Russia-Japan Energy Cooperation in the Context of Russia’s “Pivot” to Asia

This paper examines Russia-Japan energy cooperation in the context of Russia’s “pivot (re-balancing) strategy” towards Asia. Russia’s government recently elevated the “Asia dimension” in its foreign policy and national energy strategy, viewing Asia as the most attractive market due to the fastest-growing energy demand, stable energy prices, and lucrative business opportunities for Russian energy suppliers. Furthermore, it is crucial to attract international financial and technological assistance for the development of the rich energy base and infrastructure in the remote areas of Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East. To achieve this goal, the Russian government has been seeking to boost energy cooperation with the Asian partners, particularly Japan (Asia’s second largest economy and one of the world’s top energy consumers). The paper argues that given their geographical proximity, complementary economic needs, and desire to diversify their respective energy policies, Japan and Russia should continue expanding their energy cooperation – beyond the traditional trade in crude oil and natural gas. While addressing the underlying political, economic, and strategic factors that drive Russia’s “pivot” to Asia, the paper provides a comprehensive assessment of recent developments and the most important projects in Russia-Japan energy relations. Finally, by putting the two countries’ energy cooperation in the context of their relations as a whole, the paper examines the prospects for the full normalization of Russia-Japan political ties.

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