Editorial: Russian defense budget increase calls for action

Russian defense budget is steadily growing year by year. In 2015 it will account for 4.2% of GDP (3,286 trillion rubles). In 2014 it was 3.4% GDP, in 2013 – 3.2%, and in 2012 – 3%.

At the same time in Japan it is still 1% of GDP… This is even less than what is required of the NATO countries (2%).

The increase of scrambles caused by the Russian planes and of course the repeated Chinese violation of national waters near the Senkaku Islands calls for more steep increase in military spending. At the very least it should be 2% of GDP.

Unfortunately the Japanese people are still not ready for this increase being haunted by the ghosts of the WWII…

by naokawa


Japan imposes further sanctions on Russia

The government imposed further sanctions on Russia in the view of the situation in Ukraine. Now export of weapons to Russia and also technological partnership in the military sphere is forbidden. Also some Russian banks cannot issue securities in Japan.


Japan to impose further sanctions on Russia

Japan is planning to introduce additional sanctions against Russia over the situation in Ukraine. The sanctions are to be announced on Sep 19.

So far Japan was very lenient on Russia only refusing visa to some minor Russian officials who were involved with Crimea annexation. It is planned that the list of Russians who are to be refused Japanese visa would be extended and also their assets in Japan would be frozen. However, the new sanctions may follow the US and EU pattern to include financial and energy sector. Sure enough that Russia will be protesting and Putin’s visit to Japan planned for this fall might be postponed.

Japan did not want to aggravate relations with Russia very much hoping to resolve the Northern Territories problem. But with the US and EU taking further steps to make Russia behave, Japan will have to reconsider its policy and take a stronger stance.


Japanese government to consider response to Russian actions

Russia announced that it would deny visas to several Japanese officials as a response measure to Japan’s sanctions imposed on Russia by G7 countries. MOFA official stated: “This will have negative impact on Japan-Russia relations. We are disappointed.” and mentioned that the Russian move will be analyzed and proper response considered in the beginning of the next week. Japanese government reaffirms that it will be further cooperating with G7 over the sanctions on Russia. The list of officials who would be denied entry to Russia will not be disclosed.


The US recognizes Japanese sovereignty over the Russian-occupied Northern Territories

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf in connection with the Russia’s military exercises near the Kunashiri and Etorofu islands, which are a part of the Northern Territories long occupied by Russia, stated: “The United States recognizes Japanese sovereignty over these islands.”

The question and answer during Harf’s daily press briefing in Washington DC on Aug 13 went like this:

QUESTION: And just in the region, also on Russia, do you have any comment on the Russian exercises in what they call the Southern Kuril* Islands? The Japanese were upset.

MS. HARF: Yes. Let me see what I have on that. I have something brief. The United States recognizes Japanese sovereignty over these islands. And don’t have – I said it was brief. Don’t have anything more for you.


* in the transcript it was written as “Kirul”, which is obviously a typo

Russia conducted military trainings at the occupied Northern Territories – MOFA to protest

The government confirmed on Aug 13 that Russia conducted military exercises on the occupied Northern Territories. This information was distributed via Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is a high probability that the exercises took place at the Etorofu and Kunashiri islands vicinity. Details are being confirmed. Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to express Japan’s strong protest to Russia on the same day.

Russian Ministry of Defense announced on Aug 12 that Russia started military exercises at the Kuril Islands, which include the Northern Territories. Over one thousand military personnel and five attack helicopters are taking part in the trainings. Exercises are aimed to boost Russia’s ability to protect the remote islands.


Russia does not appreciate Japan’s consideration

Japan imposed additional sanctions on Russia. The assets of 40 people and two companies thought to be involved in Russia’s annexation of Crimea and destabilizing the situation in the Eastern Ukraine are to be freezed if found to be in Japan’s jurisdiction. Import of goods made in the annexed Crimea peninsula are to be restricted.

This of course does not inflict any serious damage on Russia and pro-Russian terrorists openly supported by Russia in the Eastern Ukraine. Distinct from the EU sanctions, there is no close Putin’s business ‘friends’ among those 40. It is clear that Japan does not want to impose more strict sanctions hoping to continue dialogue with Russia this fall on returning the occupied Northern Territories.

The problem is that Russia does not appreciate Japan’s consideration at all. It cancelled the consultations of foreign affairs deputies that were to be held in the end of August. Japanese government expressed deep regret over the Russia’s unilateral decision to postpone the consultations. The source in the Japanese government pointed out: “It is a pity that Russia closes the door for dialogue”.

in the news

Editorial – Will Japan impose further sanctions against Russia?

Japan will need to decide on further sanctions against Russia in the view of Malaysia Airlines jet being shot down in the Eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian terrorists or maybe even by Russian troops.

Some Russian analysts believe that Japan does not want to impose any sanctions on Russia and that PM Abe wants to keep good relations with Putin in the view of the expected talks over the Northern Territories occupied by Soviet Union and now Russia. Another reason is that PM Abe is supposedly building some sort of security belt around China and the Japan does not want for Russia and China to become close allies. But at the end, say these analysts, if US will force Japan to impose more sanctions on Russia, hinting that Japan will never go against the US.

