Special Forum Issue

“Revisiting Russia's "Turn to the East" amid the Ukraine War”

Russia “Turns to the East” yet away from Japan (2012-2022)


On March 7 2022, the Russian government included Japan in an official list of countries and regions labelled as “unfriendly.” This was followed on March 21 by the announcement that Russia had suspended talks on a bilateral peace treaty, which has yet to be signed since the end of the Second World War. These measures were retaliation against Tokyo’s introduction of sanctions in response to Russian aggression against Ukraine. Yet, as this article demonstrates by assessing the last decade of relations, Moscow’s policy toward Japan had already hardened long before the invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. This helps explain Japan’s uncharacteristically tough response to the invasion. Since there was relatively little to be lost in terms of bilateral relations, the Japanese government was emboldened to join Western partners in introducing punitive sanctions.

The Japanese shift, however, was not solely due to the hardening of Russia’s position. A fundamental reassessment of Japan’s posture toward great power relations was taking place, accelerated by three developments prior to the 2022 war. First, personnel changes were notable in the eclipse of the boosters of a soft approach toward China (led by Nikai Toshihiro, secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party from 2016 to 2021) or Russia (led by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo with Imai Takaya, special advisor to the prime minister). Second, the illusion that Russia could be lured away from China finally collapsed, given striking developments in their bilateral relationship, including joint Russia-China military drills in the vicinity of Japan. Finally, the extraordinary level of trust that quickly developed between the Biden administration and Japan’s leadership in 2021 and early 2022 smoothed the way to close coordination in response to the Ukraine war.

From the time of the APEC summit in Vladivostok in 2012, Russia began to place greater emphasis on its recently announced “Turn to the East.” It was inevitable that relations with China would take priority within this policy, yet to avoid the “Turn to the East” becoming simply a “turn to China” it was essential for Russia to develop relations with other East Asian countries. In this regard, Japan, as East Asia’s second-largest economic power, initially seemed the obvious choice. This appeared to be on Vladimir Putin’s mind when, ahead of his return to the presidency in May 2012, he indicated an eagerness to settle the peace treaty issue with Japan. He even made use of the Japanese terminology he knows from judo when stating: “When I become president, we will gather our foreign minister on one side and the Japanese minister on the other and give them a command—hajime [start].”1 Particular excitement was generated in Tokyo when the president-elect spoke of settling the countries’ longstanding territorial dispute by means of a “hikiwake,” meaning a draw in Japanese.2 This was taken by many as a sign that Putin was willing to return two of the four Southern Kuril islands, which were seized by the Soviet Union in 1945 but continue to be claimed by Japan as its Northern Territories.

During the first years after Putin’s comments, there was certainly a new energy to Russia-Japan relations. This owed much to Abe Shinzo, who returned as prime minister in December 2012 and enthusiastically embraced the agenda of building closer relations with Russia. However, looking back over the decade that has now passed since Putin’s call for a new start, it is clear that, even before the invasion of Ukraine, bilateral relations had not become markedly better. Indeed, economic ties continued to underwhelm, political frictions were recurrent, and security tensions were increasing. Hopes of resolving the territorial dispute had also evaporated well before Russia formally suspended the peace treaty talks.

This article therefore explores why it is that, despite Moscow’s apparent intentions in 2012, the subsequent decade witnessed, not a turn towards Japan by Russia, but a turn away. It begins by describing the progression of bilateral relations during this period. This extends from Abe’s warm reception in Moscow in April 2013, when the sides discussed a strategic partnership, to the chill of January 2022, by which time the Russian president and Japanese prime minister had not met for well over two years and held only one phone call in the entirety of 2021.

To explain this pre-invasion shift in Russian thinking, I stress four main points: (1) The negative impact that the deterioration of Russia-US relations has had on ties between Moscow and Tokyo; (2) Russian disappointment at the scale of economic cooperation offered by Japan; (3) Russia’s increased closeness to China, including alignment on issues of historical memory in East Asia; and (4) Moscow’s perception of Japanese unreliability due to changes in Tokyo’s attitude towards Russia following Abe Shinzo’s departure from office in September 2020.

Having analyzed the relationship in years preceding 2022, the essay turns finally to explaining the unprecedented steps that Japan has taken in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The article concludes by arguing that, since Russia’s turn away from Japan preceded the invasion of Ukraine, irrespective of the outcome of that conflict, there is little prospect of a swift revival in Japan-Russia bilateral relations.

From “hikiwake” to a constitutional ban on territorial concessions

The Russian government would no doubt insist that it remained committed to developing close relations with Japan until Tokyo took the “unfriendly” step of introducing sanctions. Moscow might point to the New Year message sent by Putin to his Japanese counterpart in December 2021 in which the Russian leader “reaffirmed his commitment to further contacts with Kishida Fumio [who took over as Japanese prime minister in October 2021] and expressed confidence that the constructive development of Russia-Japan cooperation would accord with the interests of the peoples of Russia and Japan, and would contribute to regional stability and security.”3 Yet, while this is the public position, the reality is that Russia’s attitude towards Japan has become considerably less accommodating since 2012. This shift can be illustrated by dividing the years from 2012 to 2022 into distinct time periods.

The first time period began in March 2012 with Putin’s positive talk and lasted until March 2014. The most important development during these two years was Abe’s trip to Moscow in April 2013, the first official visit to Russia by a Japanese prime minister since Koizumi Junichiro traveled to the Russian capital in January 2003. The visit had emotional significance for Abe, enabling him to visit the Botanical Garden of the Russian Academy of Sciences to view the cherry blossom tree his late father, Abe Shintaro, had planted when visiting as foreign minister in May 1986. However, the visit was also substantive. Most notable was a new framework for the relationship in a joint statement “on the development of a Japan-Russia partnership.” Among the points included was a commitment to regular reciprocal visits by the leaders and foreign ministers. The document also acknowledged that the absence of a peace treaty so many years after the Second World War was “abnormal” and stated that this should be resolved by means of “a mutually acceptable solution.”4

Even more strikingly, the joint statement announced the establishment of “2+2” talks between Russia and Japan, meaning between defense and foreign ministers. This is a format that is usually reserved for a country’s closest security partners. The first of these was duly held in Tokyo in November 2013. One month later, Japan issued its national security strategy (NSS) in which Russia is described, not as a source of concern, but rather as a partner with whom “it is critical for Japan to advance cooperation… in all areas, including security and energy, thereby enhancing bilateral relations as a whole, in order to ensure its security.”5

At this time, economic relations were also on a positive trajectory, with total bilateral trade turnover reaching an all-time high of $33.2 billion in 2013.6 The summit in April also featured an agreement between the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation on the creation of a joint investment fund for financing projects within Russia. Further agreements were signed in relation to the energy sector, including a memorandum of understanding between Russia’s state-controlled Rosneft and Mitsui & Co.

