International analytical center “Rethinking Russia” presents a commentary of Dmitry Streltsov, doctor of history, head of the Department of Oriental studies of the MGIMO University, on the results of Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan.
As one of the major results of the visit I would mention, first of all, the fact that Japan and Russia have managed to attain the strategic goals of bilateral relations for the short-term, more specifically, to take steps aimed at signing a bilateral treaty. In particular, it has been decided to establish a special economic zone on Kuril Islands with Japanese founding. Besides, it has been decided to implement several projects crucial to the region – to establish visa free regime for people travelling from Hokkaido and the Sakhalin region. Creating such zone is a stepping-stone to signing a peace treaty. However, since Japan claims the southern Kuril Islands as its territory it has been defined that the realization of this project should not affect country’s stances on the issue of signing a peace treaty. This decision looks like materialization of a new approach to a peace treaty, announced by Shinzo Abe in Sochi May 2016.
The second venue of cooperation, touched upon during the visit, is large-scale economic projects. More than 70 agreements between the companies of two states, 11 agreements between the government institutions and one intergovernmental agreement have been signed during the visit. They determine priority areas of economic cooperation. First of all, it is energy – oil and gas development, in particular, offshore mining to the southeast of Sakhalin. Besides, it has been decided to provide a 200 million euro loan to Novatek to build the Yamal LNG project. There are also several projects in the production sphere, such as building a new engine factory in Vladivostok. Moreover, such spheres as pharmaceutics, creating artificial intelligence, agriculture, wind energy and some others have been discussed. The targeted venues of cooperation comprise socially significant for Kuril Islands spheres: fish farming, environmental control, recycling, healthcare. In other words, these are top-priority spheres for Russia and these projects are likely to materialize the success of Japanese-Russian economic relations.
Finally, talking about the results of the visit, I would like to mention the fact that the parties decided to revive “2+2” format, which presupposes a dialogue between the heads of foreign and defense institutions of two states. Above all, the parties opened the way to holding consultations on security issues, in particular, regional security of Northeast Asia. In fact, the results of the visit show that Japan no longer follows the sanctions regime, although officially it still has sanctions imposed on Russia. Nevertheless, taking into account the scale of the plans mapped out by the states, the sanctions regime between Russia and Japan does not work anymore. It is also important that political relations of two states have been propelled to a higher level – relations based on mutual trust. Japanese and Russian leaders have set a goal to transform the relations into strategic partnership based on mutual trust. I think that in the near future some steps will be taken to materialize the plans and I hope that next year all bilateral formats will be in full operation, especially, taking into account the fact that in 2017 Shinzo Abe will come to Vladivostok to take part in the work of the Eastern Economic Forum.