Russia (read Putin) is rushing to annex Ukrainian Crimea peninsula ignoring the international law. US will surely impose quite severe sanctions (though many of those will be unannounced) on Russia and most importantly on Russian officials and state-owned enterprises.
Personally I very much welcome the Ukrainian revolution and would like to help it in any way to fight much stronger and nationalistic Russia, but if we think about Japan’s national interests how should we go about the issue?
Obviously the US is the biggest and the strongest ally of Japan and the common sense and international law calls for Japan to side with US on this issue. And Japan should do so because it is the right thing to do.
But should Japan go over the board as some East-European countries do? – no, there is no reasons for this. It will not be in our country’s interests. PM Abe chose a so-called ‘personal’ approach strategy in relations with Russia. The strategy a developed country would usually take in Africa, maintaining good relations with the local chief even if he eats his rivals for dinner. But probably Abe did not have a better one. Anyhow, he tries to maintain good relationships with Putin. But behind the Crimea invasion is Putin himself. If Japan is to take a harder stance on the Crimea issue, this will certainly hinder Abe’s strategy.
Japan has already stated its position as a G7 member and frozen any preparations for the upcoming G8 meeting in Sochi. Today there was another statement that G7 members will take further steps (probably sanctions) against Russia. And the steps will be taken by both G7 as a whole and by the individual countries.
Surely Japan should participate in any collective G7 steps against Russia. However, it is very probable that our American allies would ask Japan to impose further sanctions on Russia and/or to support the wider US sanctions. Here is where Japan has a space for maneuver. The recent American “disappointment” about PM Abe’s visit to Yasukuni will certainly be a part of the bargain.
Japan should act smartly and carefully on any ‘additional’ sanctions against Russia and I believe Abe is the person who can abstract himself away from any lobbyist groups and act solely in the best interests of Japan.