Vladimir Putin is in Japan, as the world’s third largest economy, and fourth largest spender of defence, try to forge closer links.There is a hurdle that lies between Japan and Russia moving closer together: technically, between the two lands, World War 2 has not ended.
It boils down to islands in the Western Pacific, which in Japan are known as the Northern Territories, but in Russia are called the Southern Kuriles. The islands were seized by the Soviets at the end of World War 2.
But what difference do names make? As a well-known song goes: “You say Malvinas, I say the Falklands, let’s call the whole thing off.”
Mr Putin would, it seems, if anything, like to see the Soviet Union re-formed, he is hardly likely to give up on the islands. Yet Mr Shinzo is known for his nationalist agenda, and opinion in Japan on the sovereignty of the islands runs high.
Apparently, in talks between the two leaders, they discussed economic cooperation in the islands. When talking to reporters, Mr Abe quipped: “The average age of the former residents is 81. I had talks with Putin, bearing in mind that we are running out of time.”
But there is something else at stake.
Japan has got lots of money, Russia has lots of oil and gas, and some of it isn’t that far away from Japan.
Russia is also good at something else, and boy did it find a good PR scoop to bring attention to it. Russia is good at cyber security. So, here’s the deal: we will provide you with cyber security, and people are less likely to hack into your politicians’ emails and try and influence your elections.
It makes one wonder: why bother with cyber security, why not just give Russia the money, but that’s another matter.
There is also the issue of the new look US under Mr Trump, seemingly less concerned about security in Asia, and Japan’s need to counter the rise of China.
It’s the new order: Russia and Japan, money talks, and cyber security hums across the ether, the pragmatists might want to see over disputes regarding the islands.