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  • Andrew Andersen


Updated: Dec 11, 2020

October 1, 2020

Two years ago, the conclusion of a post-World War II peace treaty between the Russian Federation and Japan was prevented by ... US President Donald Trump, who applied pressure on the Japanese government, which was ready to recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia in exchange for the return of the Japanese Northern Territories (also known as the South Kuril Islands) that have been administered by Russia since 1945.

The dispute over the Northern Territories/ South Kuril Islands, has been a longstanding territorial conflict and the major, if not the only stumbling-block in Russia-Japan relationship. The stumbling-block, preventing the two nations from signing a peace treaty that would formally end their World War II hostilities.

According to Nikkei Shinbun, the recently retired Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed that in 2018, during his meeting with Vladimir Putin at the ASEAN Summit in Singapore, Russia and Japan were very close to finally signing the treaty that would resolve the old territorial dispute: "There was an understanding that we were finally getting close to negotiations on concluding [a treaty]", Abe said. He also recalled that, in fact, as early as in December of 2016, Putin demonstrated his "determination to resolve the issue" to the satisfaction of Japan under one condition: to get back the Northern Territories/ South Kuril Islands, Japan was expected to officially recognize the incorporation of Crimea into Russian Federation.

Nevertheless, the treaty was not signed, and “the issue” was not resolved. Mr. Abe made it quite clear that the reason for that was the “negative effect of the relationship between Russia and the United States, which escalated due to the Ukrainian conflict and the annexation of Crimea." In other words, Donald Trump, whom Abe characterized as “very different from the previous US presidents”, interfered into the situation by letting the Japanese Prime Minister know that such a recognition would severely damage the US-Japanese relationship.

This episode of recent history is one of many to confirm that the label of “Putin’s man in White House” is absolutely not applicable to Donald Trump whose real policy is way more “anti-Russian” than the one of all his predecessors, except Ronald Reagan.

PS.: You can read more about the territorial dispute between Russia and Japan in my old article SOUTHERN KURILES / NORTHERN TERRITORIES: A STUMBLING-BLOCK IN RUSSIA-JAPAN RELATIONSHIP.

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