The reality of territorial negotiations where military cards make a big difference
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(Kuon Amata: novelist, military critic)
At the Japan-Russia summit meeting on January 22, 2019, when the progress of the Northern Territories return negotiations was whispered in advance reports, President Putin made a positive statement that “a solution is possible”, but it seems to be new after all. No information came out.
However, in these important negotiations, the negotiation status is often not disclosed until an agreement is reached, so it is possible that the negotiations are actually progressing. In the past, Russia has stabbed a nail on the Japanese side, which leaked information that seems to be an observation balloon to the media, so it is inappropriate to blame the government for the lack of new information.
Rather, it is possible that negotiations have entered a new stage, given that President Putin made a statement at the end of 2018 that appeared to have intended the deployment of US troops. On the other hand, in response to this remark, the media in Japan suddenly started to mention military and security.
In this article, I would like to give an overview of the military values of the Northern Territories, which are difficult to understand, and help to predict the future of the negotiations.
Military value of the Northern Territories
From a military point of view, let’s sort out why Russia does not want to return the Northern Territories.
(1) Impact on Russia’s nuclear deterrence strategy
Russia’s nuclear force relies primarily on ground-launched ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Of these, the Northern Territories issue has a major impact on submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Ground-launched ballistic missiles, even mobile ones, can be discovered by satellites and destroyed before they are launched. Therefore, the tendency to emphasize submarine-launched ballistic missiles as a so-called retaliatory nuclear force (for counterattack after being attacked) is common to both the United States and Russia.
However, Russia’s naval power is far from that of the United States. The United States uses strategic missile submarines (nuclear submarines that operate ballistic missiles) in seas around the world, but Russia’s strategic missile submarines are surrounded by the Arctic waters such as the Valentz Sea, the Kamchatka Peninsula, and the Chishima Islands. It can only be operated properly in the Okhotsk Sea (however, since it occupies Crimea, there is a possibility that strategic nuclear submarines will be operated in the Black Sea in the future).