Mr. J.S. shared this important story from Russia's Sputnik online magazine, and it's not only a stunner, but it positively compels some high octane speculation:
Merkel Offered Shinzo Abe NATO Membership, Reports Japanese Press
Now, you may have missed this story on the BBC, Deutsche Welle, or other outlets of the western lamestream media, but it absolutely is a stunner. Here's why:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel unexpectedly proposed that Japan join the NATO alliance during a dinner meeting with Japanese Prime Minister last March, The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported
"Shinzo, why not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?" Merkel asked Abe.
"I can convince British Prime Minister Cameron and French President Hollande," she added.
The Yomiuri Shimbun reports that a surprised Abe replied, "Maybe in the future," in the knowledge that Japan is unlikely to join NATO.
"If we join now, our negotiations with Russia will stop," Abe explained, referring to talks between Japan and Russia regarding some of the Kuril Islands, a volcanic archipelago bordering the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean.
Notably, Mr. Abe indicates clearly his reason for rejecting Frau Bundeskanzler's invitation to join NATO, namely, that such a move would upset the delivate negotiations between Abe's Japan and Putin's Russia over outstanding territorial disputes left over from the Second World War. As the Sputnik article notes, the two powers have yet to sign any formal treaty ending the war between them, though obviously, they've long since quit shooting at each other. As I've pointed out in previous blogs, the negotiations are sweeping, since Japan has already indicated that it wants to be involved in building up Russia's infrastructure in Siberia. As I've argued previously, this is Mr. Putin's counterpose to Chinese investment in the region: by balancing the economic interests of the two Asian powerhouses in Siberia, Mr. Putin retains a measure of influence that he would not have if Russia's approach to Siberian development were reliant upon only one of them. That much seems clear. But then there is also the matter, as I have also pointed out, that Russia is willing to sponsor a permanent seat for Japan on the UN security council should the current negotiations prove to be successful.
Nor must we think this has all been a one-sided set of negotiations, for recall that only recently, Japan offered Russia access to its Japan Credit Bureau clearing system, a system in wide use through the western Pacific, a clearing system that is, in effect, the modern Japanese version of its wartime "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere."
Mr. Abe, notably, simply set aside the NATO invitation, pushing it into the subjective future mood and tense.
The real question here is, why did Frau Merkel make the offer, and why did Mr. Abe refuse? Are there other reasons lurking between the surface?
I suspect that there are, and herewith the high octane speculation of the day. I have been arguing for some time that Mr. Abe's rearmament program for Japan is only partially about satisfying Washington's calls for Japan to shoulder a greater share of the mutual defense burdern in the Western Pacific. For Mr. Abe and his advisors, Japan has been playing Washington's tune since the war's end, and that tune has grown increasingly shrill, and dangerous, as the American empire seems to be under increasing scrutiny and pressure. In such circumstances, it ill-behooves Japan's long term interests to rely solely upon Washington to defend Japan, and a strong Japanese military would in the meantime offer a counterpoise to Washtingon, and perhaps even negotiating leverage with Washington.
For the power brokers of the west, however, looking at all these developments, it can only appear that Japan is beginning to embark on an increasingly independent course of action - an inevitability - and that, faced with growing Japanese power, they would seek to hem it in, and channel back into, and under, western influence. Enter NATO, for after all, it was Zbgnw Brzznsk, the voweless Pole, and national security guru, who told us in his The Grand Chessboard, that NATO was as much about hemming in German power as it was about containing the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. And if it worked that way for Germany, it could conceivable work that way for Japan. Hence, Merkel's offer.
And Mr. Abe has said a polite "no thank you."
And that means, for now and the foreseeable future, we're going to see an increasingly independent Japan, and the cost of continued cooperation with that Asian powerhouse just went up...
See you on the flip side...