Do these arguments really have any ground?

It is true that Japan is interested in normal relationship with Russia (as with any neighboring country), but the faint possibility of returning the Northern Territories is not worth letting Putin have its way in the middle of Europe. Yes, Ukraine is very far from Japan and there is little to no interest of Japan and Japanese companies in Ukraine. However, not giving proper response to Putin’s aggression would mean that Japan is giving silent approval to changing the existing international rules by force. And this would give China a go ahead to do the same in the Eastern and South-Eastern Asia.

Then, should Japan really be worried about Russia and China becoming close allies? Not really. After Russia signed the so-called gas deal with China this year Chinese representative openly mentioned that Russia have a vast territories and China has a lot of industrious people, and that is why the two countries should cooperate. This makes China’s agenda very much clear. Putin is not a complete idiot not to understand this, but even if he is, the tycoons around him will explain the problem. Russia far from being interested to be hugged to death by China. It rather tries to scare the West by demonstrating its warm relations with China and pretending it can get by without the European markets. But nobody believes this bluff now. Neither should Japan.

But what is more important, Japan should think about its international responsibility if we want to play a bigger role in Asia and in the world. Sometimes this calls to put national interests behind the international responsibility. This responsibility lies with Japan as well as with the US.

by naokawa

Editorial – China and Russia to conduct military exercises near Japan’s borders

It looks like Russia made it choice to confront the West till the bitter end for itself. There is another bell rang for Japan that is a part of the West.

Russia is to take part in the Chinese military exercises in the East China Sea quite close to the Japanese Senkaku Islands (Okinawa pref.). The exercises are to take place at the end of May while Vladimir Putin is visiting China. At the same time the Russian gas monopoly “Gazprom” is planning to conclude the long negotiated contract to supply China with 38 billion square cubes of gas every year during 30 years. China was not happy about the price so far, and Russia in its current situation of international isolation most likely gave in to China’s demands and lowered the price.

The joint China-Russia military exercises “Joint Sea-2014” are to take place for the third time but it is the first time that the exercises are taking place so close to Japan’s territory.

The motives for both China and Russia are very obvious. China has long been trying to get Russia to support its position on Senkakus. So far Russia was negative about supporting China openly. When Obama during his visit to Japan reaffirmed that Senkaku Islands are protected by the US under the Japan-US Security Treaty, China was actively protesting. It may be understood that China doubled its efforts to win over Russia.

On the other hand for Russia the situation of international isolation over interference with the Ukraine’s domestic affairs became imminent. Now Russia needs China much more than China needs Russia. Russia certainly wants to show off to America and the West that the sanctions imposed on it are not working and that Russia will be perfectly fine shifting its stagnating economy to cater for China.

Both China and Russia are out there to wipe America’s eye. For China it is more pragmatic thing of the moment that they try to turn to their advantage. For Russia it is an emotional gung-ho thing, almost a drug that helps them to forget the societal meltdown most people live in. No doubt that China will have an upper hand in this ‘cooperation’. Not only it would get the lower gas prices, but most likely also some support on Senkakus and cheaper weapons from Russia.

Japan so far was very much lenient on sanctions over Ukraine against Russia. And it was despite the continuous intended provocations by Russian planes near Japanese borders. The only real sanctions announced were visa refusal for some 23 government officials. There was even no mentioning about asset freezing for those 23. The minor things like stopping negotiations on visa issuing facilitation and so on do not count at all. This might mean that PM Shinzo Abe still hopes to further the Northern Territories negotiations with Putin. Such hopes are futile in my view.

It is time for PM Abe to realize that some sort of China-Russia alliance be it disclosed or not, will happen, and treat Russia accordingly – not as an equal partner, but as a potential enemy.

by naokawa

Editorial – Japan imposes more sanctions on Russia

Japan has proactively joined further “broader, coordinated sanctions” sanctions against Russia that were announced during the last G7 meeting. There is no binding agreement that all G7 countries are to impose the same level of sanctions – each country will decide for itself and impose the sanctions it considers necessary coordinating its action with the other G7 members.

As was announced today by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Japan will refuse issuing visas for 23 Russian government officials. Speaking about the new sanctions Kishida said: “We demand from Russia self-restraint and responsible behavior so that the situation in Ukraine could be resolved peacefully.”

Before that Japan stopped working with Russia on simplifying visa issuing procedures.

Still, these new sanctions from Japan are minuscule and look more like a formality to keep in line with the G7 decisions. For once there is nothing about freezing assets even for these 23 individuals. It is very unlikely that Russian corrupted officials or tycoons have any assets in Japan, but a mere announcement of freezing the assets would make these new sanctions look more like a real thing. Then, there are no sanctions against the Russian companies that the US introduced just yesterday.

It might be that Japan is holding off any more or less serious sanctions pending further talks with the US.

PM Shinzo Abe is heading to Europe today and is planned to visit Germany, UK, Portugal, Spain, France and Belgium. It is expected that one of the goals of the visit would be to confirm the European countries’ seriousness about imposing more real sanctions against Russia.

by naokawa