The positive trend endured into 2014. Even as other world leaders stayed away from the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics in February due to concerns over human rights within Russia, Abe was cheerfully in attendance. There were also plans for Putin to visit Japan later in the year. This all came to an abrupt halt with Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March. As G7 members condemned Moscow’s “illegal” actions and began to introduce a series of sanctions, Tokyo came under pressure to follow suit. The measures introduced by Japan were deliberately weak and were described by one expert as “having no content.”7  Still, with Western partners taking a strong stance, Abe, no matter what his own wishes, had no option but to postpone high-level engagement. The crisis over Crimea thereby ended this first period of post-2012 relations between Russia and Japan.

The period of inactivity that followed lasted until the start of 2016 when Abe evidently judged that sufficient time had elapsed to allow energetic re-engagement. He was advised against doing so by Barack Obama in a February phone call, but Abe, perhaps having assessed that the outgoing US president was a lame duck, ignored the suggestion and returned to Sochi in May.8 This meeting proved to be one of the most significant of the 27 that Abe and Putin ultimately amassed. It was here that they agreed to a “new approach” to the peace treaty issue.9 As became clear later, this entailed Abe focusing on just two of the four disputed islands, the return of which Putin had appeared to offer in his “hikiwake” comment. To incentivize the Russian side to fulfil this apparent promise, the Japanese government also presented an 8-point economic cooperation plan, whose implementation would be overseen by a new cabinet position of minister for economic cooperation with Russia.10

Relations gathered momentum with Abe’s reception as guest of honor at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September. There, the Japanese leader treated his hosts to a remarkable speech in which he enthused about a future in which “the sparkle of Vladivostok will light up even the farthest reaches of the Pacific Ocean and give rise to enormous synergistic effects.” He also promised to return to Vladivostok each year, and invited the Russian leader to join him in “occasionally enter[ing] the virgin taiga forest, get enveloped in the sunlight filtering through the trees …, and together consider what kind of relations Japan and Russia must have 20 or 30 years into the future.”11 With Abe’s speech enthusiastically received by the Russian audience, it may have seemed to some in Tokyo that Japan could become the focal point of Russia’s “Turn to the East.”

With Abe already having visited Russia on five occasions since returning to office, it was Putin’s turn to reciprocate. He did so by travelling to Yamaguchi, the prime minister’s home prefecture, for a relaxed “no ties” summit in December 2016. The main result of this meeting, as well as the more formal discussions that followed in Tokyo, was an agreement to begin talks on conducting joint economic activities on the disputed islands.12 From the Japanese government’s point of view, this was an opportunity to re-establish at least some form of Japanese presence on the islands seven decades after the Soviet Union’s expulsion of the Japanese population. Yet, the hyperbole in advance of this visit, which included the claim that the sides might agree to share sovereignty over the islands on the model of Vanuatu, indicated that Russia had led Abe to expect a breakthrough rather than this vague plan.13 When these exaggerated hopes came to nothing, many in Japan detected a serious loss of Russian interest.

For the next two years, this political dynamic continued, with regular summits at which Abe and Putin made a show of close personal relations by calling each other “Vladimir” and “Shinzo,” as actual progress stalled, e.g. on a legal framework for joint economic activities The impasse appeared to be broken in the Singapore meeting of November 2018 at which, on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit, the Russian and Japanese leaders agreed “to accelerate negotiations on a peace treaty based on the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration of 1956.”14 The significance of this statement might not be immediately apparent, but it marked a major shift in the focus of the talks. Prior to that point, the Japanese governments had insisted that the basis for discussions were agreements, such as the Tokyo Declaration (1993), that state that all four of the disputed islands are the subject of the negotiations.15 By contrast, the Joint Declaration of 1956 mentions only the two smaller islands, but features the commitment by Moscow that it “agrees to hand over to Japan the Habomai Islands and the island of Shikotan. However, the actual handing over of these islands to Japan shall take place after the conclusion of a peace treaty.”16 On reflection, Abe described this Singapore summit as his most memorable meeting with Putin.17

As 2019 dawned, it seemed to some in Japan that Russia and Japan were on the cusp of a breakthrough that would mark the completion of the process set in motion by Putin’s comments in March 2012. The Abe administration hoped that this would deliver at least the two smaller islands of Shikotan and the Habomais, plus joint economic projects on the larger islands of Iturup and Kunashir. This would have fulfilled Abe’s ambition of achieving a final settlement of postwar issues and ending the “abnormal” situation across Japan’s northern frontier. However, what actually was observed from 2019 was a progressive hardening in Russia’s stance. This was already apparent in January when the Russian foreign ministry summoned ambassador Kozuki Toyohisa to condemn the Japanese leadership for recent statements that, according to Moscow, “grossly distort” the truth and “mislead the public” with regard to the peace treaty talks. The Russian side was especially aggrieved about Tokyo’s references to “the transfer of the ownership of the islands to Japan.”18 This criticism was unfair since, as noted, the 1956 Joint Declaration does explicitly envisage the handover of territory.

Relations did not break down entirely, and there were still some positive developments, including a summit in June 2019 that was organized to coincide with Putin’s visit to Japan for the G20 Summit in Osaka. However, the atmosphere had clearly cooled, with Putin stating that the “tempo has been lost” in peace treaty talks.19 The Russian side also began to insist increasingly strongly that, before any serious discussion of the status of the islands could begin, Japan needs to recognize the results of the Second World War, including Russia’s right to sovereignty over all of the islands acquired by the Soviet Union at the end of that conflict. This is tantamount to demanding that Tokyo acknowledge that its seven decades of claims to the islands have been entirely without foundation. Equally impossible was the Russian foreign ministry’s demand that the provisions of the 1956 Joint Declaration (that is, the transfer of two islands to Japan after the signing of a peace treaty) could “only be implemented in full, in the context of the termination of the U.S. military presence on Japanese territory.”20 Abe still traveled to Vladivostok for the Eastern Economic Forum in September that year, but Putin made a point of embarrassing him. The Russian leader did this by using the forum to preside (via video link) over the opening ceremony for a new fish processing plant on Shikotan. In other words, at the same time as hosting Abe in Vladivostok, Putin publicly celebrated the development of Russian infrastructure on an island claimed by Japan and which Moscow has supposedly committed to handing over after a peace treaty is signed.21

Other indicators also pointed towards a less-compromising Russian attitude. For instance, talks about joint economic projects on the disputed islands went nowhere as Moscow insisted that any investments would have to be consistent with Russian law. Japan, by contrast, had hoped for the creation of a special legal jurisdiction that would avoid any tacit acknowledgment of Russian sovereignty. To make matters worse, when Tokyo refused to proceed with investments on the Russian government’s terms, Moscow announced the creation of an expanded special tax-free zone on the disputed islands that will operate under Russian law and to which third countries, such as South Korea and China, are also invited to contribute.22

Perhaps most worrying of all is that, from 2019, Russia stepped up military cooperation with China in the vicinity of Japan. In July of that year, Russian and Chinese strategic bombers conducted their first joint air patrol over the Sea of Japan and East China Sea. Those exercises concluded with a Russian A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft violating Japanese-claimed airspace over Takeshima (Dokdo in Korean). These joint air patrols were then repeated in December 2020 and November 2021.23 Sino-Russian naval cooperation also began to look more threatening. Specifically, in October 2021, 5 Russian and 5 Chinese warships conducted their countries’ first joint transit of the Tsugaru Strait that separates Honshu from Hokkaido. These vessels then proceeded to track the Japanese coastline and to make an almost complete circuit of the main Japanese islands.24

