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Russia’s suspension of peace treaty talks is opportunity for Japan to redesign Russia strategy

  • March 23, 2022
  • , Sankei , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

By declaring the suspension of Japan-Russia peace treaty negotiations, which are essentially about the Northern Territories, Russia apparently intends to pressure Japan, which has imposed sanctions on it over its invasion of Ukraine, and disrupt the unity of the democratic camp centering on Japan, the U.S, and Europe.

 

However, negotiations between the two countries had long been at an impasse due to the Putin administration’s high-handed stance, and there was no prospect of a breakthrough. The suspension of negotiations could be an opportunity for Japan to revamp its strategy toward Russia with an eye toward a “post-Putin” era.

 

In a statement on March 21 announcing the suspension of negotiations, the Russian Foreign Ministry asserted, “All responsibility lies with the Japanese side, which has chosen an anti-Russian line rather than mutual development.” In this way, Russia pressured Japan to rethink its policy toward Moscow, as Japan is coordinating with the U.S. and Europe. This makes the future of the conclusion of a peace treaty with Russia uncertain. 

 

However, it is doubtful whether Russia had any desire in the first place to conclude a peace treaty that would lead to the return of the Northern Territories. In fact, in recent years, Russia has insisted that a treaty in the form of a good-neighbor friendship treaty that shelves the territorial issue should be concluded, and it has consistently strengthened its effective control over the Northern Territories.

 

One of the Russian experts who commented on Russia’s latest declaration said, “Russia has used negotiations with Japan only to pretend to be friendly, but with the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow no longer needs to pretend.” These experts anticipate that Russia, which has used negotiations as a means of obtaining Japanese capital and technology, will cooperate with third countries such as China and South Korea to develop the Northern Territories in the future.

 

Japan, however, has no reason to be unsettled. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has once again highlighted the nationalistic nature of Russia, which believes in force rather than law, just as the former Soviet Union did when it illegally occupied the Northern Territories at the end of World War II in violation of the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Treaty, which was in effect at the time. There is no guarantee that a peace treaty with such a nation would be maintained.

 

Regardless of how the invasion ends, sanctions against Russia will continue, and the long-term decline of Russia’s national strength is inevitable. It remains to be seen how long the Putin regime will last.

 

The suspension of the peace treaty negotiations may be an opportunity for Japan to review its stalled policy toward Russia and develop a new strategy that will stimulate Russia to initiate negotiations with Japan once again in the future.

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