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Let's Talk Again
Abe Really Really Wants a Deal With Russia

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is once again pushing hard to resolve the Kuril islands dispute with Russia, Reuters reports:

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is betting that close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s economic woes and regional concerns about China’s rise will help him make progress in a decades-old territorial row when the men meet in December.

Abe, 62, who wants to leave a diplomatic legacy with a breakthrough in ties with Russia, may even alter a long-standing demand that the sovereignty of all four disputed islands northeast of Hokkaido be resolved before a peace treaty ending World War Two is signed, politicians and experts said.

Abe’s courtship of Putin risks irking key ally the United States, given that Washington is feuding with Moscow over Syria and the annexation of Crimea, although Japanese diplomats have sought to ease American concerns.

“I will resolve the territorial issue, end the abnormal situation in which no peace treaty has been concluded even 71 years after the war and cultivate the major possibility of Japan-Russia cooperation in areas such as the economy and energy,” Abe said in a speech to parliament this week.

Abe and Putin have met 14 times over the Japanese PM’s two terms, and there has been no substantive progress. But Abe clearly remains optimistic, and he’s signaled that he’s willing to offer more to Moscow if that’s what it will take to get a deal.

But the basic problem remains: Abe wants this more than Putin does. And although there are many reasons for Russia and Japan to draw nearer, many of them aren’t much affected by the outstanding Kuril dispute. Japan can still buy Russia’s oil and both countries can cooperate on security issues involving China. Normalizing relations would be a help, but it’s not necessary for many agenda items to move forward. At the summit in December, progress is expected on a host of military and economic issues regardless of how the Kuril islands conversation goes.

International observers have long felt that if a deal is to happen, it will be under Abe and Putin. Both men have strong nationalist credentials and are as likely to have the political capital to expend as anyone. The question is whether even the most favorable conditions are enough to overcome deep-seated animosity and distrust between countries which fought many bloody battles in the early twentieth century. The answer remains to be seen.

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  • Observe&Report

    Abe. Don’t take lessons on negotiation from the Obama/Kerry school of diplomacy, especially not when dealing with Putin.

  • Dhako

    I am afraid, like most TAI’s diplomatic analyst, this is another delusional fiction on their part, particularly the idea that talk of Putin giving any land back to Japan, when Japan is nothing but a mere vassal state for US’s Geo-strategical agenda in Asia. Hence, of course, like a good carpet seller in a Persian bazaar, Mr Putin, will string along Mr Abe just to see what sort of lucrative side-deal involving investment and a tension within the Western’s ranks he can get out of his “steadied dalliance” with Mr Abe.

    But at the end of the day, Mr Putin is really the sort of fellow who measures people in-terms of how much of a “useful tool” (or instrument) they can be in alliance with him for his overriding ambition of thwarting US’s agenda. And if that country or that leader is in a particular powerful league that could do so much damage to US’s interest, then Putin, on the other hand, will make a deal with that man, by even offering his own wife, if his opposite number demands it, as a part of a deal with Russia.

    If on the other hand, that nation and that leader, like Mr Shinzo Abe in here, is not in that sort of political heavyweight that can damage US’s agenda, then the deal in which Russia (and Putin in particular) will offer in return will not involve any larger concession of any kind, let alone any territorial concession which is what Mr Abe is demanding.

    And this means, Mr Putin, will be minded to string along Mr Abe for few more rounds of talks without never saying “No” or “Yes” to any final settlement, while all along given the impression that if Mr Abe were to “cough-up” few more financial and technological “goodies” to Russia, then, perhaps a day will come whereby Mr Putin will finally say: Yes.

    Hence, Mr Abe will genuinely be chasing ever shifting ghost of a deal while all along the price-tag for the eventual “Yes” (from the Russian’s side) to the kind of the deal Mr Abe is asking for will continue to increase accordingly. But, whatever else you may deludedly entertain, I should say, never believe a word to the wise that says, Mr Putin, will one day finally hand over these islands to Japan, no matter how much “plentiful goodies” in the meantime, Mr Abe of Japan cough-up in the expectation that Mr Putin will square a deal for him. ,

    • Fat_Man

      I stopped at the first sentence. I assume that Dhako is a non de blog for a paid Kremlin operative.

      • Tom

        No, I think he works for the Chinese.

        • Fat_Man

          Like I said. I read one sentence and quit. I thought it was the Russkies who conducted the blog flame wars.

  • Andrew Allison

    Obama’s foreign policy, the gift that keeps on taking.

    • Dhako

      Its actually a “clever gift” that has realized that an orderly retreat from the middle East will be to the longer term of US’s interest, no matter how much the “Israeli Lobby” and their paid stooges in the Congress as well as in the rest of the US’s foreign policy intelligentsia screams blue murder towards what Obama is trying to do against the teeth of so much of an organised hostility from certain quarters.

      So you can really say, Obama, will be remember, as the man who cut the “umbilical cord” that had tethered US’s larger international vocation through the prism of what at any given day, the interest of the State of Israel is. Hence, if you read the US foreign policy between 1945 till 1956, which was when US had the most room to maneuver in-terms of how to “stand-up” independent US’s foreign policy without filtering through another state’s agenda, will be what Obama was trying to do; or at any rate, make it, the next president, any attempt to filter through the US’s larger interest through the narrow path of another state’s agenda that much more difficult,

      And, in that, sense, he has succeeded (particularly with his Iranian nuclear deal) in his larger Macro re-orientation of US’s interest away from what it was since time it was “captured” by the said powerful lobby and towards the era of Eisenhower, who could order Israelis along with Britain and France to withdraw from Egypt in 1956 without needing to look over his shoulder back in Washington.

      And this means, the next President in the US, aided by tired citizens, who have no love lost for another crusade in the Middle East will find it politically difficult to star carrying water for the likes of Bibi Netanyahu, who has his own “unfinished business” with the Iran, and therefore, would like the usual “water-carrying” from Uncle Sam. So, from that “Macro-level”, you can say, he will be much more consequential than Bush Jnr, who put this a brick though the glass house that is the Middle East.

      • Andrew Allison

        The participants on this blog recognize you for what you are. You are wasting keystrokes.

        • Dhako

          In other words, you run out any argument worthy of its name. And therefore you have decided to chance your luck with cheap shots. Does that do justice to the summation of your assertions?

          • Tom

            No, just a recognition that blatant propaganda is blatant.

  • gabrielsyme

    Japan probably needs to obtain at least one of the disputed islands to make any settlement acceptable to domestic opinion, but it is difficult to see what incentives the Japanese can give to Russia to obtain any concessions. Russia is in possession, and as this post points out, is reasonably happy with its relationship with Japan on other issues.

    • Kev

      The rumor is Russians offered Japanese two islands. But Japanese did not accept, because they want all. If the negotiations fail it will be due to Japan’s intransigence.

      • gabrielsyme

        If so, Japan is delusional, and it’s unclear why they think they could obtain a better deal. I’m sceptical they were offered such a deal, as I can’t see what advantage Russia would gain from it.

        If Russia is willing to give territorial concessions, perhaps Japan could make some pledges to assist in the economic development of the entire Kuril Island chain? Such a framework could be to the advantage of both countries, though Putin would have more difficulty selling the deal.

  • Kevin

    The US would’ve extremely foolish to see a Russo-Japanese agreement and rapprochement as anything other than a net positive for its role as an offshore balancer.

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