Diplomat author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers from around the world for their diverse insights into US policy in Asia. This conversation with Dr. Jeffrey Hornung, senior political scientist at RAND Corporation, is the 319th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”
Identify the three main impacts of the war in Ukraine on Japanese-Russian relations.
During the Abe Shinzo administration, Japan engaged Russia quite actively in its dual quest of seeking a breakthrough in their bilateral territorial dispute as well as trying to prevent Russia from getting strategically closer to China. The invasion of Russia changed both fundamentally, causing a fundamental overhaul of Japan’s Russian policy.
First, making a sharp break from the previous decade of engagement to resolve the territorial dispute over the Russian-held Southern Kuril Islands (Northern Territories in Japan), the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s 2022 Diplomatic Blue Book describes now the four islands as “illegally occupied by Russia”, using language not seen since 2003. This, together with Russia’s formal withdrawal from all peace talks with Japan due to its hostile stance, means that there is no hope for a peace treaty or a resolution of the territorial dispute.
The resolution of the territorial question played out in an area where a second change occurred. The strategic thinking in Tokyo was that once a peace treaty was reached, Japan could normalize its relations with Russia in a way that could prevent Moscow from forging a united front against Japan. By sanctioning Russian banks, institutions and individuals, including Putin himself, and by having sent non-lethal aid to Ukraine, this Tokyo strategic calculation is a second casualty, as Japan has lost all leverage over Russia that he might have had. The fear now is that Russia’s growing isolation could push Moscow into Beijing’s orbit, causing a serious strategic headache for Tokyo.
A third area of change is the economic relationship. As part of Japan’s efforts to achieve the aforementioned goals, Tokyo has been investing in the Russian Far East for many years. Under the Abe administration, he even attended the Eastern Economic Forum of Russia in Vladivostok several times. With Japan’s withdrawal from Russia, these economic relations have largely collapsed.
Examine Tokyo’s reckoning on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s refusal to condemn the invasion in the context of Sino-Japanese relations.
Japanese policymakers and security experts are watching Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a way to learn lessons about how to secure Japan’s own security future. Japan has long attached great importance to free trade and universal values such as democracy, the rule of law and human rights, but it was not until 2016 that it grouped its advocacy into favor these things in a widely appealing concept called Free and Open Indochina. Peaceful. Although Russia’s war against Ukraine is taking place in Europe, Japan observes the actions of an autocracy and draws conclusions about what its neighboring autocracies might be doing in the Indo-Pacific region.
Although Japan is surrounded by Russia, North Korea and China, China’s decades-long quest to occupy Taiwan has drawn it especially over fears that China might attempt something similar. to what Russia is doing in Ukraine. In other words, Japanese elites are watching what is happening to Ukraine and ̶ pulling Russian analogues from China ̶ fearing that it could happen to any country in the world; that is, a larger and far more powerful neighbor might attempt to change the Indo-Pacific status quo by force, thereby adversely affecting Japan’s security. This, in turn, affects how Japan views its own defense posture and spending, as well as ongoing work on Japan’s new national security strategy and national defense program guidelines.
What calculations if Japan faced Sino-American geostrategic competition?
Since 2016, Japan has been advocating for a free and open Indo-Pacific region, a concept that has become a driving strategic benchmark for many countries in the region, including the United States. Yet Japan’s concern is not strictly limited to the Indo-Pacific, as it is largely concerned with maintaining the current international order. It is through this lens that he draws connections between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Chinese activities, and the growing geostrategic competition between the United States and China. Tokyo is active in the international effort against Russia because it is concerned not only about its impact on the Indo-Pacific, but also whether it will have any negative effects on US alliance commitments, a extended deterrence and whether China will try to take advantage of a distracted US. Based on this concern, he is not only looking for ways to strengthen the US-Japan alliance, but bilateral strategic relations with other key US allies, such as Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. France.
Analyze the internal debate among Japan’s political leaders and the implications for Japan’s nuclear posture.
Although the invasion did not cause Japan to seek new capabilities, it did amplify calls for a more robust defense to counter threats from countries in the region. One such call came from former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo calling for nuclear sharing of US nuclear weapons in Japan. Prime Minister Kishida, however, rejected this appeal.
Although Japan’s nuclear posture does not change, notable changes are occurring in other parts of Japan’s defense policy. For example, Japan’s supply of body armor, helmets, masks and chemical weapons protective clothing and other non-lethal equipment may seem trivial, but for Japan to send military equipment to a Countries like Ukraine ̶ marking the first such delivery ̶ marked another major milestone, one that has been difficult for Japan so far due to constraints arising from its constitution.
Assess the effectiveness of Japan’s sanctions against Russia and coordination with the United States and other G-7 allies in responding to the conflict in Ukraine.
Historically, Japan has not actively relied on sanctions in its foreign relations. Therefore, Japan’s collaboration with other Group of Seven countries in imposing sanctions on Russia has been impressive, both in its nature and in its speed. This alignment with the West and visible support for maintaining the current US-led international order represents a more proactive foreign policy.