Monday, May 16, 2016

What the President cannot ignore when going to Hiroshima

Memories of Changi
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

TS Eliot, from The Hollow Men

Remembering More Than Hiroshima
We must not forget the lives lost and trauma incurred by Allied forces during the Pacific War.

Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2016 12:15 p.m. ET

A black man was the first American soldier to die in World War II. An unexploded bomb from a Mitsubishi “Betty” split U.S. Army Pvt. Robert Brooks in two on December 8, 1941, as he ran to the machine gun on his half-track at Clark Field in the Philippines. Like me, he was a member of the 192nd Tank Battalion preparing to fight the invading Imperial Japanese forces. It is fitting that our first black president will soon stand at Hiroshima, where the Pacific War began its end.

Pvt. Brooks’s sacrifice and those of thousands of American and Allied forces who fought and died for freedom in the Pacific must never be forgotten. What Hiroshima represents is more than the effects of a nuclear weapon. It is the culmination of a war started by Imperial Japan and conducted with gross inhumanity, a war in which more civilians died than combatants.

It would be wrong for the president to pivot away from this history and use his visit solely to discuss aspirations for a world without nuclear weapons. Hiroshima highlights mankind’s tragic ability to wreak terrible destruction, and this destruction was not caused exclusively by atomic bombs. Sand-filled bamboo sticks, bayonets, plague-inflected fleas, starvation and rape—methods of warfare used by Japan—are also destructive.

When President Harry Truman announced the bombing of Nagasaki, which ended the war, he recognized “the tragic significance of the atomic bomb.” However, he went on to explain “we have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved, beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.”

As a former American POW of Japan, I am particularly sensitive to these words. Truman was looking out for me and more than 27,000 other American POWs in Asia. Until then, we felt forgotten and ignored. The “Europe first” policy of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill abandoned us to fight without resupply or reinforcement on the Philippines at the start of World War II. We became POWs for more than three bitter years.

We endured four unforgiving months of tank warfare in the tropical heat on Bataan against an enemy with superior training, equipment and provisions. Surrendered by our commanders, nearly 80,000 of us American and Filipino troops were forced on the Bataan Death March. The surviving 68,000 arrived at Camp O’Donnell, a prison camp that saw up to 300 die daily.
The camp commandant ranted at us that we were lower than dogs and better off dead, as we would always be enemies of Japan. I must say that many times I had to agree.

After a period in the camp, many of us went by “hell ship” to Japan to become slave laborers. In my case, it was in a dilapidated Mitsui coal mine. My friend from Janesville, Wis., Capt. Fred Bruni, had a different experience. He and 150 men from the camp were sent to Palawan Island to build an airfield. Upon completion, all the men were set afire and machine-gunned by the Kempeitai.

We POWs have tried to preserve this history despite U.S. and Japanese government efforts to suppress it. Upon liberation, most of us were forced to sign gag orders not to discuss the horrors of our imprisonment. The U.S. government’s policy was to pacify Japan in part by curbing memories of its war atrocities. Central to the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty is an article foreclosing any further compensation of victims, thus again preventing the recall of Imperial Japan’s past crimes and abuses.

At home, an underfunded Veterans Administration refused to give us full disability and ignored or misunderstood the aftereffects of vitamin deficiency, tropical diseases and trauma. It took two acts of Congress before we received any compensation for our imprisonment and only at a rate of $1.50 per day for lost meals.

The U.S. government abandoned the Pacific War’s history. This has made efforts to hold Japanese companies accountable for their brutal use of POW slaves nearly impossible. It is taboo to associate high-speed rails, luxury automobiles or Washington’s metro cars with companies that once abused Americans. Among the nearly 60 well-known companies such as Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Kawasaki and Nippon Sharyo, only the Mitsubishi Materials Company, which used POWs in four of its mines, has apologized.

In recent years the Japanese government has finally begun to make amends to American POWs. They offered an official apology in 2009. At the Obama administration’s urging, they established in 2010 a reconciliation program for former POWs to visit Japan. Unfortunately the program will end this year without any follow-up for descendants or the public.

