In Tokyo, they are well aware that the era of a new redivision of the world, which brings new opportunities, has come. Prior to 2014, the dispute over the South Kuriles was a purely Russian-Japanese side-match, to which from time to time someone would connect from the outside. Washington sluggishly supported Tokyo, but without much enthusiasm, considering who fought against that war against whom. However, after the Crimean events and the unfolding global confrontation (which is a miracle in itself, given how unequal the resources of the parties are) the local territorial dispute ceased to be so and turned into one of the fronts of an increasingly bitter conflict. Apparently, the outcome of this confrontation will decide the fate of the Southern Kuriles.
Of course, the Japanese government is determined to resolve the territorial dispute primarily through diplomatic means, but if they fail, it is obviously ready to consider other ways.
In 2012-2013, relations between the Russian Federation and Japan underwent dramatic changes. It can be said that the parties took a fresh look at each other and significantly moved towards a compromise on the Kuril problem. The possibility of this compromise was then characterized by the word "hikivake" - "draw". What was hidden under such a mysterious term we can hardly find out now, but apparently, it could have been a question of dividing the islands in half by area, with the payment of hundreds of billions of dollars in cash compensation by Tokyo.
Bilateral relations have become so warm that Prime Minister Abe has even ventured to attend the opening of the Olympics in Sochi, which the leaders of the United States and European countries defiantly ignored.
However, then Euromaidan happened, the annexation of the Crimea and the war in the Donbas. Under US pressure, the Land of the Rising Sun was forced to join anti-Russian rhetoric and impose sanctions. In response, Russia announced that the fate of the islands is no longer being discussed. If there was a chance (or the illusion of a chance) to agree on compromise terms before the Crimean-Donbass epic and the imposition of sanctions against Russia by the Russian Federation, now we can almost say unequivocally that President Putin will not accept this. Everything has changed, from the general political situation to a purely psychological mood. The Russian leadership, in every way advocating the “Minsk Agreements” for the Donbass, cannot afford to surrender the South Kurils either.
During a meeting with Putin at the UN General Assembly, Abe will most likely try to reanimate the old format, or at least understand whether this is possible in principle. The idea of dividing the islands in half with the payment of compensation to Moscow is something that the cabinet of the current Prime Minister could agree to. If the Japanese leadership sees that Moscow does not compromise, then in future negotiations with Putin personally there will no longer be any point. The conditions of the Soviet-Japanese declaration 1956 of the year Tokyo are not satisfied categorically, and the rejection of the South Kuriles is not even considered.
With an almost guaranteed failure of diplomacy in front of Japan, there remains only the forceful option of returning territories. Of course, right now it is unrealizable for obvious reasons: although the Russian military doctrine stipulates that nuclear weapon can only be used when there is a threat to the very existence of the state; in conditions of instability, no surprises can be ruled out. Therefore, the stake can be made precisely on the fact that civil unrest will begin in Russia under the load of external and internal problems. In this scenario, the signing of a peace treaty is not beneficial to the Japanese government: without it, the question remains not only for the southern, but also for all the Kuril Islands, as well as for the south of Sakhalin. Objectively, today there is not a single international treaty that would secure the transition of these territories from under Japanese sovereignty to Russian. That is, there are two independent documents. The first is the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on the formation on the territory of South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands of the South Sakhalin Region as part of the Khabarovsk Territory of the RSFSR from February 2 1946. The second is the San Francisco Peace Treaty from September 8 of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR is internal document, which, of course, is recognized within the Russian Federation, but has no legal force beyond its borders. The San Francisco Peace Treaty, in turn, is not recognized in the Russian Federation, but it is valid for most of the world community.
At the same time, a rather curious legal problem arises, as a result of which Japan (and the United States under certain conditions) can declare its residual sovereignty over Southern Sakhalin, as well as the central and northern Kuriles. So far, these islands in Tokyo are considered a no-man’s territory (“terra nullius”), and the US position on the topic is at least ambiguous, leaving room for broad interpretation in one direction or another. In the southern Kuril Islands, however, both Washington and Tokyo are united, recognizing them as Japanese territory under Russian military control.
New law and subtle hints
A lot of noise in the Russian press was also caused by the law adopted in Japan to expand the powers of the Self-Defense Forces, which received the right to use weapons outside the country. It does not seem to concern the southern Kuriles directly, since the disputed islands are not considered “foreign” there, and the existing legal provisions were enough for the opening of hostilities.
Another point is interesting. The Empire of the Rising Sun now allowed itself military responses to provocations. What is considered a provocation? Yes, whatever. For example, a high-ranking official’s visit to disputed territories or exercises that are regularly held there. It all depends on the specific situation and angle of view.
