Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Hiroshi Kimura

【#544】Is Putin Really a Bachelor of Law?

Hiroshi Kimura / 2018.09.19 (Wed)

September 18, 2018

     Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to sign a peace treaty with Japan within this year without any preconditions at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok where Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was present. The remark leads me to doubt if Putin really graduated from the law faculty of Leningrad State University  (Saint Petersburg State University at present).

Superficial knowledge
     Putin takes every opportunity to boast that he is a Bachelor of Law well versed in legal documents. One such opportunity was a press conference on the occasion of his first official visit to Japan after taking up the Russian presidency in 2000. Asked how the Krasnoyarsk agreement between then Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto to seek to sign a peace treaty by 2000 would be treated under the new president, Putin said: “I was educated for law at a university and am used to examining documents. The agreement does not say they would sign a peace treaty by 2020. It only says they would make maximum efforts to do so.”
     Another example: Putin views the 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration as the highest legal document between Japan and Russia and bluntly makes light of other bilateral documents including the 1993 Tokyo Declaration for the reason that the Joint Declaration has been approved for ratification by the highest legislative bodies in both countries while the others have not been so. The reason has been given by Bachelor of Law Putin.
     Such view represents superficial knowledge. International agreements or treaties have been explosively increasing in the age of globalization. As a result, treaty conclusion procedures have been simplified and accelerated. Ratification has no longer been seen as important. This is the common sense of international law today.

Devoted to passing through legal loopholes?
     If Putin is a Bachelor of Law, he should be aware of the following: The biggest and only reason the 1956 Japan-Soviet agreement settled for a simple joint declaration while falling short of becoming a peace treaty was that the two countries failed to demarcate their border.
     Putin is pressing for a peace treaty with the territorial dispute being shelved while knowing very well of the history and the background. If President Putin is making the proposal seriously rather than jokingly, he may be not only unaware of law but also attempting to ignore the common sense of international law that borders are demarcated by peace treaties. This may mean that he was devoted to KGB (Soviet Committee for State Security) spy activities passing through legal loopholes, instead of attending law classes seriously in his university days.

Hiroshi Kimura is Professor Emeritus at Hokkaido University.