But history is critical to how we understand ourselves. No one knew Pvt. Brooks’s race until the Army wanted to honor him. When news of his death reached Fort Knox, the chief of the armored force, Gen. Jacob Devers, decided that a parade ground should be named in his memory, because the first American tanker to die in World War II should not be forgotten.

When it was discovered that Pvt. Brooks’s parents were black tenant farmers from Sadieville, Ky., the general was asked if he wanted to reconsider. “No,” he answered, “it did not matter whether or not Robert was black, what mattered was that he had given his life for his country.” As Gen. Devers said at the Brooks Field dedication ceremony, “In death there is no grade or rank. And in this greatest democracy the world has ever known, neither riches nor poverty, neither creed nor race, draws a line of demarcation in this hour of national crisis.”

Mr. Obama wants to use his visit to Hiroshima to highlight the perils of nuclear war. But this is not the only lesson. Our service as veterans of the Pacific War needs to be remembered and not abandoned to some tumid oratory. The president’s visit to Hiroshima will be hollow, a gesture without motion, if the Pacific War’s full history is not maintained. Hiroshima does not and cannot exist outside the context of the Asia-Pacific War and all its dead.

Mr. Tenney, 95, was a member of the 192nd Tank Battalion, Company B that defended the Philippines in World War II. He lives in San Diego.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Monday in Washington, May 16, 2016

EXAMINING THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA REGION’S ECONOMIC AND TRADE POLICIES. 5/16, 10:45am-2:00pm. Sponsor: Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE). Speakers: Karim El Mokri, Senior Economist, OCP Policy Center; Abelaaziz Ait Ali, Economist, OCP Policy Center; Theodore Moran, Nonresident Senior Fellow, PIIE.

THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE CYBER STRATEGY: AN ASSESSMENT. 5/16, 11:00am-1:00pm. Sponsor: George Washington University (GWU). Speakers: Congressman James R. Langevin (D-RI), Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, House Armed Services Committee; Michael Papay, Vice President and Chief Innovation Security Officer, Northrop Grumman Corporation; Charles Snyder, Senior Advisor for Cyber Policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Department of Defense; Maj. Gen. Christopher P. Weggeman, Director, Plans and Policy (J5), U.S. Cyber Command; Mark Young, IronNet Cybersecurity and CCHS Senior Fellow.

THE LURE AND PITFALLS OF MIRVS: FROM THE FIRST TO THE SECOND NUCLEAR AGE. 5/16, 11:00am-2:30pm. Sponsor: Stimson Center. Speakers: Alexey Arbatov, Chair at Carnegie Moscow Center’s Nonproliferation Program; Brendan Rittenhouse Green, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Cincinnati; Lynn Davis, Senior Fellow, RAND Corporation; Jeffrey G. Lewis, Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program, Middlebury Institute; Michael Chase, Senior political Scientist, RAND Corporation; Jaganath Sankaran, Research Scholar, CSIS; Mansoor Ahmed, Stanton Nuclear Security junior Faculty Fellow; editor Michael Krepon, Co-Founder, Stimson Center.

ON THE NEW ARAB WARS: UPRISINGS AND ANARCHY IN THE MIDDLE EAST. 5/16, Noon-1:30pm. Sponsor: Carnegie Endowment. Speakers: Marc Lynch, Nonresident Senior Associate, Middle East Program, Carnegie; William J. Burns, President, Carnegie; Michele Dunne, Director and Senior Associate, Middle East Program, Carnegie.

ENHANCING THE U.S.-KOREA SECURITY ALLIANCE AND ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP. 5/16, 2:00-4:30pm. Sponsors: Korean-American Club (Hanmi Club); Korea Economic Institute (KEI). Speakers: Donald Manzullo, President and CEO, KEI; David Pong, Chairman, Hanmi Club; Ahn Ho-young, Ambassador, Republic of Korea; James Goldgeier, Dean, School of International Service, American University; Hyun Oh-seok, Chair Professor, Korea National Diplomatic Academy; Lee Sang-seok, Vice Chairman, Hankook Ilbo and Korea Times; Kang Chan-ho, Editorial Writer, Joong-ang Ilbo; James Miller, President, Adaptive Strategies, LLC; Matthew P. Goodman, Chair in Political Economy, CSIS; Yang Young-eun, Anchor, KBS News; Yoon Kyung-ho, Editorial Writer, Maekyung Daily.

