The Fourth Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forum
Q: FROM THE AUDIENCE: Professor Kimura, you indicate that the next two years are critical for President Putin in Russia. I am thinking about the initiative of President -- United States President Nixon in the 1970s when he made the breakthrough with China. No one certainly in this country could accuse him of being pro-communist.
Is it possible is that if Putin wins the presidency and has strong nationalistic and communist support, that he may then be in a position politically to approach Japan with an initiative without being considered suspect of in effect surrendering Russian pride and national sovereignty, etc. to Japan? That I think was part of the problem that Gorbachev and Yeltsin had. They were -- certainly Yeltsin was too liberal and perhaps would be accused of having surrendered. But that might not be possible with Putin.
Do you feel that an overwhelming victory on his part in the presidential election might increase and enhance the chances for the type of (inaudible) approach that you are suggesting?
A: HIROSHI KIMURA: Thank you very much. That's a very good question. But it seems to me that you are raising a question and at the same time you have already answered the question by yourself. Nothing much remains for me to add.
Precisely what you have been saying has been repeated by many specialists, myself included, in Japan. Richard Nixon, who was considered to be an anticommunist, did in practice a great deal in making a big breakthrough in the U.S. relations with not only China, but even the Soviet Union to some extent.
Conservative, nationalistic, political leaders are trusted by general populus and other conservative sectors of a given society; they can therefore make a much bolder initiative toward communist countries. On the contrary, liberal political leaders, such as Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Yablinsky, cannot make big concessions over territorial problems to Japan, because people would then suspect motivation of their conduct.
Mr. Putin is considered to be a conservative and nationalistic politician. That's why immediately after he is elected to be a president, he is expected to make a bold initiative toward Japan upon his election. The "honeymoon period" is a golden opportunity. Furthermore, his relationship with parliament, Duma, isn't too bad.
For these reasons, the year 2000, when he will be elected to the Russian Presidency, provides a good opportunity to Putin to make a diplomatic breakthrough with Japan, but only if he wants to do so. He has still eight or nine months to go by the end of 2000. Seen from all aspects, Mr. Putin has found himself in an envious position. If he does not use this opportunity, then later he will have to face difficult situations. I really wish that some Russians will go back to Moscow to convey this message of mine, - namely, "Move quickly, Mr. Putin if you want to improve Russia's relations with Japan."
Q: FROM THE AUDIENCE: A question for Professor Perry. We have heard from you and also from Professor Kimura about the success of removal of the obstacles to a closer relationship between Russia and Japan.
Are there other forces at work that are pushing the two countries together in ways that we here in the United States with our obsession about the Internet and the stock market are sort of missing?
A: PROFESSOR PERRY: That's a wonderful question, and I don't think I really have an answer to it. But both countries are struggling with questions of identity, and this may draw them together. I think that of course, obviously, in a very practical way, Russia has oil and gas to sell. Japan still needs it. And it's a reasonably close-by source. So that practical economic element is always present.
Strategically it makes sense for the Japanese to develop a wide variety of sources for vital materials like those. So there is that practical reason. But I'm more interested in what you are alluding to, I think, in terms of the intellectual challenges that each face, each struggling for a sense of reidentification, I think, in the 21st century.
A: HIROSHI KIMURA: To that question, I'd like to add that the China factor is important. Besides the territorial dispute between Russia and Japan, we are concerned with the rising power of China. By "we" I mean both Russia, Japan and the United States. That's why various defense programs of exchange and dialogue have been going on between Japan and Russia. That's exactly what Professor Perry said.
A: PROFESSOR PERRY: And to that I might add, Korea, too. When Korea reunifies, it will be a nation of 70 million people, a new power force in the region which other powers are going to have to take into consideration. So that adds another wrinkle to the situation.
Q: JAPAN -AMERICA SOCIETY MEMBER: I have one quick question which is: I would be interested to know the panelists' thoughts on whether the recent transfers of the Panama Canal, Macao and Hong Kong cut any ice with the Russian public in terms of making it easier for Russia to transfer territory back to Japan.
A: HIROSHI KIMURA: I'm not very familiar with the Panama Canal question. But what Japanese government, particularly under Prime Minister Hashimoto, former prime minister, is that if Russia agrees to return these islands eventually, that we can wait and write into the peace treaty that period -- a precise period. Then we can wait for maybe a few years, other transitional period so that Russian people may decide to go back to mainland Russia while staying with Japanese on the islands.
So this is sort of roughly Hong Kong formula. So, separating the sovereignty question and actual period of transfer. In that sense, Panama Canal and Hong Kong and other events can be learned by both Russian and Japanese.
Q: FROM THE AUDIENCE: I guess I am addressing both the Japanese and Russian representatives. Is the situation in North Korea so out of the mainstream of world affairs that it is not a concern to either one, or can it be a source of friction between Russia and Japan?
A: AKIRA MUTO: In fact, North Korea has been a threat not only to Japan but I think to other counties in the region. They have been trying to develop their nuclear programs as well as the long-range missiles. And I think Japan and Russia have a common view or position trying to keep the peace and stability in the region. And, in fact, Russia has been cooperative in the efforts to encourage North Korea not to go forward in long-range missile developments.
So I think this is one of the areas that we can work on together with the Russians. Although directly we are having close coordination among the United States, South Korea and Japan, the stability of the region is very important for other countries as well; therefore, I think there is much room for us to cooperate on this issue.
