Stirrings in Heiligendamm

Prime Minister Abe and President Putin met on Thursday evening (Friday morning, Japan time) as planned and discussed what seems like every outstanding issue in Russo-Japanese relations: fishing rights, the Northern Territories, the development of Siberia’s energy resources, and a Russo-Japanese peace treaty.

Few conclusions, however, were reached, and it seems that there will be no direct exchange of visits after all, with the next face-to-face being at the APEC meeting in Australia in September.

But, while the outcome of the meeting seems to be more modest than I expected, I still think there’s reason to think that the months leading up to the next summit will be spent with both countries exploring options for a grand bargain on outstanding bilateral issues, not least the Northern Territories question.

Again, I think the strategic logic is unimpeachable; both, relatively friendless in the region, need more options. But the road to an agreement will be arduous, and based on the coverage of the Abe-Putin summit, it seems that Japan and Russia are starting from scratch.

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