Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 30

Russia’s Foreign Ministry repeated its misgivings yesterday about a 1997 accord which strengthens and broadens the security alliance between the United States and Japan. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told reporters that the vagueness of the new Japanese-U.S. defense guidelines worries Moscow and other countries in the region, including China. He said that Moscow would regard it as “inadmissible” if Russia is included among the territories covered by the new agreement.

Rakhmanin’s remarks come as Japanese lawmakers discuss a packet of bills related to the Japanese-U.S. defense accord. The Russian diplomat was referring specifically to a provision in the agreement which calls for Japan to provide “logistic support to U.S. military operations not only in the case of aggression against Japan but also in the event of emergency situations arising in unspecified areas adjacent to Japan.” Rakhmanin reportedly said that Russia wants to know exactly which territories are included in the reference “adjacent to Japan” and whether parts of Russia might be included among them. He said that Moscow also wants to know exactly what would be considered “emergency situations.” He said that alliances must be as “transparent as possible” and emphasized that Moscow expects Washington and Tokyo to explain openly what the new defense agreement means for Russia and Asian countries (Russian agencies, February 11).

Moscow is unlikely to be fully satisfied on all those counts. The new U.S.-Japanese defense guidelines, which U.S. officials announced formally in New York in September 1997, were specifically formulated to avoid describing the territory the pact would cover. That vagueness was aimed, in particular, at muting Chinese misgivings over whether the agreement extended to Taiwan. U.S. officials did, however, go out of their way to emphasize that the agreement was intended to deal with dangerous situations as they might arise and were not “country specific” or “geographically specific.” The United States and Japan have also assured Beijing and other Asian nations that the new defense guidelines are not directed at them.

In his remarks yesterday, Rakhmanin said that Moscow hoped the expanded military cooperation between Japan and the United States would have “exclusively defensive aims and not upset the regional balance of forces.” In addition, he used the Japanese-U.S. agreement to make a more general and by now standard comment about Russia’s declared view of international relations. According to Rakhmanin, Russia firmly believes that military blocs have outlived their usefulness and that peace and stability around the globe should now be maintained by the collective efforts of the international community (Russian agencies, February 11). That is the same sort of argument which Moscow has used in calling both for NATO to be transformed into a political alliance and for NATO to give up plans to enlarge its membership. Moscow has also expressed its misgivings about plans being mooted by Japan and the United States to develop a joint missile defense system.