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Hard Bargain
Russia Hardens Stance in Island Dispute With Japan

Speculation earlier this year was that Russia, looking to diversify its foreign policy portfolio in Asia, might be willing to open discussions on its longstanding Kuril Islands dispute with Japan. Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, put such notions to rest yesterday, reports Russia Today:

As far as the Kuril Islands are concerned – these are the Eastern border regions of the Russian Federation. We put special attention to normal development of these Russian territories and wholly develop them, considering the needs of Russian citizens who reside there,” the minister told reporters.

He added that planning the defenses and strengthening the military infrastructure of border regions were natural actions for any nation. “These are the Far-Eastern borderlands of our country and we must provide security there. We will apply all necessary attention to this task,” Lavrov emphasized.

The statement was made in reply to a reporter’s request to comment on the alleged increase of Russia’s military presence on the Kuril Islands in recent months.

Japanese-Russian relations are more important than many people realize. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his desire to improve them, hoping that Japan’s energy needs and Russia’s desire to sell its oil to places other than China might be fertile grounds for better ties. Abe has even been pressuring the G7 to allow Russia back into the fold. In return, Russia took a harder-than-usual line with North Korea.

But the Kuril problem, which dates back to World War II, is a big one. Last summer, Russia announced plans to build on the islands, in a move widely interpreted as a rebuke to Abe’s visit to Kyiv. Russia seems intent on emphasizing the islands as an example of Moscow’s sovereignty and power, which suggests that a solution isn’t coming any time soon.

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  • Dhako

    I think it was a wishful thinking in the first place to believe Russia will part those region no matter how much Shinzo Abe tries to butter up the Russians. In fact, it was a first class delusion on the part of Walter Russell Meade and others to have believed that Russia will normalize it’s geopolitical relationship with Japan, so long Japan is no more than a “vassal state” for Uncle Sam geopolitical priorities.

    Hence, Putin’s Russia knows how to “measure up” those who will be a flimsy-friend who in turn will bow to the dictates of others. In particularly like the manner Japan will always bend down double at any moment the US president call Tokyo with a new geopolitical marching order for Japan to fulfill. And fulfill it, in-terms of both the letter as well as the spirit of that diplomatic marching-orders.

    And this of course is the reason Prime-Minister Shinzo Abe was found mouthing off in agreement the same economical sanction the US imposed on Russia on the back of Ukraine crisis. Consequently, expects nothing to change on this front; other than China and Russia working ever closer in the pacific to the detriment of Japan’s geopolitical space.

    And of course, Uncle Sam will tender to the concern of Japan’s security in the event of clash between China and Japan, as much Russia, will be on the Chinese side in that event even in the absence of “bilateral security treaty” between China and Russia. But the larger point is that, in the pacific the “geopolitical security alliance” is forming into a concrete features. And Russia have chosen her side in this “new game”, as much US have chosen hers, particularly the moment the US have signaled their “pivot” to the pacific.

    So in that sense the best that Shinzo Abe and Japan can realistically hope for is to basically write off any hope of those Kuril regions ever returning to Japan short of WWIII. Which in turn will mean that Japan and US winning against Russia and China combine in that eventuality. Subsequently since that is not on the cards without the world coming to an end, then it’s best to say that Japan has as much chance of gaining those region from Russia, as dear old blighty Britain getting to own all over again the Indian Sub-Continent with a brand new British Raj.

    • Tom

      Yes, yes, we know you believe the relationship between the US and Japan is similar to the relationship China wishes it had with Japan.

      • Dhako

        Aah, assumption, assumption, indeed. However, the fact of the matter is that any self-respecting Japanese citizen will cringe in shame for the manner Uncle Sam call the shots for Tokyo. In particularly to the extend that even to this day whereby Japan is nothing more than a “glorified poodle” (for all intend and purposes) for US’s geopolitical agenda in pacific, the US side will not even murmur any sort of “sotte-voce regrets” for the way US had dropped the “big one” on Hiroshima back in 1945.