THE SYKES-PICOT AGREEMENT AT 100: RETHINKING THE MAP OF THE MODERN MIDDLE EAST. 5/16, 2:00-4:30pm. Sponsor: American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Speakers: Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations; Ryan Crocker, Former Ambassador to Iraq and Syria; Adeed Dawisha, Miami University; Olivier Decottignies, Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Martin Indyk, Brookings; Robert Kagan, Brookings; Danielle Pletka, AEI; Michael Rubin, AEI; Dan Yergin, HIS.

MANAGING COMPLEXITY: ECONOMIC POLICY COOPERATION AFTER THE CRISIS. 5/16, 3:00-4:30pm. Sponsor: Brookings Institution. Speakers: Co-Editor Tamim Bayoumi, Visiting Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics; Kermal Dervis, Vice President and Director, Global Economy and Development; Fred Bergsten, Senior Fellow and Director Emeritus, Peterson Institute; Heidi Crebo-Rediker, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; Vito Gaspar, Director, Financial Affairs Department, IMF.

TPP: A STRATEGIC IMPERATIVE – A CONVERSATION WITH ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN. 5/16, 5:00pm. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers: Adm. Michael Mullen, 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr., Chairman, Atlantic Council.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Monday in Washington, May 9, 2016

STEM EDUCATION AND FUTURE GENERATIONS OF AMERICAN INVENTORS, TECHNOLOGISTS, AND EXPLORERS. 5/9, 10:00-11:30am, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Brookings Institution. Speakers, Charles Bolden, Administrator, NASA; Dean Kamen, Founder, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

SUPPORTING BURMA’S TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY: THE ROLE OF DIPLOMACY AND DEVELOPMENT. 5/9, 11:15am-12:45pm. Sponsor: United States Institute of Peace (USIP). Speakers: Jonathan Stivers, Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Asia, USAID; Chris Milligan, Former Mission Director for Burma, USAID; Amb. Derek Mitchell, Former Ambassador to Burma; Patrick Murphy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia.

click to order
RESTRICTING DATA FLOWS: WHEN IS IT LEGITIMATE POLICY, AND WHEN IS IT UNJUSTIFIED PROTECTIONISM? 5/9, Noon-1:30pm. Sponsor: Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). Speakers: Robert Atkinson, President, ITIF; Susan Aaronson, Research Professor of International Affairs, George Washington University.

GLOBAL INEQUALITY: A NEW APPROACH FOR THE AGE OF GLOBALIZATION. 5/9, Noon-2:00pm. Sponsor: Peterson Institute for International Economics. Speakers: author, Branko Milanovic (City University of New York); Caroline Freund and Steve Weisman of the Institute will comment on issues raised by Milanovic, drawing on their own recent books, Rich People Poor Countries and The Great Tradeoff: Confronting Moral Conflicts in the Era of Globalization, respectively.
click to order

THE RISE OF THE MILITARY WELFARE STATE. 5/9, 4:00-5:30pm. Sponsor: Washington History Seminar. Wilson Center. Speaker: author, Jennifer Mittelstadt, Fellow, Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University.

HAS THE FEDERAL RESERVE GONE TOO FAR? A DISCUSSION OF THE FED’S EVOLUTION SINCE 1913. 5/9, 5:30-7:00pm. Sponsor: American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Speakers: Kevin A. Hassett, AEI; Peter Conti-Brown, University of Pennsylvania; Allan Meltzer, School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University; Alex J. Pollock, R Street Institute.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Monday in Washington, May 2, 2016

2016 GLOBAL STRATEGY FORUM. 5/2, 8:30am-5:30pm. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers Include: Robert Work, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Defense; Max Brooks, Senior Fellow, Scowcroft Center; Arati Prabhakar, Director, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, U.S. Department of Defense; Kori Schake, Research Fellow, Hoover Institution; David Rothkopf, CEO and Editor, Foreign Policy Group.

