Consolidating the relationship between the two

Eventually, all of the islands should be integrated into Japan.After fifty years, Iturup and Kunashir will transition to Japanese law and sovereignty.

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For different reasons, they feel insecure and feel like they are losing out in global and regional competition.

Yet, at the same time they maintain a relationship that only guarantees that they miss valuable opportunities to improve their own situations.

The South Kuril Islands dispute is not the root cause of the sorry state, but it is a telling symbol of the poor bilateral relationship.

Solving it would help unblock the resources that each of the two countries can provide for the other.

Their underdevelopment is the most important geopolitical challenge that Russia is facing now and in the foreseeable future.

The vision of Japan as a Germany in the east for Russia should be compelling to Russian strategists.Despite the vast difference in the area they occupy, the varying levels of economic and societal development, and the dichotomy between a continental nation and an island one, similarities between the two countries are apparent.Japan and Russia have almost equal populations, low and declining birthrates, are in the midst of—admittedly very different but equally prolonged—crises of their respective political and socioeconomic systems, and are in clear need of reenergizing themselves.Yet, China also grew visibly stronger than Russia, reversing the situation of the last two-hundred years.The United States, reacting to China’s challenge and seeking to prevent Beijing’s regional hegemony even as it has become almost inextricably linked with China economically, is pivoting to the Asia-Pacific, which has overtaken the Atlantic as the world’s top and most dynamic marketplace.The island was intended to be administered jointly, but the lack of partition led to numerous conflicts between Russian and Japanese sailors and merchants. Petersburg saw Japan give up its portion of Sakhalin to Russia in return for Russia ceding the Kuril Islands to Japan.

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