Russia-Japan territorial dispute on Kuril Islands: lessons for Crimea

Author : Serhiy Stelmakh

Source : 112 Ukraine

After negotiations in Japan, the world has received a clear message that Putin is ready to cede territories
11:12, 23 December 2016

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Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 15 December 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 15 December 2016

Russian authorities have repeatedly brandished that the issue of annexed Crimea is allegedly already solved. However, pressure of the international community, prolongation of sanctions, decisions of international organizations that recognize the peninsula Ukrainian territory, economic decline, and other significant consequences are forcing the Kremlin to fuss, exposing weaknesses.

Related: Prime Minister of Japan called on Putin to put an end to dispute about Kuril Islands

One of these geopolitical vulnerable places are the Kuril Islands – an issue that can be juxtaposed  with the annexation of Crimea. Moscow officially declares sovereignty over the territory, but conducts some unofficial negotiations on the future redistribution of boundaries. Before annexation of the peninsula, the Kurils were the "sacred" land, which the Russians allegedly would "never" give back to the Japanese. Now the political and economic circumstances push the Kremlin for the next auction.

Related: Japan could soften sanctions imposed due to Russian aggression in Ukraine

Recently the international community watched as the fussy behavior of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was trying to "sell" disputed islands to Tokyo on favorable terms, in exchange for a large sum of money and, as malicious tongues say, for Japan’s informal recognition of Crimea as part of Russia. Indeed, among all the world capitals, distance between Crimea and Tokyo is the larger (in the literal and political sense). Nevertheless, the deal of the century was not successful. So far, the parties agreed only on a joint economic activity in the Kuril Islands.

Related: UN resolution on Crimea: condemnation of Russia does not mean protecting Crimean citizens

But the world has received a clear message that the Kremlin is ready to cede territory. The only question is what benefits the Kremlin elite would get in return.

The Japanese did slyly. As soon as the Russian president has left their country, their news agencies and newspapers circulated in their media the negotiations of the Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev and his Japanese counterpart Shotaro Yachi. According to numerous government sources, Patrushev said, "whether the US bases will be located on the islands" if Russia gives back two islands to Japan, as spelled out in the 1956 Joint Declaration. Shotaro Yachi said that such a possibility really exists. The question itself indicates that the Kremlin is seriously considering the option of transfer of the territory to the Japanese.

Related: UN General Assembly recognized Russia as occupant and Crimea as temporarily occupied territory

The first clear messages of Russia’s readiness to "sell" the Kurils appeared at the beginning of this year. Russian journalists from the Japanese media learned that the Russian government is in talks with Tokyo. These negotiations dealt with the admission of Japanese companies in the Kuril Islands and the sale of their controlling stakes in major oil and gas projects. Then Deputy Prime Minister Arkadiy Dvorkovich told Japanese reporters that despite the Western sanctions, economic contacts will create "good conditions for a political dialogue." The latter meant progress in the issue of the Kurile Islands.

The deal with the Japanese was actively prepared, but it did not take place. Why did Putin and his Japanese colleagues chose the interim solution? There could be only one version – government of China is not interested in solving the problem of the Kuril Islands and placing US bases there. Given that the Kremlin kleptocrats were in bondage to the Chinese people, Beijing has many levers of pressure on Moscow. Yes, the country, which "risen from its knees" and enabled Crimean “turning back,” is critically dependent on the Celestial authorities.

Related: Russia to deploy airborne battalion in Crimea

Why is it important for Ukraine? The answer lies on the surface. Russian government (the concrete person of the president is not important) perceives the area of the country as the food supply and the object of bidding. Centennial history, imperial ambitions, "sacred" Crimea, "gathering lands", coupled with the constant "protection" of Russian language is a beautiful propaganda wrapper, used by Putin and his team to hide their desire to plunder Russia. And they successfully do it. While enthusiastic audience cheered "Crimea is ours," Russian authorities carefully cleaned the traces of theft at the Olympic Games in Sochi. Then it was the turn of "cunning plan" in eastern Ukraine and in Syria, which enabled the military and the MIC (military-industrial complex) to get access to huge amounts of money. Authors of the thieving schemes did not take into account a possible drop in oil prices and the effects of Western sanctions. Since 2014, the Kremlin has been rapidly expending cash reserves, telling tales of "import substitution" to befuddle the public.

Related: Ukraine might confiscate foreign cargo ship for entering Crimean port

Related: Return of Crimea in next 3-5 years is impossible, - Tuka

Russians are exhausting the so-called "reserve fund". Recently it became known Russia has taken from this reserve the penultimate trillion rubles. The country also has "National Welfare Fund," but these assets have already been divided among Putin's closest circle. This money would never get to the real economy and the social sphere. At the same time, Russian "elite" is not going to reconsider and reduce its own consumption. It can only trade territories, which has always been taken away from other people.

Related: Obama warned Trump: Rejection of "One China" policy will have consequences

Today's talks that Russia will never leave Crimea is a guesswork and not more than wishful thinking. The Russian authorities do thoroughly plunder Russia. The next president of Russia (even conditional "liberal" like Alexei Navalny) would rule a ruined country with no economy and foreign exchange reserves. He will have to seek help from the developed countries. That is why annexed Crimea would be a ticket back to the civilized world. Peninsula (perhaps nuclear weapons) will be just exchanged for credits and food.

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