Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on Friday to draw up proposals this year to end a row over a group of disputed islands that has bedevilled relations between their countries for over 70 years. ...
Concessions over the islands would carry risks for Putin but could boost Japanese investment in Russia at a time when Moscow, battered by low global oil prices and Western sanctions, badly needs an injection of cash.
From Tokyo's perspective, better relations would allow Russia and Japan to form a counter-balance to China, the region's rising power.
And yes, with a rising China, both Russia and Japan could use a neighbor predisposed to help the other in a dispute with China--or at least not be a potential threat that needs to be watched with scarce military resources at the expense of facing China.
Of course, announcing any deal that gives the territory back to Japan could cause Putin a problem with nationalistic elements in Russia.
Although if timed to coincide with an invasion of Ukraine to complete the conquest of the Donbas eastern region, that nationalistic fury might be redirected to celebration.
When retreating far appear to be gaining near.