Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Hiroshi Yuasa

【#543(Special)】Putin’s Imperial Diplomacy

Hiroshi Yuasa / 2018.09.18 (Tue)

September 13, 2018

     An imperial diplomacy typically features the cunning of sweetening foreign countries with smiles while rattling sabers. Exactly, Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with soft voices at the Eastern Economic Forum while implementing the Vostok 2018 joint military drills with China. While demonstrating a strong Russia-China relationship to their adversary, the United States, Putin won U.S. ally Japan over to his side in an apparent bid to use Japan as a card for checking the U. S.
     While the Eastern Economic Forum took place in the Far Eastern Russian city of Vladivostok on September 11-13, the Russia-China joint military drills were staged in Russia’s Far Eastern Military District on September 11-15. As a matter of course, Prime Minister Abe smilingly held summit talks with the forum’s host Putin and President Xi Jinping of Russia’s quasi ally China. Putin and Xi apparently plotted to separate Japan from the U. S.
Sweetening Japan while demonstrating military power
     By taking advantage of Prime Minister Abe’s hope to pave the way for Russia’s return of the four northern islands to Japan, President Putin made suggestive remarks. While using polite diplomatic language, however, Putin apparently made light of Japan. He cancelled planned visits by former islanders to graves on Etorofu among the four Japan-claimed islands from September 10 for the reason of scheduling conflicts, giving priority to the joint military drills with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. Putin who has complete control of the military could have delayed the joint military exercises with China but chose not to do so. In a minimum step to give consideration to Japan, Putin avoided conducting the war game on the Japan-claimed islands at the strong request of Japan.
     At his summit talks with Abe, Putin shelved the Northern Territories issue, saying that he was ready to explore a solution acceptable to both sides while it would be primitive to think that the issue could be solved within a short period of time. He then praised Japan’s investment in the Russian Far East. The Japanese and Russian leaders agreed on a road map for Japan-Russia joint economic activities on the disputed islands in five areas including tourism. How will this agreement lead to the return of the Northern Territories? At a plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum, Putin perplexed Japan by abruptly proposing the signing of a Russia-Japan peace treaty within this year while ignoring the territorial issue that is the prerequisite of any peace treaty.

Russia team up with China against the U. S.
     Chinese President Xi who also attended the Eastern Economic Forum has taken similar behaviors. China comes closer to Japan every time when having a tiff with the U. S. After summit talks with the Chinese president in Vladivostok, Abe took Xi’s approach to Japan positively, saying: “There was a remark (by President Xi) welcoming my China visit coming as early as next month. We agreed to proceed with coordination toward my visit.”
     Russia plagued with Western economic sanctions for its forcible annexation of Crimea and China facing a trade war with the U. S. are attracting investment from Japan while checking the U. S. Moscow and Beijing immediately team up in confronting with the West or the U. S.

Hiroshi Yuasa is a Planning Committee member and a senior fellow at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.