There is, therefore, no question that Russia’s attitude towards Japan had shifted markedly since Putin’s seductive talk of “hajime” and “hikiwake” in 2012. This was demonstrated conclusively by the Putin administration’s decision to revise the Russian constitution in July 2020.25 The main purpose of these changes was to give Putin the option of remaining in power until 2036. However, an additional line was added to Article 67 specifying that: “Actions … directed towards the alienation of part of the territory of the Russian Federation, and also calls for such actions, are not allowed.” It is true that exceptions are permitted for “delimitation, demarcation, and re-demarcation of the state border,” yet the head of the State Duma Committee on State Building and Legislation Pavel Krasheninnikov has clarified that this provision is just for technical matters, stating “Here, there can be no talk about any islands, about any territories.”26 Consequently, in the words of Russian senator Aleksei Pushkov, following this, “the prospects of Moscow renouncing sovereignty over the Southern Kurils is now, in my opinion, equal to zero.”27 For Abe, who had made relations with Russia a centerpiece of his foreign policy, this was a painful slap in the face.

Explaining Russia’s tougher stance

To summarize, Russia’s relations with Japan between 2012 and the 2022 invasion of Ukraine can be divided into four periods:

  • A honeymoon that began with Putin’s “hikiwake” comments in March 2012;
  • A temporary estrangement that followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014;
  • A “new approach” that commenced with Abe’s visit to Sochi in May 2016 and culminated in the Singapore agreement of November 2018;
  • And, finally, a period of increasingly acrimonious relations that started in January 2019.

To explain the failure of Russia’s “Turn to the East” to lead to improved relations with Japan, even before the invasion, I focus on Russian thinking during this decade. Although this is only one side of the dyad, it is here that we find the main explanations for the change, not least because, on the Japanese side, Abe, who was in power from December 2012 to September 2020, remained unshakeable in his commitment to developing close relations with Putin’s Russia. By contrast, within Moscow, we find a growing sense of disillusionment regarding what can be gained through relations with Japan.

Relations with Japan held “hostage” by the United States

Putin’s initial emphasis on relations with Japan was certainly informed by economic considerations—about which more follows in the next section—yet it was also about geopolitics. Moscow makes no secret of its opposition to the “bloc-based” security system that the United States maintains in East Asia through its network of alliances. In the view of the Russian government, these alliances might create security for the participating countries, but they come at the expense of the security of those who are left out. For this reason, Moscow has long advocated what it describes in its official foreign policy concept as “an inclusive, open, transparent and equitable collective security and cooperation architecture in Asia-Pacific.”28 With a view to achieving this, the Kremlin wants to encourage Japan, as Washington’s most important ally in East Asia, to distance itself from the United States. 

There is, of course, nothing new in Moscow’s opposition to the Japan-US alliance. In fact, it was the Soviet Union’s hope of drawing Japan away from the United States that prompted General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev to offer the transfer of two islands in the 1956 Joint Declaration. This promise was then rescinded after Japan agreed to a revised security treaty with the United States in 1960. Moscow, at the time, complained angrily in a memorandum that “this treaty actually deprives Japan of independence.” The official note added that “This situation makes it impossible for the Soviet Government to fulfill its promises to return the islands of Habomai and Shikotan to Japan.”29 Moscow therefore has a history of using the territorial dispute as an instrument with which to influence Japan’s relationship with the United States.

Such thoughts likely shaped Putin’s decision to raise the prospect of a transfer of territory to Japan via his “hikiwake” comments in 2012. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has, for instance, been explicit about the Russian government’s desire “to cooperate more closely in foreign policy affairs and see a more independent Japan.”30 Sergei Naryshkin, the director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, has also spoken of his belief that “Japan should be a neutral country,” and he listed Switzerland, Austria, and Sweden as possible models.31 However, if the underlying aim of Putin’s initially positive stance towards Japan was to drive a wedge between Tokyo and Washington, he was to be disappointed.

In November 2018, Abe is reported to have reassured Putin that, in the event of the transfer of Shikotan and the Habomais to Japan, he would not consent to US forces being stationed there.32 This was a minor victory for Moscow since it indicated a willingness on the part of the Abe administration to place restrictions on the application of the US-Japan Security Treaty, whose article 6 affirms that “the United States of America is granted the use by its land, air and naval forces of facilities and areas in Japan.”33 Overall, however, the decade from 2012 witnessed the continued strengthening of the alliance. Indeed, bilateral relations even emerged unscathed from four years of “America First” nationalism during which President Donald Trump repeatedly questioned the value of the US network of alliances.

The most telling moment from Moscow’s perspective was Japan’s response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014. At the time, Abe did not show any genuine concern for Ukraine’s plight. Indeed, the Western response was an inconvenience since it obstructed Japan’s relations with Russia and hindered Abe’s courtship of Putin, whom the Japanese leader described as someone who is “dear to me as a partner.”34 Furthermore, Suzuki Muneo, a veteran politician who was a key advisor to Abe on Russia policy, argued against sanctions and even proposed that Japan officially recognize Russia’s claim to Crimea in exchange for a deal to resolve the status of the Northern Territories.35

And yet, Abe’s government, under pressure from G7 partners, did ultimately introduce sanctions on Russia and pause high-level interactions. In doing so, Tokyo hoped to maintain a balance. On the one hand, they sought to keep Western governments satisfied by announcing punitive measures against Russia and signing G7 joint statements condemning the Kremlin’s behavior. However, at the same time, Abe’s government signaled its lack of enthusiasm for the policy by ensuring that Japan’s sanctions in 2014 remained purely symbolic and by avoiding any individual (as opposed to G7) criticism of Russian foreign and domestic politics. By doing this, Abe hoped to seamlessly resume his engagement with Putin as soon as a couple of years had passed since the crisis over Crimea.

Superficially, this strategy worked since the sides agreed to a “new approach” to relations in May 2016. Moscow had not, however, forgotten the events of 2014. Rather, they had learned the lesson that, no matter how much a Japanese government professes friendship, when push comes to shove it will always side with the United States. This encouraged the view in Moscow that Japan is really only a semi-sovereign state and cannot be treated as a fully independent actor. It was this disappointment at the failure to encourage Japan to distance itself from Washington, as well as disdain for what was seen as Japanese subservience, that contributed to Russia’s increasingly tough stance towards Japan as the 2010s progressed.