Implicit signals are heard more and more often. If earlier their source was mainly Moscow - in response to each diplomatic squabble, the Ministry of Defense conducted demonstration exercises with firing on the disputed islands - now hints are heard from the opposite side. So, on August 27 a second Izumo-class helicopter was launched into the water, named after the Kaga, in honor of the Japanese aircraft carrier of the Second World War. Some Russian commentators noted that the former Kaga was involved in the attack on Pearl Harbor, but almost no one remembered that he had gone to It’s part of the carrier-based squadron of Iturup. The hint is more than transparent.
With the deterioration of the economic state, it is politics that comes to the fore in Japan. The country has slipped into deflation, and the launch of the printing press, together with the fall in world prices for raw materials, did not produce the desired effect. By and large, the Japanese government would not mind lowering the standard of living of its citizens, for the maintenance of which most of the resources are spent and throwing out the aggression accumulated in society. As a maximum - squeeze out the population from large cities to villages. And only a major military crisis is capable of this. But at the same time, it is critically important for Tokyo that Japan itself does not look like an aggressor in the eyes of the G-7 colleagues and could count on their help.
Rearmament of Japan and Russia
So far, the pace of rearmament of the Self-Defense Forces can be characterized as very modest. In the near future, it is planned to purchase five convertible planes V-22 Osprey (with a view to purchasing 17 machines) and five F-35A fighter jets. In addition, 3 unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned vehicles were ordered in the United States. The Ministry of Defense also ordered 40 transport aircraft of the new generation Kawasaki C-2, each of which can take up to 38 tons of cargo. Well, by the end of 2015, the first flight of the experimental Mitsubishi ATD-X fighter is expected, although the timing of this long-awaited event can once again be shifted.
This year, the Maritime Self-Defense Forces received one submarine and a helicopter carrier, and ground forces are testing the 6 of the new AAVP-7A1s amphibious assault vehicles, which were the first signs of the fifty-million amphibious tracked party that were already ordered in the US and will arrive later. Together with three Izumo and Hyuga helicopter carriers, and three Osumi large landing ships, each of which has two Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) landing boats, the appearance of the AAV7 and V-22 Osprey of Japan will significantly expand Japan’s landing craft and the speed and scale of the forces involved.
In the Far East region, the Russian Federation has relatively reliable positions. Modern aviation, air defense systems S-400 and the Pacific Fleet, which back in Soviet times created such a good backlog that it still makes an impression.
However, to the fleet there are certain questions. Apparently, the Mistrali Pacific Fleet, apparently, will sail to Egypt, and the somewhat completed submarine Nerpa has been serving in India for three years. Only a few ships and submarines can be considered built under the new government. In particular, the K-150 Tomsk submarine (built from 1991 to 1997), the K-296 Samara submarine (1993-1995), the B-190 Krasnokamensk submarine (1992), and the B-354 submarine Mogocha (1993), the K-550 Alexander Nevsky submarine missile cruisers (2004-2013 years of construction) and the K-551 Vladimir Monomakh (2004-2014), the R-29 large missile boat was built for 11 years - from 1992 to 2003, the Perfect corvette was 10 years old - from 2006 to 2015 (or 2016), and the tiny D-107 landing boat was built for a whole year and a half. The calm situation in the Far East allows shipbuilders to continue to maintain such a leisurely pace. The Pacific Fleet, however, has never been a priority area for rearmament in the Russian Federation, although modernization of some previously built ships is still underway.
We also specifically mention the construction of military camps on the islands, which was announced during the time of Serdyukov, but this is an independent and not so simple topic.
When discussing the defense aspects, it is worthwhile to immediately make a reservation that no one is going to fight the Russian Federation in a conventional way, for now the hybrid wars are relevant. Japan has no resources for such a war, but the United States has it, which does not hesitate to use the opportunities of both its own and numerous allies around the world.
One of many fronts
The Kuril question does not exist by itself, but is closely linked to the huge number of multidirectional economic and political trends in the world. In the end, the fate of the southern and all other Kuril Islands, as well as Sakhalin, will be decided not at all in sea battles, but in a hybrid war that the West leads against Russia.
Washington and European capitals have not only declared Russia to be the aggressor in connection with the Ukrainian events - right now the topic is actively developing that Moscow, which is actively helping Bashar Asad, is also responsible for his “crimes”. That is, the price that Russia will be obliged to pay in the event of a geopolitical defeat is gradually increased. By leveraging resources in other regions of the world (such as Syria, Ukraine, or some other), Moscow will be less able to throw at a bowl when new foci of conflict arise, and the deteriorating socio-economic situation will further narrow the range of decisions made.
Something repeats история 1904-1905's, but today the Land of the Rising Sun is clearly not going to be the first to climb into the flames, preferring the rest of them to do the dirty work: Islamists, Ukrainians, system and non-system liberals, and all the rest. After that, the old question will again be on the agenda.