Will Putin use Japan visit to divide G-7 over the treatment of Ukraine?
A proposed visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan likely underscores Moscow’s attempt to divide the Group of Seven nations over Ukraine, according to observers.
Putin’s proposed visit would also mark his country’s initial step to rectify its rapidly growing reliance on China in various fields.
Russia has treated Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Ukraine with equanimity. As the situation now stands, Putin’s visit to Japan would not be ideal despite a consensus reached between the Japanese and Russian governments to do so “at an appropriate time” this year.
At a press conference Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked how Abe’s visit to Ukraine would affect the Japan-Russia relationship. “It’s not appropriate to comment on relations between other nations (Japan and Ukraine),” he said.
Russia will welcome Abe’s move to unveil economic assistance to Ukraine, a Russian Foreign Ministry official told The Yomiuri Shimbun. “But Russia will likely be antagonized by Japan if (Abe) keeps in step with a critical position taken toward Russia at summit talks with Ukraine and the (upcoming) G-7 summit meeting.”
Abe didn’t attend a Russian ceremony held in Moscow in May to mark the 70th anniversary of the former Soviet Union’s victory over Germany during World War II. During a visit to the United States in late April, Abe emphasized close relations between Japan and the United States.
Russia “has taken note” of Abe’s remarks, the Russian Foreign Ministry official said.
Putin has emphasized efforts to achieve economic results during visits to other countries. But various projects handled by Japanese corporations in Russia’s Far East have remained frozen, including liquefied natural gas production facilities and pipeline construction plans. This comes on the heels of economic sanctions imposed by Japan, the United States and the European Union over the unfolding Ukraine crisis.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida plans to visit Moscow ahead of the Russian president’s visit to Japan. Yet little progress has been made to arrange Kishida’s schedule, partly because of uncertainties as to when sanctions against Russia would be lifted, according to Japanese diplomatic sources.
Japan’s current stance on Russia contrasts those of Germany, France and Italy, reflected by the fact that the foreign ministers of these G-7 nations have already visited Russia. Putin is scheduled to visit Italy on Wednesday in a sign of gradually increasing momentum for dialogue between Russia and European countries.
In early June, fresh tensions have been brewing in Ukraine due to crossfire between government troops and pro-Russia armed groups in the eastern part of the country. All in all, the ongoing crisis there will continue to affect relations between Japan and Russia. This is an editorial published by The Yomiuri Shimbun on June 8.