Above all, the perception that they are still dealing with a Japan that cannot say no to Washington led to increased Russian concerns in relation to several security issues. For instance, when responding to a Japanese journalist’s question in December 2018, Putin raised the issue of US military bases in Japan, stating: “This is a closed part that’s not understood by us. We don’t understand the extent of Japan’s sovereignty when making this kind of decision. You know better than other colleagues — and I also know — that the governor of Okinawa is against certain decisions related to the strengthening and expansion of a base. He is against it but can’t do anything. And the people who live there are also against it.”36

Russia also argued forcefully against the deployment of additional US-supplied missile-defense units to Japan. Above all, Moscow stridently opposed the Aegis Ashore system that was due to be deployed in Akita and Yamaguchi, at either end of Honshū, in 2023. The Japanese government argued that this land-based system was needed to provide an extra layer of mid-course defense against incoming missiles from North Korea. However, Moscow saw the system as another component in the expanding US network of global missile defense, which is regarded as primarily directed against Russia’s nuclear deterrent. The Russian leadership also alleged that the Aegis Ashore system was capable of firing ground-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles and would thereby constitute a violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which had not yet been abrogated. Indeed, Lavrov explicitly questioned whether Japan would have independent control over the Aegis Ashore system, saying: “We have heard that supposedly Japan will be the one running the system and that the United States will have nothing to do with it. We have serious doubts that this is true.”37

The Aegis Ashore deployments were ultimately cancelled in June 2020 due to Japanese concerns about the system’s effectiveness and cost, as well as the risk that parts of the missile interceptors could fall to ground within Japan, causing civilian casualties. However, Russian concerns about Japan pliantly agreeing to serve as a launchpad for additional US weapons systems did not subside. Instead, after the United States announced its withdrawal from the INF Treaty in February 2019, Russian complaints increasingly centered on the possibility of Japan agreeing to host ground-launched intermediate-range missiles, which are no longer proscribed. Moscow no doubt understands that any such US deployment in Asia would be directed primarily against China, which, having not been a party to the INF Treaty, has accumulated a vast lead over the United States in this category of weapon. However, Moscow remains anxious that such intermediate-range missiles within Japan could also have sufficient range to strike territory in the Russian Far East. In November 2019, Defense Minister Kono Taro denied that Japan was preparing to host post-INF US missiles, insisting in an interview that “We have not been discussing any of it.”38 However, the Russian side is again unconvinced, with Lavrov alleging that Washington intends to deploy these weapons in Japan and South Korea.39 Putin also insisted that “Japan is positive about the deployment of such weapons systems on its territory.”40

Lastly, Russia is also opposed to Japan’s role in the development of new, US-centered security architecture in the Asia-Pacific. Maria Zakharova, official spokeswoman of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has, for instance, criticized the Free and Open Indo-Pacific concept, which has been heavily promoted by Tokyo, as being “in fact subordinated to one task; that is, to guarantee the narrow, bloc-based interests of its military alliance with Washington.”41 Similarly, Lavrov has condemned the Quadrilateral Strategic Dialogue (Quad), which brings together Japan, the United States, Australia, and India “as part of a US-led ‘persistent, aggressive and devious’ policy intended to ensnare India in its ‘anti-China games.’”42

Furthermore, Moscow objects to the expansion of Japanese security cooperation with European partners, which included the visit to Yokosuka of a British Carrier Strike Group in September 2021. Both the United Kingdom and France are also in talks with Japan on signing Reciprocal Access Agreements, which, as with the deal signed between Japan and Australia in January 2022, would make it easier for the countries’ forces to conduct joint exercises on Japanese territory.43 From Moscow’s perspective, this looks very much like the expansion of NATO’s activities to Russia’s eastern frontiers.

Overall, a decade after Putin’s comments about a new start in Russia-Japan relations, Moscow was left in a state of frustration that, despite its efforts to encourage Tokyo to show more strategic independence, Japan’s relations with the United States and other US allies had become stronger than ever. Indeed, in January 2022, Foreign Minister Lavrov stressed the need to develop Russia-Japan relations so that their prospects are no longer held “hostage” by Japan’s ties with its closest allies.44

In reality, Russia’s hopes of undercutting the Japan-US alliance were always in vain. At a time when Japan felt growing threats from China and North Korea, it was inconceivable Japan would do as Russia sought. Indeed, Russia’s tactics worked against its broader strategy. Putin opted repeatedly over the decade to put military pressure on Japan by militarizing the disputed islands, selling more advanced weapons to China and joining it in military maneuvers. This heightened Japanese insecurity, thus ensuring that Japanese policymakers clung even more firmly to the US alliance.

Smart traffic lights and not much else

The main factor explaining Russia’s pre-invasion loss of enthusiasm for relations with Japan was therefore Tokyo’s unshakeable commitment to the US alliance at a time when Moscow already identified the US as an adversary in a new cold war, which Putin was preparing to turn into a hot war. In a triangular context, this meant a sharp tilt to China, which also left no room for Japan. However, other factors also contributed to Moscow’s sense of dissatisfaction. The first of these is economic.

Proponents of closer Japan-Russia relations have long argued that bilateral economic relations have plenty of unfulfilled potential. This is based on the judgement that the economies are complementary, with Russia being well-endowed with natural resources yet lacking high-tech investment, and Japan being just the opposite. There is also the consideration of geographic proximity, with just 45km separating Sakhalin from Hokkaido. Added to this, there was the prospect that intensified economic relations with Japan could prevent Russia from becoming overly dependent on resource exports to China. Moreover, it was hoped that Japan could contribute to the economic development of the Russian Far East, which Putin famously described in 2013 as “our national priority for the entire 21st century.”45

Initially, this optimism appeared justified as Abe enthusiastically supported closer economic ties. His calculation was that, by giving the Russian side a taste of what enhanced economic cooperation with Japan could deliver, Moscow could be induced to give ground on the territorial dispute in order to secure a peace treaty. It was with this in mind that Abe unveiled the 8-point economic cooperation plan in May 2016. Specifically, this promised enhanced cooperation in the areas of: “(1) Extending healthy life expectancies, (2) developing comfortable and clean cities easy to reside and live in, (3) fundamentally expansion medium-sized and small companies exchange and cooperation, (4) energy, (5) promoting industrial diversification and enhancing productivity in Russia, (6) developing industries and export bases in the Far East, (7) cooperation on cutting-edge technologies, and (8) fundamentally expansion of people-to-people interaction.”46

To oversee implementation, the Abe government created the position of minister for economic cooperation with Russia, the only cabinet-level post that specifically prioritizes relations with a named country. Moreover, as the main cheerleader for this plan, Abe kept his promise of returning to Vladivostok each year to attend the Eastern Economic Forum, where he added further hyperbole about “a brilliant future in which Japan-Russia relations will have brought their latent potential fully into bloom.”47

However, there proved to be a serious mismatch between the types of projects emphasized by Japan and those most desired by the Kremlin. On the Japanese side, priority was given to the first two points in the 8-point plan; that is, improving Russian health care and regenerating the urban environment of Russian cities. Abe himself explained that “What we chose were fields directly connected with the daily lives of individual citizens living in Russia.”48 When addressing the audience at the Eastern Economic Forum in 2017, the Japanese leader, therefore, emphasized small-scale practical projects, including assisting in the treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis, repairing the sewage system in Voronezh, and introducing a pilot scheme for smart traffic lights. These projects had the merit of offering quick, tangible benefits to ordinary Russians, which, it was hoped, would encourage a more positive view of Japan and a more accepting attitude towards territorial concessions. There was the added benefit that these small-scale schemes did not risk large quantities of Japanese taxpayers’ money.

