Peace negotiations between Japan and Russia during World War II are important

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As Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson bravely pushed back against questions about anti-racism in children books during its confirmation hearing before the Supreme Court, Ukraine continued its challenge of Russia while to resume a suburb of kyiv, and the White House ready to launch President Joe Biden in Europe to find a way out of belligerent Moscow, another story buried in the mess.

In fact, while most of Washington was looking at the western front of World War II, the eastern front suddenly aroused concern. And with recent events between Japan and Russia, Biden may have a dormant foreign policy crisis on his hands in a place he never expected.

Frustrated by Japan’s sanctions on Russia for its aggression in Ukraine, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow on Monday this week notified his Tokyo counterparts that the WWII peace treaty talks are more than for the moment. On Tuesday, Japan reacted as expected, to announce such a “completely unacceptable” end to talks, pretty much strong as you get in diplo-speak.

You see, the Soviet Union and Japan never actually signed a peace treaty after World War II ended in 1945, just as the United States technically remains at war with North Korea despite active fighting ending in 1953. Moscow and Tokyo signed a declaration of peace in 1956, which allowed cultural and economic activities Trades continue as diplomats struck a deal on a series of four remote islands that the Soviets had seized in the final days of the war. In Russia – and in the Soviet Union before – it is the Kurils; in Japan, it is the Northern Territories.

Russia clearly does not have the army bandwidth to launch a second front in its quest to rebuild the former Soviet Union, if not the Russian Empire itself. But he knows he has just enough juice to shake up analysts in Tokyo and beyond. Technically, after WWII, Japan is not allowed to have an army and theoretically relies on foreign power. But Western resistance to a Japanese military force faded over time, and Tokyo to construct its capabilities for a defensive posture with a guiding hand from the West.

All of this means an errant Russian attack on Japan could force the US into a live ammunition war that Biden has promised not to join the American troops. This could compel Washington to forcibly support its rhetoric that Moscow is committing “war crimes” (language unhelpfulboth sides concede, as it ultimately requires international action).

None of this reassured Japan last week, however, when two waves of Russian warships navigated Japan’s Tsugaru Strait – as cleared and in full view of Japanese officials – as Moscow appeared to be moving relief forces to Ukraine. According to DefenceNewsthe four ships make up the entirety of the Russian Pacific Command’s amphibious fleet, suggesting that Moscow realizes it needs reinforcements in Vladivostok.

This is why Russia’s decision to warn Japan that its de facto peace is in danger resulted in a shrill cry on the diplomatic record player. Russia clearly has a lot to do as it moves relief forces and faces a unified Europe gathering at NATO Headquarters this week. Japan’s sanctions escalated and, following the West’s lead, Japan revoked Russia’s trade deal loophole and said that he would start taking Ukrainian refugees.

But there’s always a risk for Washington, especially when he’s distracted. Most of DC’s political class watches Judge Jackson’s hearings with a to mix together pride, disgust and disbelief that elected senators face in such different worlds, temporarily distracting attention from Ukraine. You see bipartisan strategists telling their clients that the results of the US election this fall will not depend on Ukraine. Inflation is hitting American families, and they are looking for someone to blame. Interest in the war seems to have peaked in the United States, at least for now.

Yet, on the eastern front of the former Soviet Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin may still have a move to make. And that is to drag the United States into another world war, one that they are forced to join. Decades-old détente is attractive to the post-war liberal world, but if the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that Moscow dislikes this stasis. Washington would do well to watch the corner of the Pacific shared by Russia and Japan.

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Write to Philip Elliott at [email protected]

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