JAPAN’s INDEPENDENT AGENDA WITH RUSSIAJune 21, 2016
This has been a heavy geopolitical week of news, to be expected, I suppose, given our heavy concentration in recent weeks on more technologically related news. Yesterday, you'll recall, I blogged about the very important story of German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier's break with the official Washington-NATO Russian-and-Putin-are-Evil and the whole "neo-Stalinist" views of Mr. Putin's Russia that seem to infect the western narrative, especially since the US-sponsored coup in Kiev. What always amuses me about these narratives, and the people who uncritically accept them, is that a short and brief comparison of Mr. Putin with the apparatchiks of yesteryear will reveal the farce; whatever Mr. Putin's qualities as an oligarch or former KGB operative or whatever else may be hurled at him, my mind has difficulty comparing him to the "suave sophisticates " of a sleeze pot like Brezhnev, of an "ebullient" bon vivant like Yuri Andropov... My mind just can't see these socialist boyars of the Soviet Union ever hosting hours' long question and answer sessions with the Russian people like Mr. Putin has. And you'll note something about those sessions: the questions are sincere, intelligent, and far beyond their equivalents in substance in the West, and Mr. Putin manages to answer them ex tempore and ad libitum, without needing a teleprompter to sound articulate and intelligent.
So, sin spite of the narrative, and whatever the risks, Herr Steinmeier called a halt to the "stomping of boots" and the US-fed and led "official narrative", and pointed the finger of accusation for aggression, not at Mr. putin, but at NATO, and therefore, at Washington.
Well, as I and others have been pointing out, apparently the narrative isnt playing to well in Tokyo either (hmm... Berlin and Tokyo... I'm sensing a bit of deja vu here, but I don't know why...).
I have blogged about Mr. Abe's direction in foreign policy, especially vis-a-vis Russia, before, and advanced the idea back then that Japanese rearmament was as much about long-term Japanese realizations that the American empire is faltering, and its need to be able to counter-balance growing Chinese influence and military potential, as about anything else. But I also offered the view that recent Russo-Japanese talks are as much about Russia securing Japanese finance for its Siberian infrastructure projects, as a means of counterbalancing Chinese influence in the vast Russian Siberian oblasts, as anything else. But this new article also contains some new interpretations of these developments that are worth highlighting. The first is the geopolitics of the Russian-Japanese interests in Siberia:
Additionally, Japan stands to benefit immensely from the proximity of Russia’s vast natural resources, including oil, gas, and rare-earth metals.
These resources, and subsequent Japanese investment in Russia’s Far East, would in fact allow Japan to be more secure. If China ever decided to threaten Japan’s trade in resources from Africa and the Middle East, which traverses the South China Sea, Japan’s economy would be at risk.What is less apparent, however, is Tokyo’s improved bargaining position between both Washington and Moscow. Its position is improved because both the U.S. and Russia realize the true value of having Japan in their corner in order to counter China’s long-term ambitions within the region.
Note the argument here: Japan needs Russia, because Russian energy resources are close to hand, and relatively harder to interdict, than Japan';s current energy-resource lifelines which come from the Middle East, and are dependent on US good will to maintain them for Japan(a lesson the Japanese know from bitter experience prior to World War Two, when the US shut off access to them), and also dependent on Chinese good will. From the Russian point of view, growing Japanese financial development of Russian Siberia would counter-balance China's growing influence there (also due to its financial backing of the development of the region).
The real question both for Japan and Russia is how they will deal with the other regional problem: North Korea, watch for Russo-Japanese-Chinese pressures on that regime to "lilberalize or else", the Chinese in order to maintain their influence in that nation, and the Russians and Japanese in order to remove the major regional destablizer. Watch for North Korea to resist these pressures, and attempt to align itself even more tightly with "global rogue networks".
But there's something else here that I think is quite significant, and accurate, as to what Mr. Abe's goals are:
Japan, seemingly, is aiming for more wiggle room in its alliance with the U.S. Multi-vector foreign policy strategies of other states within the region, primarily India and Vietnam, have been successful precisely because these states have managed to leverage concerns by both the U.S. and Russia regarding China’s rise. ASEAN as a whole, also utilizes this strategy for the same goal. Most crucially, however, neither India nor Vietnam are treaty allies of the U.S. While not suggesting that Japan will revisit its U.S. alliance anytime soon, it is clear that Tokyo is aiming towards its own semi- or “hybrid multi-vector” foreign policy strategy.
With this, I couldn't agree more, for that does indeed seem to be the more immediate and mid-term goals of Mr. Abe's Japan, and rest assured, those goals are not simply those of Mr. Abe's government, they are long-term goals of the Japanese deep state and elite, probably up to and including the imperial household. Put simply, Mr. Abe's Japan, like Frau Merkel's Germany, is playing a double game: over the long term, if necessary, a break with the Washington-led alliance system, but in the meantime in the short to mid-term, a rebuilding of their military machines to leverage a restructuring of that system, and of their roles and influence within it, and if Washington is unwilling to recognize reality and accept the evolution of a genuinely multi--polar alliance system, then the break will inevitably come. And you'll note that both Japan and Germany are playing their status as the "in-between" powers, in between the Russo-Chinese led BRICSA bloc, and the West, very well. What to watch for in this respect?
As I noted before when covering these emerging Russo-Japanese ties, we may look for several things. Already Russia has indicated its willingness to sponsor a permanent Japanese seat on the security council. Whether or not that would get past Chinese opposition remains to be seen, but China could easily "pull a fast one" and ssupport the idea, leaving any vetos to be played by Washington, which, if it did, would reveal it to be not quite the friend of Japan it claims to be. Much more importantly than a UN Security council seat, however, are those growing Russo-Japanese collaborative efforts in international financial clearing. Recall only that Japan two years ago allowed Russian use and entry into its Pacific JCB clearing system. Watch for these efforts to expand and continue, with both nations building out parallel clearing systems and thus building redundancy into the global systems of international financial clearing. This will mean, in effect, that both nations will individually increase their space-based assets(as we see them doing) and perhaps developing collaborative efforts in doing so. Most importantly, watch for growing Russian andd Japanese overtures to regional powers in the Pacific such as Indonesia.
See you on the flip side...