Yet, whatever these projects’ real merit, they were looked upon by Russian officials as little more than chicken feed. One senior Russian diplomat described them as merely an “imitation of cooperation.”49 What the Russian leadership really wanted was multi-billion-dollar energy and infrastructure projects. For instance, in September 2017, Putin spoke with excitement about a plan to create a bridge from the Russian mainland to Sakhalin and another from Sakhalin to Hokkaido as “a project of an absolutely planetary scale.”50 Such mega projects have the advantage of creating visible manifestations of the Russian government’s achievements, but they also generate lucrative contracts for favored Russian firms and their oligarch owners. By contrast, the micro projects promoted by Japan offered few such opportunities. There was also a sense on the Russian side that it was rather beneath the dignity of a national leader to be singing the praises of something so mundane as technology for repairing sewage pipes or reducing traffic jams.

The one major exception in terms of economic cooperation was the agreement, finalized in 2019, for a Japanese consortium to take a 10% stake in Russia’s Arctic LNG-2, a vast gas project controlled by Russia’s Novatek. This is certainly a sizeable investment, with the stake worth at least $2 billion. Yet, this project also demonstrates the hesitation of Japanese private firms to commit to major investments in Russia. The Abe government strongly urged both Mitsui & Co and Mitsubishi Corp to invest in Arctic LNG-2, which was seen as useful in diversifying Japan’s energy imports. However, the firms were understandably concerned about the risk of future US sanctions on the Russian energy industry, and ultimately only Mitsui & Co proceeded with the investment. Moreover, Mitsui & Co agreed to do so only after JOGMEC, the Japanese state-owned resource company, conceded to financing 75% of the stake, thereby breaking its usual rule of funding up to 50% of a project.51 Arctic LNG-2 was, therefore, not the start of a flood of large-scale Japanese investment, but rather the high-water mark. Moreover, with G7 members scrambling to reduce dependence on Russian energy following the invasion of Ukraine, this project also looks like a historic mistake.

Overall, the Japanese government committed the fault of overpromising and under-delivering. Indeed, in the decade after 2012, total bilateral trade between Japan and Russia declined. Having reached an all-time-high of $33.2 billion in 2013, it was a mere $20.8 billion in 2021.52 Economic cooperation is now going into reverse as Japan applies sanctions, yet, even before this occurred, the Japanese government’s preference for small-scale projects and the Japanese private sector’s concerns about political and economic risk held back trade and investment. Moscow’s hopes that Japan would play a leading role in financing the development of Siberia and the Russian Far East had, therefore, already evaporated before Tokyo’s introduction of sanctions in 2022.

Japan’s overall disinterest in investments was understood even in Russia as a reflection of a poor investment environment. Even Chinese firms balked, although some megaprojects were inked given state energy interests. Some hopes had been raised at the time of the 2012 APEC summit in Vladivostok for “modernization” of the Russian economy with clear priority for the Russian Far East. Some special economic zones were created, yet Japanese firms soon discovered that Putin had no intention of tackling the corruption and enforcing the legal protections that would create a genuinely positive environment. Without commitments to major projects, Putin lost interest in pursuing Japanese investment.

Alignment of Russia with China on issues of historical memory

A third factor that explains Russia’s gradual turn away from Japan in recent years is Moscow’s increased closeness to China. The military aspects of this relationship, including regular exercises in the vicinity of Japan, have already been mentioned. There is also the consideration that, as China’s economy has become more technologically sophisticated, Chinese firms have become prospective partners in areas where Russian companies might once have looked towards Japan. Less frequently noted is the growing alignment between Moscow and Beijing on issues of historical memory. The Chinese Communist Party has, of course, long found political value in highlighting atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army during the 1930s and 1940s, as well as in alleging that the Japanese government has failed to accept responsibility. In recent years, Moscow has begun to echo some of Beijing’s language in this area, as well as to accuse Tokyo of contributing to the falsification of the history of the Second World War.

Alexander Baunov suggests that Russia is undergoing “a real shift towards a Chinese approach to history.”53 This applies to domestic politics where, just as the Chinese authorities seek to prevent criticism of Mao’s grave errors, so the Russian state now silences criticism of Stalin. This was evident in the December 2021 decision by the Russian Supreme Court to liquidate Memorial, a human-rights group dedicated to the memory of Stalinist repression. This Sinification of the Russian government’s attitude to history also applies to foreign policy. The Putin administration has always lashed out against individuals and groups in Europe, especially in the Baltic States and Ukraine, who promote a narrative of the Second World War in which the Soviet Union is presented, less as a liberator, and more as an aggressor. What is new is that Moscow’s vehement opposition to any questioning of its chosen history of the war increasingly applies to East Asia too.

A milestone in Russia’s growing alignment with China on historical issues was 2015. The Russian authorities had intended Victory Day in May of that year to be a major international event since it marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. However, since western leaders stayed away due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea a year earlier, Xi Jinping was left as the most prominent world leader to attend. Putin then returned the favor by joining celebrations in Beijing in September 2015 to commemorate the official anniversary of what the Chinese leadership calls the Chinese People’s Victory in the War of Resistance against Japan and the End of World War II. Putin’s attendance was, in his words, intended to honor the memory of the Soviet and Chinese soldiers “who fought shoulder-to-shoulder against militarist Japan.”54 This description is rather a stretch since the Soviet Union had a neutrality pact with Tokyo for most of the war and only joined the conflict against Japan on August 8, 1945, just one week before the announcement of Japan’s surrender. Aside from this rhetoric about fighting side-by-side, another sign of Russia and China’s increased closeness on historical memory was the Kremlin’s decision in 2020 to change the official date on which Russia marks the end of the Second World War from September 2, which was the date on which the Allied powers, including the Soviet Union, signed the official instrument of surrender with Japan in 1945, to September 3, which is the date on which the Chinese Communist Party marks the end of the conflict. Furthermore, history featured in the joint statement of 4 February 2022, in which Russia and China announced that their friendship has “no limits.” Specifically, this statement affirms that: “The sides intend to strongly uphold the outcomes of the Second World War and the existing post-war world order, defend the authority of the United Nations and justice in international relations, resist attempts to deny, distort, and falsify the history of the Second World War.”55

Not coincidentally, as Russia’s view of the war in East Asia has become closer to that of China, Moscow’s criticism of Japan has intensified. For instance, in May 2019, a group of 7 Duma deputies undertook a seven-day research trip to the Kuril Islands to commemorate their “liberation” from Japanese militarism.56 Similarly, in 2020, the Russian Central Bank issued a special coin in memory of the “liberators of the Kurils.” This is an interesting choice of language since the islands had not been militarily seized by Japan. Instead, the southernmost islands of the archipelago had always been under Japan’s control, while the remainder of the chain was peacefully transferred from Russia to Japan in 1875. Moreover, it is notable that, after the islands’ “liberation” by Soviet forces in 1945, the Japanese population was forcibly expelled.

