Japan's Territorial Disputes: Part Four - Northern Territories Dispute: A Russian Perspective
Dr. Yegor Gaidar (Former Russian Minister and Director, Institute for the Economy in Transition, Moscow), J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM and Asia Times), Professor Alexander Fedorovskiy (Head of Pacific Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of World Economy and International Relations) and Grigoriy Yavlinsky (Leader of the Yabloko Party, and Former Russian Presidential Candidate)
A full list of articles in this series can be found here.
In this article, three prominent Russians give their own personal perspective on the Northern Territories/Southern Kurils dispute.
Yegor Gaidar: A political leader's view
Sean Curtin: How do you see Moscow's economic relationship with Japan developing? Do you think there is a chance the two sides will sign a peace treaty in the near future? Would such an accord allow Japan to develop good economic ties with Siberia and other regions of Russia?
Yegor Gaidar: Recently, I met with the leader of one of Japan's biggest corporations. Why did he come to see me? Because the South Koreans are energetically entering the Russian market, including the Far East. Why did he come? Because the Europeans are so active in Russia, building up and we are becoming interconnected.
As you know, for big corporations to have a meaningful presence in Russia is a very long process. To be there requires lots of time and preparations. I also know that a lot of Japanese corporations thought for quite a significant period of time that to make such an investment before political problems are resolved would be unproductive.
I would like to ask you why you posed this question?
Sean Curtin: Because I think that a lot of Japanese corporations would like to invest in the Russian Far East and Siberia for the oil and natural resources. However, Russia and Japan are still technically at war because they cannot resolve a decades-old territorial dispute. I don't think it's a good situation.
Yegor Gaidar: This situation just means that there are more opportunities for energetic Chinese corporations.
Sean Curtin: Do you think there is any opportunity for a stronger Russo-Japanese economic relation in the future?
Yegor Gaidar: Well, obviously, eventually there will be stronger ties, but I believe many of the older generation Japanese want all those islands to be given to them. I hear the younger generation are not so interested about this issue, so, give it some more years and the situation will improve.
Alexander Fedorovskiy: An academic's view
Sean Curtin: Do you think President Vladimir Putin really wants to settle the decades-old territorial dispute between Japan and Russia? If so, can he achieve it?
Alexander Fedorovskiy: I think that Putin wants to try to solve all outstanding territorial issues in the region. With regard to the Southern Kurils, [Northern Territories] the position is to offer back two islands. It will be difficult to get through the Russia parliament, but I am sure he will do it. Putin will not give back all four islands, but perhaps in the future there will be some room for discussion. However, the Japanese position has become less flexible and much more ridged. Now they want all four islands, before they said, at least they said in private, two would be okay."
Sean Curtin: There has been much speculation about whether President Putin will visit Japan in 2005. What is your view?
Alexander Fedorovskiy: Putin will definitely go to Japan.
Grigoriy Yavlinsky: An opposition politician's view
Sean Curtin: Do you believe there is any chance of Japan and Russia signing a peace treaty and resolving the Southern Kurils dispute? Do you think Russia will eventually return the four islands it has held since the end of the war? Such a move would be economically beneficial to both sides.
Grigoriy Yavlinsky: No. No way. No. There is absolutely no chance. I just cannot see it happening.
Yegor Gaidar's comments were made at Chatham House (Royal Institute for International Affairs) in London on 10 February 2005
Alexander Fedorovskiy's comments were made at Chatham House (Royal Institute for International Affairs) in London on 21 February 2005
Grigoriy Yavlinsky's comments were made at Chatham House (Royal Institute for International Affairs) in London on 21 January 2005
Copyright 2005 Asia Times Online Ltd. Some extracts from the above interviews have appeared in Asia Times Online,
http://www.atimes.com, and those parts are republished with permission.