The United States and Russia.
Which one is the rock, which one is the hard place? – I’ll let you decide.
On 24 February, I discussed how Russia was looking for the United States to help guide Japan toward an agreement over the Southern Kuril Islands (Northern Territories) as Japan and Russia have progressively strengthened ties with each other over the past few years.
Up until the United States’ recent visit to Japan, Tokyo has attempted to stay away from Russia’s Crimean Annexation as much as possible; however, after President Obama came to Japan, Tokyo decided to deny the visas of 23 people (including “government officials”). This will now start a tit-for-tat exchange, as Russia has vowed to respond in kind. Hopefully only denied visias in the interim and not going as far as canceling state-visits (like the Prime Minister Putin’s Tokyo visit).
Russia has also called Japan out on this move, stating that Japan is following the marching orders of the United States; however, it should be noted that while the United States has frozen the assets of Russians and imposed sanctions, Japan has not.
Needless to say, again under (requests? pressures?) by the U.S., Russo-Japanese tensions are on the rise again just as an agreement with the Kuril Islands could be in the works. Granted, the southern two islands (which Russia and the prior Soviet Union have attempted to ‘give back’ to make way for a peace treaty) only account for 7% of the land mass of all 4 islands; after almost 60 years would it be better to have all four islands or better relations with your neighbor?
Prime Minister Abe has recently left to talk with European Leaders discussing what courses of action are available to deal with the U.S.’s hard stance on Moscow and their own economic interests… especially since there was an article I just read announcing Japan had dropped to 4th place, overtaken by India—and the United States will probably fall to second place, under China, by year-end.