Moscow has also become much more strident in criticizing what it claims to be Japan’s “falsification” of the history of the Second World War. For instance, when the foreign ministers of Lithuania and Japan issued a joint letter in January 2021 to honor the memory of Sugihara Chiune, the Japanese diplomat credited with saving thousands of Jews from Lithuania in 1940, Maria Zakharova, the chief spokeswoman of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the countries of promoting “a distorted view of the events of World War II.” She added: “In fact, at the time of the events described in Europe, Japan was carrying out open aggression against China, brutally suppressing any resistance (remember the Nanjing Massacre), and tried to test the strength of the Soviet and Mongolian borders.”57 The Russian authorities have also followed China in criticizing Japanese history teaching, alleging, without evidence, that Japanese school textbooks seek to conceal that it was the United States that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. Zakharova has even claimed that “Japanese children do not know who carried out these bombings.” Likewise, Putin has alleged that Japanese school textbooks state with deliberate vagueness that “allied countries” conducted the nuclear attacks.58

The most notable example, however, is the Russian government’s sudden decision to draw attention to the Khabarovsk War Crimes Trial of December 1949, at which the Soviet Union tried 12 members of Japan’s Kwantung Army for their role in the production and use of biological weapons. Specifically, in September 2021, a special forum was held in Khabarovsk, which was attended by several officials and commenced with an introductory message from Putin. Addressing the forum, First Deputy Minister of Education Aleksandr Bugaev called for the crimes of Japanese militarists to receive more attention within the history syllabus at Russian schools.59 To coincide with the event, the FSB also released a selection of previously secret documents, which, they said, provided evidence that Japan was planning to use biological weapons against the Soviet Union during World War II. The FSB further alleged that the declassified files show that Unit 731 of the Kwantung Army conducted medical experiments on Soviet prisoners at the Hogoin camp near Harbin.60

Over the course of several years, Russia has, therefore, fallen into line with China in presenting Japan’s wartime atrocities as a matter of contemporary political importance and in regarding the Japanese government as dominated by unrepentant militarists. Having already promoted this narrative, it was natural for Moscow to portray Japan’s post-invasion support for Ukraine as a manifestation of Japan’s supposed instinct for sympathizing with Nazis. For instance, on February 28, 2022, the official Twitter account of the Russian embassy in Tokyo alleged that “Japan has twice in less than 100 years supported a Nazi regime. One for Hitler’s regime, and now for the Ukrainian regime.”61

Abe’s successors lack his enthusiasm for Russia

The final factor that exacerbated Russia’s growing resentment towards Japan was Abe Shinzo’s departure from office in September 2020. Abe was consistent in his championing of relations with Russia, and he could be relied upon to drag his feet when urged by Western partners to condemn Russian excesses. The same cannot be said of Abe’s successors.

Suga Yoshihide, who replaced Abe and served as prime minister until October 2021, cannot really be said to have had a Russia policy at all.62 This was primarily because the energy of the Suga administration was absorbed by the COVID-19 crisis. However, Suga also seems to have judged that Abe’s assiduous courtship of Putin had brought him nothing but scorn. As a consequence, in the 12 months of Suga’s premiership, the Japanese and Russian leaders only held one phone call. In addition, Suga did not attend the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September 2021, and did not even submit a video message as Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi of India had done. In retaliation, Russian state media propagated the story that the Japanese leader had not been invited.63

Kishida Fumio served as Abe’s foreign minister from 2012 to 2017, and, during this time, he met on multiple occasions with his Russian counterpart. When Kishida took over as prime minister in October 2021, it might, therefore, have been assumed that he would simply replicate Abe’s Russia policy. However, even before the invasion of Ukraine, Kishida showed that he has some ideas of his own. With regard to peace treaty talks, Kishida continued to mention the Abe-Putin agreement that was reached in Singapore in November 2018. However, he strenuously avoided mentioning the 1956 Joint Declaration, opting to emphasize instead that talks must be based on the “various bilateral agreements” reached up until now. Since the 1956 Joint Declaration mentions only two islands, whereas other agreements, including the 1993 Tokyo Declaration, refer to all four, this was the Kishida administration’s way of subtly moving back towards the goal of securing the return of all of the disputed territory.64 Such shifts since Abe left office have caused frustration within the Russian leadership, with Putin himself complaining that Japan has “repeatedly revised its stance.”65

Kishida’s adoption of a tough line toward Russia after the invasion of Ukraine therefore did not represent a break with a cherished policy. Instead, Kishida’s response was in line with his pre-existing reservations about Abe’s policy of rapprochement with Russia. The ease with which this policy shift was executed was a reminder that Russia policy was run by Abe himself and a narrow circle of advisors, who lost influence under his successors. Others, including the Japanese Foreign Ministry and much of the media, were always dissatisfied with Abe’s “new approach” to Russia. Many were critical of the lack of reciprocity and judged that it was unlikely to succeed given the increased closeness of Sino-Russian relations and Putin’s intensifying hostility to the United States. Given this pre-existing opposition to Abe’s policy, the Kishida administration faced little resistance in changing course.

Japan’s sanctions on Russia

As Russia amassed its forces on Ukraine’s borders in early 2022, Kishida reassured Joe Biden that his government would “continue close coordination with the United States, other friendly countries and partners, and the international community on taking strong action against any attack.”66 Some questioned his seriousness given Japan’s record of introducing only token sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and refusal to join Western partners in expelling Russian diplomats following Russia’s use of a nerve agent in the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal in the UK in 2018. However, Kishida’s deeds proved as good as his words.

In the days and weeks following the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Japan joined Western partners in introducing several waves of sanctions. These include personal sanctions on close to 500 Russian individuals, including military leaders, business figures, and politicians. Both Putin himself and his daughters were included. Numerous businesses and organizations have also been targeted, including defense-related firms and the FSB. Moreover, financial sanctions have frozen the assets of Russia’s largest banks, and transactions with the Russian Central Bank have been restricted. Japan has also banned the export of dozens of technical items, such as semiconductors, as well as luxury goods, including expensive vehicles. Several imports from Russia, including alcoholic beverages and lumber products, are now also barred. It is true that Tokyo has so far resisted pressure to divest from oil and gas projects on Sakhalin and in the Russian Arctic. Yet, the Kishida administration has committed to phasing out imports of Russian coal, which accounts for 13% of Japan’s coal imports for power generation.67

Other notable steps include Japan’s provision of $300 million in humanitarian aid for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict. The government has also set aside its usual reluctance to assist parties to a conflict and has supplied non-lethal military equipment to Ukraine, including drones, hazmat suits, and gas masks. This prompted Irina Yarovaya, deputy speaker of the Russian Duma, to accuse Japan of helping “Ukrainian Nazis” to prepare a chemical weapons attack.68  

Most striking of all was Japan’s announcement on April 8 of its decision to expel 8 Russian officials. This is the first time that Japan has demanded the mass expulsion of diplomats from any country. In fact, in Japan’s modern’s history, there were previously only three cases when the government officially requested the withdrawal of a diplomat. According to media reports, the expelled officials were Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover.69  

Japan’s unusually forceful response is partly explained by the egregious nature of Russia’s actions, including claims of the widespread killing of civilians. Yet, some US allies, including South Korea under President Moon Jae-in, remained reluctant to introduce punitive measures against Russia. Other possible explanations include Japan’s fear that a failure to respond with sufficient resolution to Russia’s aggression could embolden China to attempt something similar against Taiwan or the disputed Senkaku Islands and a growing sense of common purpose with the United States and with European states. After all, if Japan failed to join in resisting this attack, would they be keen on supporting Japan in a contingency?

