Staunton, April 13 – The Russian fleet and aviation is not in a position to counter Japanese moves against the Kuriles, moves that could echo not only across the northwestern Pacific and adjoining portions of the Russian Federation but in Kaliningrad and Russian-occupied Crimea as well, Aleksandr Shirokorad argues.
The historian draws that conclusion on the basis of an examination of an exchange that took place recently between a former Japanese diplomat and a Russian security analyst. Akio Kavatao argued in Newsweek Japan that Tokyo should blockade waters between the Kuriles and Aleksey Ramm said in Novoye voyennoye obozreniye that Moscow could easily break such forces with conventional weapons in the region.
But in fact, Shirokorad says, “this is a fantasy. The Japanese fleet and aviation exceeds the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation by orders of magnitude,” and unless Moscow beefs up its forces, the Russian government would be forced to choose between surrender and using nuclear weapons against Japan (nvo.ng.ru/realty/2021-04-08/2_1136_soldiers.html).
The result of a conflict conducted “according to the Akio-Ramm scenario” would be that Japan could easily seize not only two largest islands in the Kuriles chain but the rest as well and also quite possibly other Russian islands in the area that “thanks to Gorbachev and Yeltsin” are completely undefended.
“If the Japanese obtain the two south Kurile islands,” Shirokobad continues, “for the seizure of the remaining unpopulated islands it would not need either an army or a float. It could simply dispatch there a flotilla of cutters, yachts and fishing vessels, and thousands of Japan would begin to take over.”
According to the historian, “the loss of the Kuriles would create a serious temptation among our ‘foreign partners’ regarding Sakhalin and Kamchatka which already for a long time have been shown on Japanese maps as belong to Japan.” And it could lead to moves against Crimea, Kaliningrad and elsewhere as well.
In his article, Ramm said that “Russia in the Far East has one additional card, a division of Long-Distance Aviation.” If its planes were used as intended, they could in fact transform Japan into “radioactive ruble.” That may dissuade Japan, but because the consequences of a nuclear strike on Japan would be so large, Moscow might be reluctant to launch it.
To avoid having to choose whether to go nuclear, Moscow needs to take a number of steps, Shirokorad says. It needs to limit Japanese tourism in the Kuriles because they could easily serve as the advance guard of a Japanese occupation.
Moreover, it needs to warn Japan that if Tokyo does move aggressively against Russian territory, Moscow can inflict serious pain on Japan without firing a shot, both by seizing Japanese shipping vessels on the high seas and by using advanced mining technology to close Japanese ports on that country’s “home islands.”
Its time to “end the hysteria about Turkish drones” and instead develop undersea drones that Russia could use against Japanese ports. That would be a credible threat that Tokyo would have to take seriously and mean that Russia could block Japan from moving against the Kuriles even though absence such drones its conventional presence in the region is too small.