GETTING TO YES WITH CHINA IN CYBERSPACE: IS IT POSSIBLE? 5/2, Noon–1:00pm. Sponsor: RAND. Speakers: Scott W. Harold, associate director of the Center for Asia Pacific Policy; Martin C. Libicki, senior management scientist at the RAND Corporation. Related publication:

POLITICAL AND SECURITY CRISES IN AFGHANISTAN; THE FUTURE OF THE NATIONAL UNITY GOVERNMENT. 5/2, Noon-1:30pm. Sponsor: Middle East Institute. Speakers: Ali Jalali, Former Interior Minister of Afghanistan; Michael Kugelman, Senior Associate for South Asia, Wilson Center; Omar Samad, Former Ambassador-Designate to NATO, Belgium and the EU; Scott Smith, Member of the UN Standby Mediation Team.

THE IMF’S APRIL 2016 GLOBAL FINANCIAL STABILITY REPORT: WHAT POLICIES COULD NORMALIZE MARKETS? 5/2, 12:30-2:00pm. Sponsor: Dean’s Forum, Johns Hopkins University. Speakers: Jose Vinals, Financial Counselor, IMF; Douglas Elliott, Partner, Oliver Wyman.

HISTORY WRITING OF COMFORT WOMEN ISSUES. 5/2, 2:00-5:00PM. Sponsor: Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues. Speakers: Dr. Tomomi Yamaguchi, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Montana State University (The “History Wars” and the “Comfort Woman” Issue: Revisionism and the Right-Wing in Contemporary Japan); Dr. Bonnie B.C. Oh, retired, Distinguished Professor of Korean Studies of Georgetown University (Comfort Women Testimonies as Oral History); Dr. Elizabeth W. Son, Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Theatre at Northwestern University (Performing “Comfort Women” Histories in Redressive Theatre); Moderators: Dr. Jungsil Lee (President of WCCW) and Dr. Jisoo M. Kim (GWU).

TAKING A STAND TOGETHER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA. 5/2, 2:30-4:00pm. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Katsunobu Kato, Minister in Charge of the Abduction Issue, Abe Cabinet; Jung-Hoon Lee, Ambassador for Human Rights of the Republic of Korea; Robert R. King, Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, U.S. Department of State; Victor Cha, Senior Advisor and Korea Chair, CSIS.

STATE OF THE RACE. 5/2, 2:45pm. Sponsor: Politico. Speakers: Mike DuHaime, Partner, Mercury; Stephanie Cutter, Partner, Precision Strategies; Kevin Madden, Partner, Hamilton Price Strategies; April Ryan, White House Correspondent and Washington Bureau Chief, American Urban Radio Networks.

RUSSIA ECONOMIC REPORT, APRIL 2016: THE LONG ROAD TO RECOVERY. 5/2, 5:00-6:20pm. Sponsor: Georgetown University (GU). Speaker: Birgit Hansl, World Bank’s Program Leader and Lead Economist for Russian Federation in the Europe and Central Asia Region.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Japan’s Double Standard on Freedoms and Rule of Law

PM Shinzo Abe is maintaining a double standard on democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

By Aurelia George Mulgan
First Appeared in The Diplomat, April 20, 2016

A number of domestic and international developments have revealed a glaring disconnect between the Japanese government’s preaching and its practice on the issue of universal values.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proudly declared a values-based diplomacy for Japan in both his first (2006-07) and second administrations (2012-), emphasizing universal values such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law. In January 2013, not long after the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) regained power, he outlined the basic principles on which his government’s diplomacy would be based. One of these fundamental principles was the concept of “universal values.” A month later, he publicly repeated this commitment to “diplomacy that places emphasis on universal values.”

As a diplomatic tool, rhetoric such as “democracy, human rights and the rule of law” justifies the Abe government’s continuing alignment with Japan’s long-standing democratic allies and with other semi-democracies in Asia that share his strong reservations about China’s unpeaceful rise. It also pointedly excludes China by definition from any putative coalition of democratically aligned states.