        Hence, for China, Japan is not some “normal state” in which one could desire to have any meaningful relationship with them, since even North Korea has more political self-respect for her poverty-stricken self than Japan has with even her world-class affluence. Or even come to think of it, even South-Korea has some political chutzpah, or at least an identifiable streak of political semi-independence from the self-serving assumption of Uncle Sam. And, this is the reason South Korea is having a far more productive relationship with China than Japan could ever do on her own.

        Consequently, to China, a measure of a nation, particularly whether one should bother about them, is the degree in which it can have an independence frame of thought, or even a sense of self-conceptualization without others having a “veto” over that reference sense of self.

        And, in here, its why Germany and France (in particular) will always be some of the nations in which China will pay more attention to their concern/argument more than UK. And its also why, if the needs dictates, China can enter a mutual and reciprocal relationship with even Israel (regardless of how US and Israel are on the same pages on many fronts) than China will ever enter with, say, Egypt.

        And that is largely to do with how nations feels whether they have an innate imagination of independent political “being” that has self-contained reference point within itself, without others say so. Hence, in Japan, ever since the War, not only were the real stuffing knocked out of them. But, it seems that defeat had profoundly have effected them in a manner that will make them devoid of any independent “human agency” of their own without the say so of Uncle Sam.

        Also, some other country like Egypt (for example) never had that sort of thing in the first place. Furthermore it seems that in the case of UK, it essentially means that the lost of that “active spirit” or “innate agency” have never returned to UK, since it was lost with the ending of the British Empire.

        Subsequently the irony of it all is that while Germany (and to a larger extend, France) who like Japan took a beating of a historical proportion during the WWII, it seems that they never have lost that sense of either “Germanic agency” of even a “French Self-perception” which is independent of any historical contingency as well as of any national humiliation they may have suffered. Or any other “constraining” conditions in which they are party to it, particularly in the form of their treaty obligation through NATO to be a “geopolitical subordinate nations” to the US’s larger defensive umbrella for the European’s theater. This is why China has more of a pity for Japan than any idea of wishing that Japan can be a friend for China.

        • Tom

          Yeah, the fact that you think the citizens of the DPRK think better of their situation says a lot. And none of it good.

          • Dhako

            We are discussing elite politics and how those who formulates nations polices perceived themselves. And in here the elites who governs North Korea has much more self confidence in themselves than those who govern rich Japan had on their own. Hence, why I said nations have “innate spirit” that is independent of everything else.

            Hence one that “collective spirit” is broken, then no matter how rich or advance that country is, she will always be a ghost of herself. Which means, Japan’s national spirit was comprehensively broken in a manner that even Germany who had to lived under a Soviet occupation for a half a century never had to experienced.

            Similarly, France, who had to see the humiliation of the German’s occupation and the subsequent Vichy collaborationist government, never experienced the diminish “national spirit” in which the Victorious Brits seemed to have been belaboring under it.

            And, that could only mean, while France. came out of the WWII with a national vigor (or perhaps a denial and grandeur of delusion) as epitomize by Charles de Gaulle, Britian on the other hand, even in victory and with Bull-dog Churchill saving the day for them, seems to have come out of that war with a sense of diminished national spirit.

            And, the end of Empire right after the war, seems to have administer the final “coup de grâce” for any animating national spirit, that, can, in turn, imagine a sense of Britain untethered. umbilically, to the concern and the agenda of the US, regardless whether that US’s interest serves any larger British interests or not. This is the “Elite concepts” I am talking about. Not the concern of the plebs in the street.

          • Tom

            Very mandarin of you.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Russia sold Alaska to America, so they have a history of being willing to sell off occupied territories. Given this fact, I think Russia would be willing to sell these small islands, if their price was met. It seems to me Japan is expecting to get them back for free, and that just isn’t going to happen given the history of the fighting over these islands. Since, all 17,000 Japanese that lived on those islands were removed to Japan in 1947, Japan doesn’t have much of a rational for recovering them except national honor. And since the Russians took the islands in 1945 in a trial of combat, they are honor bound to get a ransom for their return.
    In conclusion, Japan will have to pay, and pay bank if it wants to recover its honor.

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