Ukraine Crisis: Japan should take a cautious approach towards Russia based on geopolitics

Ukraine Crisis: Japan should take a cautious approach towards Russia based on geopolitics

Noriko Watanabe and Joachim de Villiers

Modern Tokyo Times


Japan should not pander to America by following a negative tone towards the Russian Federation over ongoing events in the Crimea and Ukraine in general. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must focus on the geopolitical concerns of Japan and given negative developments with China, North Korea, and South Korea; then a positive relationship with the Russian Federation is essential. Indeed, it is known that Abe and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation have a favorable relationship. Therefore, Abe should adopt a cautious approach and become a honest broker between all interested parties.

Abe made it known that he will notify Putin that Japan will adopt a policy in line with the European Union (EU) and America. Yet, while Japan doesn’t want to be the odd nation out of the G-7 in taking an anti-Russian Federation approach based on Western intrigues; it is also clear that his comments were mild in comparison. Also, with Japan having tense relations with other regional nations then it isn’t in the interest of Japan to add the Russian Federation to the negative list.

On top of this, energy developments between Japan and the Russian Federation have enormous potential and the same applies to other economic areas. This reality can’t be ignored by political elites in Tokyo.

Lee Jay Walker at Modern Tokyo Times says: “Abe will loathe to take a strong stance against the Russian Federation because of the geopolitical reality of Northeast Asia. Also, the diplomatic approach taken by the Russian Federation to various territorial disputes involving Japan is welcomed. Indeed, it is noticeable that the territorial dispute involving the Russian Federation and Japan is much more milder in comparison with negative relations with China and South Korea. The energy issue linking the Russian Far East and Northern Japan is also of major concern for political elites in Tokyo. Similarly, it is abundantly clear that the Russian Federation carries enormous clout in Central Asia alongside favorable relations with China, India and Vietnam. Therefore, with the Crimea issue and Ukraine in general being distant from Japan, it is essential that Abe takes a cautious approach based on diplomacy and vested interests.”

Abe stated: “Japan, the United States and the EU will work together in order to solve the crisis peacefully through diplomacy.”

Of course, the Russian Federation understands the special relationship between America and Japan. Despite this, it is clear that Japan and the Russian Far East exist within the same geopolitical space when applied to the Sea of Japan and the territorial dispute between both nations. This reality means that Japan must weigh up all options carefully and given the complexity of the crisis then diplomacy and a low profile are the best options for Abe.

Lee Jay Walker says: “Events in Crimea and throughout the Ukraine are extremely complex and of course Western intrigues and mass propaganda are also muddying the water. Japan therefore must not fall into any trap laid by America and the EU. It may well be that Japan outwardly nods but this should be done with great caution and with consideration towards the self-interests of Japan. Similarly, political elites in Tokyo need to focus on recent positive developments between Japan and the Russian Federation.  In other words, Ukraine isn’t a geopolitical concern nor does this nation carry any political weight in relation to the ongoing tensions throughout Northeast Asia.”

Of course, the special relationship between America and Japan will continue to be the cornerstone for Japan and this will apply for the foreseeable future. Despite this, the Russian Federation is also a major power and if Moscow became a strategic ally of Japan then this would help Japan in relation to energy, politics and military issues throughout Northeast Asia. Therefore, while America may be the “cornerstone” it is clear that Japan needs a more balanced approach and clearly the Russian Federation is of strategic significance for Japan.

Lee Jay Walker gave guidance to both writers

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