On the other hand, several recent actions and policies of the Abe administration, particularly in the domestic domain, suggest that the prime minister’s declarations of a commitment to universal values are primarily a diplomatic device for international consumption. They do not represent a guide to the government’s stance at home on a number of key issues. Quite the contrary, the prime minister’s record clearly shows that his government is taking Japan in an authoritarian direction that is unprecedented in the postwar era. What is more, these steps seriously question Abe’s commitment to universal values.

Among a series of deleterious developments, the Abe administration’s record in dealing with the media demonstrates that it is falling well short of observing first principles of democratic accountability. Amongst the most egregious examples of media-muzzling are attempts to silence media critics, including creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation amongst journalists and other commentators who dare to question the government’s and ruling party’s policies, personnel and actions. In addition to the administration’s explicit actions to control the message, the 2013 State Secrets Law compounds the threat to freedom of news reporting by hanging over journalists’ heads like the sword of Damocles.

In the education sector, the Abe government has censored school textbooks, ensuring that the latest versions for students follow the government’s uniform line on history and territorial issues. The bottom of this slippery slope will land Japanese students in the same position as those in China, for whom only official accounts of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre are available and who are taught that the Dalai Lama is a terrorist.

The Abe government has also heavied universities to rid themselves of humanities and social science departments, arguably, amongst other things, to discourage the training of students’ critical thinking skills, thus silencing another potential source of criticism of the government.

Yet another and possibly the most disturbing example is the proposed content of the LDP’s May 2012 draft revisions to the 1947 Constitution. In glaring contrast to the human rights Abe cites internationally as “universal,” the draft explicitly rejects this notion. It states that human rights derive from a country’s history, culture, and traditions, and are, therefore, qualified to the extent that they are influenced by these factors. Indeed, the maintenance of so-called “public order” is elevated over all individual rights, raising the question, “public order” as defined by whom? Presumably “the government of the day.” Instead of universal human rights, Japanese citizens will be given “duties and obligations” (unspecified) – no doubt, once again, to be defined by public authorities. At the same time, the prime minister has undermined the rule of law by claiming in the Diet to be the ultimate source of authority regarding interpretation of the Constitution, an act for which he will be judged by the electorate. In short, the meaning of the constitution is what the prime minister says it is, which would potentially remove the Japanese constitution’s safeguards against the rise of authoritarianism.

Last but not least is the Abe government’s flouting of the ruling of the highest court of the UN, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Japan’s whale hunt in the Southern Ocean. In March 2014, ICJ ruled that Japan’s Antarctic whale hunts were unscientific and ordered it to stop hunting. Only three months after this ruling, in June 2014, Prime Minister Abe told the Japanese parliament that he wanted to aim for the resumption of commercial whaling by conducting whaling research. He thus personally endorsed the resumption of commercial whaling, which Japan had been conducting on spurious scientific grounds under the politicized term “research whaling” (chōsa hogei) used ubiquitously by Japanese authorities and in the media.

Japan has since resumed lethal research whaling under the much publicized heading of NEWREP-A and stated that it will not accept the jurisdiction of the ICJ on marine living resources, reflecting a clear double standard in its stance on the rule of law internationally. Nor does Japan recognize the Australian Antarctic Territory’s EEZ, or its Whale Sanctuary, or the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

The reality is that Japanese whaling is neither scientific nor commercial. It is a government-subsidized and sponsored industry conducted for the benefit of the Japanese whaling industry-cum-lobby and is certainly not for the benefit of Japanese consumers. This lobby is headed by the semi-governmental Institute of Cetacean Research, charged with propagandizing the virtues of whaling and an affiliated organ (gaikaku dantai) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). Apart from providing plum positions for retired bureaucrats, many such groups play key roles in the ancillary apparatus of government intervention by undertaking regulatory and/or allocatory functions as well as participating directly in markets.

Whaling is defended against international attack on spurious cultural grounds, traditionally the last defense of the protectionists. The Japanese government tried the same defense of its rice industry at the Uruguay Round of the GATT, proselytizing the notion of rice as quintessentially a cultural good in Japan. Here it was considerably more successful, extracting a concession that allowed rice to be spared from tariffication under the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (URAA).

