An Unlikely Solution to Russia and Japan’s Island Stalemate

kurilOriginally published on The National Interest January 24, 2017  http://nationalinterest.org/feature/unlikely-solution-russia-japans-island-stalemate-19170

by Michael Buckalew

The dispute over the southernmost Kuril Islands—Etorofu/Iturup, Kunashiri/Kunashir, Shikotan and the Habomai Islands—have been a point of tension between Japan and Russia since their seizure by the Soviet Union in 1945. More than seventy years on, Russo-Japanese relations are still abnormal because of the enduring territorial dispute. Historical factors have largely prevented the issue from being settled. These include demography, mentalities, institutions, geography and economy, all of which incentivize hard-line policy positions over compromise. The first four factors promote continued deadlock, while economics in the form of petropolitics holds some hope for a solution.

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