A major factor in Japan’s unusually bold response was also the Japanese government’s sense that it had little to lose by adopting a hard line. In other circumstances, Tokyo would have hesitated to impose sanctions in fear of jeopardizing talks about the territorial and peace treaty issues. Yet, Moscow had already largely extinguished Japanese hopes by revising the Constitution in 2020 to ban territorial concession and by refusing to make the concessions necessary to enable joint economic projects on the disputed islands. The Kishida administration was therefore free to implement sanctions in the knowledge that Russia’s subsequent suspension of peace treaty talks only entailed the cancellation of an already moribund process. This was a foreign policy error by Moscow. A shrewder policy would have been to continue to cultivate Japanese hopes of a territorial deal and thus deter Tokyo from joining Western sanctions.  Given recent developments, however, feigned interest in a deal would have met with tremendous skepticism, unlike in 2014.


The decade from 2012 began with the Russian leadership expressing hope of Japan playing a central role in Russia’s “Turn to the East,” yet ended with Russia turning away from Japan, then Japan imposing tough sanctions after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This article has demonstrated that the downturn in bilateral relations preceded the invasion of Ukraine and was caused by a shift in Moscow’s attitude toward Japan. This change in Russian thinking was primarily driven by the deterioration of Russia-US relations. Additional factors were Moscow’s disappointment at the modest scale of Japan’s economic cooperation, as well as Russia’s increased closeness to China, which encouraged Moscow to echo Beijing’s criticism of Japan over historical issues related to the Second World War. This negative trend was already palpable in 2019. It then became more apparent under Abe’s successors, who were less eager to cultivate friendly relations with Putin. With bilateral relations already in a state of malaise, the Japanese government was emboldened to respond more forcefully to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine than might otherwise have been the case.  

Given this recent history, what predictions can be made about the future of Russia-Japan relations? In the short term, it is highly unlikely that there will be a quick revival in bilateral ties, as occurred two years after the annexation of Crimea. Instead, relations will probably become increasingly confrontational. For instance, in its Diplomatic Bluebook 2022, which was published in April, the Japanese government described the disputed Northern Territories as being “illegally occupied” by Russia, the first time this phrase has been used in this official document since 2003.70 Japan’s national security strategy is also due to be revised by the end of 2022, and much of the positive language from the 2013 version is likely to be removed. Indeed, a committee of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party recommends that the new NSS explicitly describe Russia, not as a partner, but as a “threat” to national security.71

Even in the longer term, the prospects are not good since, as this analysis has demonstrated, Russian thinking about Japan turned negative even at a time when the Japanese government, under Abe, was prioritizing closer relations. A major factor in this was found to be the role of the United States. It was the hope of encouraging Tokyo to show more independence from Washington that informed the Putin administration’s initial desire for engagement in 2012. It was then annoyance at Japan’s alignment with the United States in imposing sanctions (albeit half-hearted ones) in 2014 that clearly soured Moscow’s attitude. The Kremlin’s frustration later grew as the Japanese government eagerly deepened security cooperation with Washington and enthusiastically promoted security architecture, such as the Quad, that is designed to reinforce US power in the Indo-Pacific.

The other factors are subordinate to the impact of US-Russia tensions. Specifically, even before the invasion, Japanese economic engagement with Russia was held back by the poor investment climate and the risk of being caught up in ever-tightening US sanctions. Likewise, Russia’s increased closeness to China intensified with its post-2014 isolation from the West.

Even if we set aside the current war, a fundamental positive shift in Russian thinking about Japan only seems possible in two scenarios. The first would be a major improvement in relations between Russia and the United States since this would render Japan’s close alignment with the US less problematic from Moscow’s perspective. The second would be a significant distancing of Japan from its US ally. Neither of these appear remotely likely. As such, during the next ten years, irrespective of the outcome of the war in Ukraine, it is unlikely that Russia’s continuing “Turn to the East” will feature a significant turn towards Japan. This is a problem for both sides. Japan is left no closer to resolving the territorial dispute. It must also contend with unsettled relations on its northern frontier at a time when it needs to concentrate its attention and security resources on China and North Korea. Meanwhile, for Russia, “a Turn to the East” without Japan cannot be regarded as a success, not least because it leaves Russia overly dependent on China and without a potentially key investment partner for the development of the Russian Far East.

1. “Putin schitaet vozmozhnym reshit’ territorial’nuiu problemu s Iaponiei” RIA Novosti, March 2, 2012.

2. Ishikawa Yōhei, “Pūchin shushō, Hoppōryōdo saishū ketchaku ni iyoku dakyō-ten saguru,” Nikkei, March 2, 2012.

3. Kremlin.ru, “Pozdravlenie glavam gosudarstv i pravitel’stv zarubezhnykh stran s Novym godom,” December 30, 2021.

4. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Nichiro pātonāshippu no hatten ni kansuru Nipponkoku sōri daijin to Roshia renpō daitōryō no kyōdō seimei (shuyō pointo),” April 29, 2013.

5. Cabinet Secretariat, “National Security Strategy,” December 17, 2013.

6. Valdai Discussion Club, “Russia-Japan Trade,” October 25, 2018.

7. Quoted in Wrenn Yennie-Lindgren, “New dynamics in Japan-Russia energy relations 2011-2017,” Journal of Eurasian Studies, 9 (2018), p.157.

8. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Japanese premier said to shun Obama request to not visit Russia,” February 24, 2016

9. James D.J. Brown, “Japan’s ‘new approach’ to Russia,” The Diplomat, June 18, 2016.

10. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Nichiro shunō kaidan,” May 7, 2016.

11. Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet, “Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the 2nd Eastern Economic Forum,” September 3, 2016.

12. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Pūchin Roshia daitōryō no hōnichi (kekka),” December 6, 2016.

13. Nikkei, “Hoppōryōdo de Roshia to no kyōdō tōchi-an, seifu kentō,” October 17, 2016.

14. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Japan-Russia summit meeting,” November 14, 2018.

15. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Tokyo Declaration on Japan-Russia Relations,” October 13, 1993.

16. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Joint Compendium of Documents on the History of Territorial Issue between Japan and Russia,” March 1, 2001.

17. “Abe moto shushō tandoku intabyū, ichimon ittō shōhō,” Hokkaidō Shimbun, December 26, 2021.

18. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “O vstreche zamestitelia Ministra inostrannykh del Rossiiskoi Federatsii I.V. Morgulova s Poslom Iaponiii v Rossii T. Kodzuki,” January 9, 2019.