Q: FROM THE AUDIENCE: It seemed to me that the nub of the issue is Russian pride. That's what it comes down to. If I might mention a word in favor of poor Count Witte. Mr. Pleshakov mentioned that it was a great crime, the Treaty of Portsmouth. And I suppose it was in a sense from the standpoint of Russia's pride. But from the stand-point of Russia's self-interest, I thought that Count Witte did a great job in preserving Russian capital. That was the one thing he wanted to keep was capital in Russia to finance Russia's industry. And he was willing to give up territory to keep capital, and he did that, and I thought it was a triumph.
Now, would that be a model for the present Kurile crisis? Would Japanese economic aid be sufficient to overcome the Kurile loss? Is that a model, do you think? Probably not, I gather, from you because of the difficult -- for both of you, from the difficult psychological perspective of the Russians today in losing so much of their former empire. But still the question should be raised, I think.
A: DMITRI TRENIN: Thank you for this question. I think that the issue of islands and money, although we understand that for Japan this is a matter of principle, it's not a matter of buying something off the shelf. It is one thing to provide the money, to be willing to provide the money, and a total different thing to be able to use the money intelligently.
I don't think that Russia today or the Soviet Union in '91 were prepared sufficiently to digest that money. Had the money been given to Mr. Gorbachev, it would have been wasted just like all other money was wasted.
I think that Russia should be ready to use whatever economic opportunities may arise in combination with the solution of the island issue intelligently and with the benefit of regional and national development. Russia is not there yet. Whether under the next administration it will move closer to being able to digest the money, we will see.
A: PROFESSOR PLESHAKOV: I would like to add a few words. Let's not be idealistic. I don't think we will see the solution of the northern territories issue in the next 10 -15 years, probably more. In principle it was possible ten years ago, probably not later than in '92, '93. But now with the upsurge of Russian nationalism, no Russian leader no matter what his beliefs are, (even if by some miracle Mr. Putin turns out to be a liberal, a reformer, an enlightened person) nobody can afford to return islands to Japan. No matter how big the ransom will be. Let's face it. It's just unrealistic until Russia reaches new stability, new feeling of safety, security. And this process is going to take several decades.
The current Russian leadership is actually a combination of politicians, greedy bankers and robber barons, and this coalition is now using this nationalist tide to stay in power.
Look what has been going on in Chechnya. This war makes absolutely no military sense. No matter how many times Russia will bomb Chechnya, it will lose the war in the long run. Maybe in one year, maybe in five years, maybe in fifty years. But still this war is necessary for the people riding this nationalist tide. And you must realize that war in Chechnya is a very expensive enterprise. It's not just a waste of national budget. It's also a waste of western friendliness. So, and in this situation, what kind of economic aid would be taken as ransom for northern territories? I'm sorry, but we have to forget about the issue for the next couple of decades.
Q: FROM THE AUDIENCE: Professor Pleshakov and Professor Trenin. I have one question and one comment.
You raise Germany as some implication to Russia's eastern foreign policy, as I understood. But I would like to raise the important issue that the relation between the geographical vastness of Russia and its foreign policy. Well, in its overreaching territories, Russia has been facing the western part of western Europe for a long time. And, you know, it was involved in the game of power, balance of power a long time, and it has been facing a conflict in the western power west side since the end of World War II, and now it's facing a dramatically changing international climate. And in its southern front, it has been facing relatively weak, you know, countries, former colonies of colonial power. And its waterfront in the Far East has been facing with United States and Japan.
So I was wondering, you know, Moscow has been taking different approaches to the three different dimensions. And as Dr. Kimura mentioned, this is one of the reasons for unpredictability of Russian diplomacy. In other words, peaceful approach to the west does not necessarily mean the end of war in the eastern front and vice versa.
So my question would be: If these three, you know, foreign policies in the three dimensions are different, how different they are; and if they are interrelated, to what extent they are correlated. That's my question.
A: DMITRI TRENIN: How about 15 minutes for an answer?
A: PROFESSOR PLESHAKOV: One hour.
A: DMITRI TRENIN: Let me -- thank you very much. Let me say that geopolitics has been elevated to an analogy of, well, I wouldn't say necessarily religion, but something on a international tide in the eyes of the Russian leadership. To the extent that you may think that having exited communism and -- communism, the Russian elites have entered the world of late nineteenth century, thinking it is -- thinking -- the current thinking of so many people is clearly tinged with overtones from the great game and things like that.
However, I think that it is becoming increasingly obvious to the Russian leaders that what matters in the world of today and not to say tomorrow is a totally different approach to world developments. It is no longer sufficient to think in terms of vastness of your country and the geopolitical balances in the west and in the east and the south. Rather you have to think about what makes your country a player but less to say an important player in the world. And I think Mr. Putin is at least, that's one of the ways it's pronounced, at least he realizes a few things.
One of those things is that you can only be respected and you can only be effective abroad to the extent that you can be effective at home. In a way, Russia is turning inward. It's taking a holiday from grand international politics, not because people have become enlightened, but simply because they can't afford it. You are in a country as vast as Russia on a budget of 20 billion U.S. dollars. You have a GDP as big as Morocco's. You have an Army, a very big Army, a fighting Army.