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Monday in Washington, April 25, 2016


THE OUTLOOK FOR ACQUISITION REFORM IN 2016. 4/25, 10:00-11:30am. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Dr. William LaPlante, Vice President, Intelligence Portfolio, National Security Engineering Center, MITRE; Kate Blakeley, Research Fellow, CSBA; John Luddy, Vice President, National Security Policy, AIA; Matthew Chandler, Director of Acquisition Policy, Palantir.

click to order
THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION: A PEOPLE’S HISTORY, 1962–1976. 4/25, 11:00-12:30pm, Washington, DC. Speakers: author Frank Dikötter, Chair Professor of Humanities, University of Hong Kong; with comments by Xia Yeliang, Visiting Fellow, Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, Cato Institute; moderated by Marian L. Tupy, Editor,, Cato Institute. 

UNLOCKING THE POTENTIAL OF U.S.-INDIA TRADE. 4/25, 1:30pm. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers: Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr., Chairman, Atlantic Council; The Hon. John Cornyn, R-TX; The Hon. Mark Warner, D-VA; H.E. Arun Singh, Ambassador of India.

THE HALFWAY POINT OF THE U.S. ARCTIC COUNCIL CHAIRMANSHIP: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? 4/25, 2:00-3:30pm. Sponsor: Brookings Institution. Speaker: Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., Special Representative for the Arctic, U.S. Department of State.

CHINA’S OVERSEAS INVESTMENT IN EUROPE AND BEYOND. 4/25, 2:30-4:00pm. Sponsor: Brookings Institution. Speakers: Mireya Solis, Senior Fellow, Brookings; Philippe Le Corre, Visiting Fellow, Brookings; David Dollar, Senior Fellow, Brookings; Constanze Stelzenmuller, Senior Fellow, Brookings.

NEPAL EARTHQUAKE ONE YEAR LATER: DEPUTY PM ADDRESSES POLITICAL PROCESS, LESSONS FROM THE RESPONSE. 4/25, 3:45-5:00pm. Sponsor: USIP. Speakers: Nisha Desai Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs; H.E. Kamal Thapa, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Nepal.

OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR MODERN PUBLIC DIPLOMACY. 4/25, 5:30-6:30pm. Sponsor: George Washington University (GWU). Speaker: Katherine Brown, Executive Director, U.S. Advocacy Council on Public Diplomacy.

Despite Bilateral Diplomatic Contacts, Russia Hardens Its View of US as the Enemy

Russian coast guard vessels moored in port at the
Kurile island of Shikotan (Source: Reuters)
First published in the Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 13 Issue: 63, March 31, 2016

By: Pavel Felgenhauer

According to Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the frequency and intensity of high-level contacts between Russia and the United States “are unprecedented.” US Secretary of State John Kerry has regularly visited Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and with President Vladimir Putin. This flurry of diplomatic activity is proof, according to Ryabkov, that Moscow is an indispensable world power, essential to fixing important global problems; and Washington is being forced to recognize this fact. Russia will be doing its best to further impress on the US its own importance and the need to “treat us [Moscow] as an equal power.” But there are problems: “Illegal sanctions imposed by the West are in force” and “anti-Russian rhetoric is deafening in the election-year debates in America.” Russia’s relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are frozen: There is no date yet to hold a NATO-Russia Council meeting at the ambassadorial level, because Moscow does not accept NATO’s proposed draft agenda (Izvestia, March 28).

Russia refused to attend the fourth nuclear security summit in Washington this week (March 31–April 1)—the first time a top Russian official has been absent since these summits were initiated by President Barack Obama. The Kremlin and the White House exchanged barbs over “Russian self-isolation” on one side and the “lack of understanding with Washington” on the other. Kerry’s visits and talks did not help dissolve mutual distrust (Kommersant, March 31). The chair of the Duma Foreign Relations Committee, Alexei Pushkov, dismissed US calls for more nuclear disarmament talks and Obama’s demand that Russia fully comply with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Washington accuses Moscow of violating the INF by developing a land-based, long-range, nuclear-capable cruise missile—an accusation the Russian side has adamantly denied. According to Pushkov: “The US must first repair relations with Russia that were destroyed by Obama and only then offer us talks on nuclear weapons” (RIA Novosti, March 31).

