“Japan’s Russia Policy Under the Abe Administration: Why Tokyo Does Not Share Washington’s Threat Perception”

November 14, 2019 4:10 pm –6:00 pm 1302 International Affairs
Speaker(s):
James Brown, Associate Professor, Temple University Japan; Moderated by Takako Hikotani, Gerald L. Curtis Associate Professor of Modern Japanese Politics and Foreign Policy, Department of Political Science

On most international issues, Japan’s foreign policy broadly tracks that of its U.S. ally. However, there are exceptions. The clearest current example is Japan’s Russia policy under the Abe administration. While the U.S. National Security Strategy presents Russia as a revisionist power that presents a challenge to U.S. values and interests, Japan’s National Security Strategy highlights no concerns about Russia’s behavior and stresses that “it is critical for Japan to advance cooperation with Russia in all areas”. Moreover, while Washington has progressively tightened sanctions on Russian businesses and officials since 2014, Tokyo has announced an 8-point economic cooperation plan and has rolled out the red carpet for many individuals under Western sanctions. What accounts for this stark difference in approach? In part, it is due to Prime Minister Abe’s personal determination to resolve the territorial dispute with Russia before the end of his time in office. However, Japan’s current policy towards Russia is also shaped by underlying security concerns. Threatened by North Korea and China, and increasingly worried about the endurance of the U.S. security commitment to the region, Japanese strategists have judged that positive relations with Russia are essential for national security.

Professor Brown’s current research focuses on Russian-Japanese relations, with particular regard to the territorial dispute over the Northern Territories/Southern Kurils. He also continues to work on the relationship between energy and foreign policy. Further to these topics, he has previously published research on the Soviet-Afghan War, media reporting of the Syrian conflict, and Edward Said’s Orientalism. He was the winner of the Political Science Association’s award for the best article published in Politics in 2010.