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Leonid Bershidsky

A Russian Deal With Japan Finally May Be Possible

Putin sees an opening to resolve a World War II-era territorial dispute.
Diplomacy on the move.

Diplomacy on the move.

Photographer: Alexei Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be more open than ever to a compromise with Japan that would end the two countries' post-World War II territorial dispute. Both sides have been making tentative moves toward reconciliation since May, and a deal may finally be in the works after decades of false starts. 

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Putin explained why Russia and Japan haven't come to an agreement: "We are talking about finding a solution under which neither side will feel put upon, neither side will feel like a winner or a loser." That's the tough part: Russia, where pride about victory in World War II is one of the pillars of national identity, would have to give up a bit of territory to end the dispute with Japan. Even Putin's predecessor Boris Yeltsin, whose government desperately needed Japanese investment and who was on first-name terms with Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, could not force himself to part with any of the South Kuril Islands, claimed by the Soviet Union when Japan capitulated in 1945.

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