RUSSIAN AND JAPANESE ECONOMIC TIES GROWMarch 20, 2016
This very interesting article was shared by Mr. T.M., and we'll chalk this one up in my "hit" column, at least for the moment. Why the "hit"? We'll get back to that. But first, the article itself:
Ok, so where's the "hit"? Well, there may actually be two hits here. For some time, I've been arguing that Mr. Abe's moves to rearm Japan actually serve two agendas. At the first and most superficial level, they are designed to placate Washington in its "pivot to the Pacific" to counter growing Chinese influence and power. No American pivot to the region can be secure or effective without Japan, the other Asian powerhouse. From simple historical reeasons alone, Japanese rearmament cannot help be be viewed in Beijing with anything else other than trepidation. To be sure, the China of today is not the China of the 1930s. But, for that matter, neither is Japan.
But at a deeper level I've been advancing the idea that Japanese rearmament was, in a certain sense, an inevitability given the American unipolarism of recent years, and the flailing about that the USA has manifested in its foreign policy. In that respect, with e USA increasingly deaf to the wishes of its allies - look at the Russian sanctions and the European chafing under the same - Japanese rearmament would allow Toyko much greater maneuvering room via-a-vis Washington. And there's another factor in play here, one well known to some Japanese, and not so well-known to Americans, and that is the run-up to the Fukushima disaster. It is worth recalling, before that occurred, that the then Japanese government had indicated - yet again - to Washington that it wanted the US base at Okinawa closed. That government was also putting out feelers for a state visit of Emperor Akahito to Beijing, in an effort to begin to patch up the always shaky Sino-Japanese relationship and the bitter memories from World War Two. You'll recall that then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issued a statement to the Japanese government that can be taken as nothing less than a threat: cease and desist from that course, or there would be dire consequences. This episode is remembered in certain quarters in Japan, and some Japanese "alternative researchers" did indeed suggest a connection between the Fukushima disaster and Mr. Gates' warnings. Since that time, of course, that previous government has fallen and Mr. Abe's government now controls the Diet. And now is rearming.
The othter long term factor here is, of course, North Korea, and its "leadership," threatening to rain down nuclear destruction in response to South Korean and American "provocations." For Tokyo, reliance on an increasingly dubious alliance with the USA under such circumstances is intolerable, and while the Japanese may not admit as much publicly and pretend to prefer that the USA continue to function as the umbrella of defense for that nation, privately my guess is that in MITI and the Japanese Defense Ministry, very different thoughts are aired out of the prying eyes of public scrutiny.
But Japanese rearmament serves someone else besides the USA, and that's Russia. While the Sino-Russian partnership is strong and solid, the Kremlin is not so naive to believe that this relationship can remain "unbalanced," particularly with regard to investments in Siberia and Russia's efforts to build up the infrastructure to exploit the vast resources of the region. Imbalance in foreign investments in the region could leave China with a marked influence over it, and over Russian policy. Enter Japan:
Amid the defensive tightening and backdrop of continued G87 drama, of which Japan is a party, relations have remained comparatively hopeful. Trade between Moscow and Tokyo has quadrupled since 2006 with notable cooperation in automotive and construction industries. Of course, energy is still the leading and more natural draw for both parties.
At the end of 2014, Japan led all Asian nations with more than $14 billion in direct investment in the Russian economy – its investments in the oil and gas sector alone more than tripled China’s total contributions. Further, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set a national target to meet more than 40 percent of the country’s oil and gas demand in 2030 with Japanese firms’ equity output. Deeper ties are not simply a matter of if, but when and where.
For Russia and Japan, it's a win-win deal and a natural cooperation; Japan needs energy, and with the Middle East looking increasingly unstable, thanks to American policy and America's "allies" Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Russia is the natural choice. For Russia, Japanese know-how, engineering expertise, and construction giants can help offset Chinese influence. IN this respect, recall just a few weeks ago that Russia was willing to support a Japanese bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and those Russian calls to revisit the UN and restructure it according to current geopolitical realties. Russia would eventually, I suspect, be willing to back a similar move for Germany if the Germans are successful in rejecting the USA's sanctions regime and taking a more realistic approach to the Ukraine.
The real notice that things have changed, and in a direction that Washington cannot want, but which is largely of its making, is this final paragraph:
With the carrot of a potential territorial resolution in hand – and with Tokyo seemingly willing to splinter the U.S. strategy of isolation – Russia is operating from a relative position of strength. Yes, Moscow’s ability to dictate terms remains limited, but a place at the table and foot in the back door will do.
Tokyo is indeed splintering the US policy of attempting to isolate Russia, and Washington has only Washington to blame.
My bet?This one has geopolitical repercussions that will reverberate ...well...just about everywhere. For both Moscow and Tokyo, their ability to bury the hatchet and enter mutually beneficial investments and projects will send huge messages throughout the western Pacific, and Jakarta, Bagkok, Manilla, and even Canberra will be watching closely, for it will indicate Russia's bona fides, and open more doors to Moscow.
This one has geopolitical repercussions that will reverberate particularly in Europe, and even more particularly in Berlin. One may expect that when Frau Merkel's government falls, which now seems all but inevitable, that there will be a huge "rethink" in Germany of that "special relationship" with Washington, and that "rethink" will spill over to Vienna, Prague, The Hague, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Rome, and that's just for starters. And Mr. Putin will be ready, as he has been with Tokyo, to talk some serious business.
See you on the flip side...