So here I am with a group of Japanese that includes a few prominent middle-of-the-road public figures—vastly more prominent, and public than me—and somehow the talk turns to Ukraine, so I let loose with a very much edited version of the following conjecture:
Abe is right, Russia should be condemned for using force against Ukraine, but it’s Europe’s problem, they helped break it, and we’re only helping pay for it because we need to maintain appearances as a member of the G7. That’s why we are always one or two steps behind the US and Europe with our sanctions—and why South Korea steadfastly refuse to sign up despite reported US pressure—and Putin gets it.
Nobody demurred. Actually, nobody does. Put together any group of Japanese journalists, politicians, businessmen, what have you, and they’ll agree with me. And now, out of Beijing, Bloomberg reports, “Abe, Putin Vow Better Ties in First Summit in 8 Months.”
Putin: Relations have been developing rather successfully both in the economic and political spheres…When I mention the political sphere, I also mean the resumption of our talks about concluding a peace agreement.”
Abe: Your knowledge of Japanese martial arts as a judo fighter, which also means a deeper understanding of Japan itself, I think is a big plus for further development and further strengthening of Russia-Japan relations,
Abe and Putin called each other on their birthdays in September and October…
Actually, there will be no peace agreement in the foreseeable future because a) no Russian president, much less Putin, is going to give up more than the two by far the smallest of the four islands in the Northern Territories and hope to weather the domestic backlash, and b) no Japanese prime minister can settle for such a deal and hope to weather the domestic backlash.
There’s no need for one. Contrary to what some commentators will tell you, any deal that makes economic sense can be made—and would be made but for the Ukraine-related sanctions. And Japan is not going to pay through the nose for anything less than half the geographical cake.