19. Ogawa Tomoyo, “Putin says ‘Tempo has been lost’ on Japan-Russia peace treaty,” Nikkei Asia, March 16, 2019.

20. “Lavrov: Iaponiia dolzhna priznat’ suverenitet RF nad Kurilami dlia zaklucheniia mirnogo dogovora,” TASS, November 23, 2019.

21. Nikkei, “Pūchin-shi, Hoppōryōdo no kōjō kadō-shiki ni sanka,” Nikkei, September 5, 2019.

22. “V pravitel’stve predlozhili prevratit’ Kurily v ‘bespretsedentnuiu zonu.’” RBK, September 8, 2021.

23. Jon Grevatt, “China, Russia conduct joint air patrol over Sea of Japan,” Janes, November 22, 2021.

24. “China, Russia navy ships jointly sail through Japan strait,” Reuters, October 20, 2021.

25. James D.J. Brown, “Russia’s revised constitution shows Putin is no friend of Japan,” RUSI, July 6, 2020.

26. “V Gosdume ob’iasnili poniatie demarkatsii v proekte o tselostnosti territorii” RIA Novosti, July 14, 2020.

27. “‘Vopros zakryt’: Pushkov otsenil znachenie popravok v situatsii s Kurilam,” RIA Novosti, July 2, 2020.

28. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation,” December 1, 2016.

29. Evgeniy Zhirnov, “‘Kogda oni budut likvidirovany, skazat’ trudno’” Kommersant, September 9, 2019.

30. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference on Russia’s diplomacy performance in 2015,” January 26, 2016.

31. Ishikawa Ichiyō, “Roshia taigai chōhō no toppu ga kataru Nihon to no kankei,” Tōyō Keizai, March 13,2020.

32. “Hoppōryōdo ni Beigun, pūchin-shi keikai Abe shushō ‘gokaida,” Asahi Shimbun, November 16, 2018.

33. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Japan-U.S. Security Treaty,” January 19,1960.

34. “Sindzo Abe: prezident Putin mne dorog kak partner, s nim mozhno pogovorit’ po dusham, TASS, November 25, 2018.

35. “V Tokio obsuzhdaiut ideiu ‘obmeniatt’’ Krym na Kurily,” Vzgliad, August 12, 2015.

36. President of Russia, “Bol’shaia press-konferentsiia Vladimira Putina,” December 20, 2018.

37. “Lavrov: RF opasaetsia, chto SSHA budut imet’ dostup k upravleniiu sistemoi PRO v Iaponii Russia,” TASS, January 15, 2018.

38. Robin Harding and Lionel Barber, “Japan sounds warning on China’s growing military might,” Financial Times, November 1, 2019.

39. “Lavrov zaiavil, chto SSHA mogut razmestit’ RSMD u Rossiiskikh granits,” TASS, December 22, 2019.

40. “Rossiia obespokoena voennym sotrudnichestvom Iaponii,” RIA Novosti, June 6, 2019.

41. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Kommentariy ofitsial’nogo predstavitelya MID Rossii M.V. Zakharovoy v sviazi s Iapono-amerikanskimi voennymi ucheniiami ‘Vostochnii shchit,’”July 3, 2021.

42. Ian Hill, “Why is Russia worried about the Quad?” The Strategist, July 1, 2021.

43. James D.J. Brown, “Japan-Australia defence deal more than a bilateral pact,” The Straits Times, January 22, 2022.

44. “Lavrov soobshchil, chto mozhet posetit’ Iaponiiu v blizhaishie dva-tri mesiatsa,” TASS, January 14, 2022.

45. “Prezident: pod"em Sibiri i Dal’nego Vostoka – natsional’nii prioritet na ves’ XXI vek,” TASS, December 12, 2013.

46. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Japan-Russia summit meeting,” May 7, 2016.

47. Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet, “Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the 3rd Eastern Economic Forum,” September 7, 2017.

48. Ibid.

49. Minister Counselor Dmitry Birichevsky speaking at Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University Japan, September 18, 2018.

50. “‘Vedomosti’: most na Sakhalin poschitali nerentabel’nym,” Novaya Gazeta, September 3, 2018.

51. “Hokkyokuken LNG sankaku Mitsuibussan, Roshia e no kodawari,” Nikkei, July 1, 2019.

52. “TASS, “Tovarooborot mezhdu Yaponiei i Rossiei v 2021 finansovom godu vyros na 56.9%,” April 20, 2022.Товарооборот между Японией и Россией в 2021 финансовом году вырос на 56,9%.

53. Gideon Rachman, “Putin’s attempt to control the past follows the Xi model,” Financial Times, January 3, 2022.

54. President of Russia, “Press statements following Russian-Chinese talks,” May 8, 2015.

55. President of Russia, “Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China on the International Relations Entering a New Era and the Global Sustainable Development,” February 4, 2022.

56. Interfax, “Deputaty Gosdumy zavershili morskuyu ekspeditsiyu na Kurily, kotoraia prokhodila pod devizom ‘Kurily—nashi,’” Interfax, June 11, 2019i

57. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Brifing ofitsial’nogo predstavitelia MID Rossii M.V. Zakharovoy,” February 4, 2021.

58. James D. J. Brown, “Russian strategic communications toward Japan: A more benign model of influence?” Asian Perspective, Vol. 45, No, 3 (2021), pp.559-586.

59. “SK Rossii prizval pridat’ oglaske prestupleniia voennykh militaristskoi Iaponii,” TASS, September 7, 2021.

60. “FSB predstavit dokumenty o planakh Iaponii primenit’ bakteriologicheskoe oruzhie v gody voiny,” TASS, August 30, 2021.

61. Yahoo News, “Roshia taishikan no nihongo tsuittā ‘amarini mo muchakucha’ to hihan aitsugu,” March 1, 2022.

62. James D.J. Brown, “Japan’s Russia policy under Prime Minister Suga,” RUSI, June 10, 2021.

63. “SMI ob"iasnili otsutstvie prem’era Iaponii na VEF,” RIA Novosti, September 1, 2021.

64. “Kishida shushō shūnin-go hatsu Roshia Puchin daitōryō to denwa kaidan,” NHK, October 7, 2021.

65. “Putin calls absence of Russia-Japan peace treaty ‘nonsense,’” Kyodo, September 3, 2021.

66. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Nichibei shunō terebi kaidan,” January 22, 2022. 

67. Hokkaidō Shimbun, “Roshia-san sekitan kin’yu e,” April 9, 2022.

68. Lenta, “V Gosdume zapodozrili Yaponiyu v podgotovke khimicheskoy ataki na Ukraine,” April 19, 2022.

69. NHK, “Roshia gaikōkan-ra 8-nin, kyō ni mo Nihon shukkoku e,” April 20, 2022.

70. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Gaikō seisho 2022,” April 2022.

71. Yomiuri Shimbun, “Chūgoku Roshia o anpo-jō no ‘kyōi’ ni hikiage, 3 bunsho kaitei e Jimin ga teigen-an,” April 12, 2022.

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