The Russian military has recently begun to once again officially use the Cold War phrase “likely enemy” (veroyatniy protivnik) when referring to the US and its allies. Since the collapse of Communism in 1991, the term fell into disuse. But today, Russia and the US are apparently officially enemies again. Last week, speaking at a gathering of top Russian brass in Moscow (the Defense Ministry Collegium), the defense minister, Army-General Sergei Shoigu, announced the deployment of new S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems near Novosibirsk, in the Central Military District. According to Shoigu, new air defense units are being formed, “which will allow, by 2020, to drastically increase the zone of denial of attack by air formations of the likely enemy—we will be able to shoot down cruise missiles flying at low, high and medium altitude” (, March 25).

Shoigu seems to be preparing the Russian military to fight an all-out war with the “likely enemy” on all fronts—on land, sea and air—defending military industrial targets in big cities deep in the Russian hinterland. New threats and military deployments were announced in the East, the Arctic and in the West against NATO, “which is expanding its military potential in Europe, close to Russian borders.” According to Shoigu, “Russia must respond.” New forces are being organized and deployed against NATO in the Western Military District, “including two new army divisions.” Bases are being built and expanded in the Arctic, including on Vrangel Island, located north of Chukotka, in the Arctic Sea (, March 25).

Reinforcements are also being deployed in the Kurile Islands: In 2016, new anti-ship guided missiles “Bal” and “Bastion,” together with new spy drones will be deployed in the South Kurile Kunashir and Iturup islands, also claimed by Japan (see EDM, March 30). Shoigu announced that in April 2016, a special three-month-long naval expedition “by sailors of the Pacific Fleet” will be commenced from the islands of the Greater Kurile Chain (Ridge) to “explore new bases for the Pacific Fleet” (, March 25). According to the chair of the Defense and Security Committee of the Federation Council (upper house of the Russian parliament), Victor Ozerov, “the number of naval ships of the Pacific Fleet that will be deployed in the Kuriles will depend on how constructive relations will be with Japan and other Asia-Pacific nations.” Ozerov called on Japan not to view this future deployment as a threat: “The military-strategic importance [to Russia] of the Kuriles is high; and anyway, not all of the Pacific Fleet will be deployed there” (RIA Novosti, March 25).

It is unclear where the Russian warships are to be stationed in the Kuriles: on Kunashir and Iturup or further north. Today, only Kunashir, Iturup and the most northern Paramushir islands are populated. The Russian military is deployed in the southern Kunashir and Iturup, close to Japan. The rest of the Kurile islands (56 in all) are uninhabited and have no military infrastructure. Since military forces are already deployed in the South Kuriles, there seems no need to send a special naval expedition to seek possible new bases. Possibly the Russian military is planning to militarize the other Kurile islands, as well.

The Russian General Staff considers the Kurile Islands a prime military-strategic asset. The Russian navy has announced it will deploy its newest Borei-class strategic nuclear submarines armed with new Bulava multiple-warhead ballistic missiles to Kamchatka, at the Vilyuchinsk submarine base, where housing and infrastructure have been revamped on orders from the Kremlin. Overall, eight Borei-class subs are planned to be built, and up to five could be based in Kamchatka (TASS, March 4).

At present, the existing Borei-class subs (Yuri Dolgoruky, Vladimir Monomakh and Alexander Nevsky) are undergoing testing in the Barents Sea—close to the Severnaya shipyard, where they were built in Severodvinsk, in the estuary of the Severnaya Dvina, on the White Sea (Izvestia, March 2) When operating in the Pacific, the Borei submarines will go on patrol from Vilyuchinsk into the Russian-controlled, relatively shallow Sea of Okhotsk. From there, they will target the continental United States.

The Sea of Okhotsk is seen as a better safe haven than the northern Barents Sea. The Kurile Island Chain separates the Sea of Okhotsk from the open Pacific Ocean; it is strategically important for the Russian military to build up its naval defenses in the region so as not to allow US and allied anti-submarine assets to penetrate the Okhotsk waters and airspace. As the Borei subs begin arriving in the Pacific, the Kurile Islands could be further militarized—and not only the southern ones facing Japan.