Aleksey Volodin – Japan and Russia: peace enforcement

As is known, in the end of April Russia was visited by an extended Japanese delegation lead by Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of the Land of the Rising Sun. Japanese authorities haven’t visited us for more than ten years, and this was perceived almost as a diplomatic failure of Russia by a certain group of people. They thought like, what did we do in relation to our neighbor so that delegations from Tokyo didn’t want to visit us for the whole 10 years?  And we – Russians – having heard such words, should have begun beating head against the wall and sprinkling ashes upon head, while cursing ourselves for the fact that the “great friendship between Russia and Japan” is having tough times. Apparently, in breaks between sprinkling head and beating it against vertical concrete constructions we should have been thinking about how to coax our Japanese partners for the friendship to be revived. But the majority of Russian population didn’t even think about being sad because of that. And a long absence of Japanese delegations’ visits to our country didn’t worry the major part of Russians, as well as Japan’s representatives themselves. But Mr. Abe himself couldn’t put up with such a state of affairs. He is considered to be the leader of right wing movement in Japan. The status of right politician by its definition makes him act and demonstrate his wish to increase the level of national identity on the islands of Japan. Right political status is like crumbs in the bed: it will keep you on the hop. So, Mr. Abe decided to demonstrate his people that he is that kind of politician, who isn’t afraid to talk tough to Russia, touching upon the issue of the necessity to conclude a peace treaty. He gathered the delegation, handed lists with the necessary questions over to the accompanying journalists, stepped aboard the plane and set off to conduct negotiations with the President of Russia.

The aims of the visit itself were mainly economic: gas price reduction, construction of LNG plant in Japan, increase of commodity turnover; but everybody clearly understood that under this economic screen the main question was hidden. This question is: what is going to happen to four South Kuril Islands, territorial belonging of which is the reason for Russia (earlier USSR) and Japan not having concluded a peace treaty for more than 67 years. And we should admit that this question caused a stir both in Russia and in the country, from which Shinzo Abe with his suite arrived.

The words, said by Vladimir Putin, that it’s necessary to resume negotiations on peace treaty between Russia and Japan, caused a fierce debate in the society and in the media. People, for whom the name “Putin” itself is the main irritant, at once declared that the President of Russia “wants to give” the Kuril Islands to Japan, just presenting them on a silver plant. They thought, if Vladimir Putin mentioned the necessity to return to the Kuril negotiation process, it’s evident that he’ll give the islands to the Japanese partners as a present… Some remembered the judo term “hiki-wake” (a draw game), once used by Putin to mean the attitude towards the islands which should be aimed at. Political analysts-arithmeticians counted at once, that in this case hiki-wake could mean the following: if they demand four islands, Putin will give two of them… This attitude is rather interesting, but why not consider the following variant as a hiki-wake: Japan gives Russia Hokkaido or Okinawa, and Russia makes concessions and gives it the South Kurils. Doesn’t it look like a draw game?.. Concessions should be mutual and equal. After all, it’s a peace treaty.

By the way, let’s talk about Okinawa. Russian political analyst and philosopher Aleksandr Dugin was also concerned with the visit of Japan delegation to Russia and said that Putin should better give Japan the four South Kuril Islands, demanding in return withdrawal of US troops from the military base on Okinawa. He supposes that after such step Americans will lose their influence on Tokyo, and Russian-Japanese relationships will certainly improve, because in Dugin’s opinion, Japanese without American military base on their territory are completely peaceful people, inclined to friendly relations. He thinks that even if they show military aggression, then it’s only unwillingly. At first Hitlerite Germany wound them up, and now Americans lead them astray. And they themselves are so innocent and inclined to friendship that it’s worth writing songs about it…

Of course, this opinion is rather interesting, but why is the political analyst Dugin sure that a hypothetical withdrawal of American troops from the military base on Okinawa is equal to the cession of South Kurils from Russia to Japan? What is the connection between the cession of lands, acquired by Russia after the Second World War, and the withdrawal of a certain military contingent from the territory of foreign state? If we hold to such an opinion, then we could give a great part of Russian territory to anyone wishing it just requiring in turn, for example, NATO to move their troops to Vistula, or ODIHR to consider elections in Russia democratic. We can’t say it’s a good exchange… If we paraphrase the words of one well-known sports commentator, we could say: we don’t need such an exchange. Let them settle the issue with Okinawa by themselves, and we will settle the issue with Kurils by ourselves.

Apparently, suggestions like “the islands should be passed to Japan” and “forecasts” like “Putin will present Kurils to Tokyo” will continue appearing till Russia puts an end to this issue. And it’s very easy to put an end to it. If we position ourselves as a democratic state, then we should correspond to the status. And the main expression of democracy everywhere is plebiscite. In other words, the end in the dispute over the South Kurils’ status, and, therefore, over the peace treaty with the Land of the Rising Sun, is a plebiscite in Russia. And we shouldn’t worry if Japan likes this variant or not.

The question in the ballot should be clear and unambiguous, as well as the results of the plebiscite. Peace treaty negotiations should be conducted only after having Russians shared their point of view towards the South Kurils remaining the Russian territory or not. If the majority unexpectedly says that islands Shikotan, Kunashir, Iturup and the Habomai islands should be passed to “brotherly” Japan (that is hardly to happen), then Japan will hold all the cards. But if Russian people (as the main source of democracy in the country) say no to Japan, then President Putin will have a great opportunity to have a productive conversation with the Japanese “partners”: he could say that the nation has decided, and he is just President elected by this very nation, so he can’t do anything, because he has the obligation to fulfill the will of the majority of Russians. After that let somebody try to accuse Russia of non-democracy. Certainly, there will be several such people, but it would be possible to see their number after getting the results of the same plebiscite…


Written by Aleksey Volodin


Translated by Darya Naydish, APIR Center

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