a U.S. think tank, said that 2024 would become a defining year for the Ukraine war, and recommended that Western countries prioritize the provision of high-performance weapons to Ukraine at a pace that exceeds Russia’s weapon production expansion.

In particular, ammunition has greatly influenced the war situation. CSIS estimates Russia’s annual ammunition production at about 2.1 million rounds. If ammunition from North Korea is added, Russia will get 3.1 million to 4.4 million rounds a year. In contrast, ammunition supplies to Ukraine from the West including the United States, Europe, and the Czech Republic-led supplier countries may be two million plus rounds this year at the most.

The democracies may not win the war

If this trend continues, pessimistic predictions by the survey of 17,000 people in 12 European Union member countries conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations in January may come true. When asked how the war would end most likely, the largest portion or 37% of the respondents cited a ceasefire through negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, anticipating a compromise with Russia. Only 10% predicted Ukraine’s victory.

This is not someone else’s problem for Japan. All possible measures should be taken, including further strengthening of the domestic defense equipment production base and the production system cooperation between Japan and the United States, to ensure that Japan is not unable to defend itself due to running out of ammunition and equipment in the event of a Taiwan/Japan contingency.

Kiyofumi Iwata is a member of the Planning Committee at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals. Formerly, he served as Chief of Staff of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.