Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s Global Legacy Building Begins Now
hile Russian president Vladimir Putin continues to wage Russia’s geopolitical offensive from Donbass to cyberspace, he has recently extended an olive branch in a surprise gesture to resolve his country’s seventy-three-year-old antagonism with Japan. At the Fourth Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok last week, the Russian president extemporaneously offered Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe a peace deal by signing a bilateral peace treaty without any preconditions. The proposed agreement would defy the two countries’ preceding agreements to resolve the territorial issues surrounding the four southern Kuril islands before signing a peace treaty, prompting Tokyo to immediately issue a rebuke.
Although Tokyo’s reaction was right in light of the numerous mutual agreements signed by the two countries over decades, it scarcely updates Abe’s so-called “new approach”to Russia unveiled in 2016. In fact, Putin’s surprise offer of a peace deal may be the ultimate test of the U.S.-Japan alliance that has been traditionally locked into Tokyo’s perennial reliance on Washington for geopolitical decisions. At a time in which U.S. president Donald Trump has disrupted Washington’s global alliance networks, the newly-reelected Abe increasingly faces an emerging geopolitical reality in which Tokyo has no choice but to wean itself off its American ally over many strategic issues, including its troubled relations with Moscow.