Vladimir Putin’s visit to Tokyo came at a critical time in Russia’s relations with its Asian neighbours. The trip, immediately following the Asia-Paciﬁc Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Pusan, highlights a major dilemma exercising the Kremlin. Should Russia continue to base its eastern policy on strategic partnership with China, or adopt a more balanced approach of strategic diversity centred on rapprochement with Japan?
The logic of diversiﬁcation is compelling – and recognised as such by Putin. Since coming to power in January 2000, he has consistently trumpeted the virtues of a geographically balanced foreign policy that prizes good relations with east and west, north and south, but which is independent and beholden to none. In the Asia-Paciﬁc, Putin sees strategic ﬂexibility as the most effective means of promoting Russia’s security, geopolitical and economic interests.