In Part I of “Post-Cold War Legal Ambiguities,” I sought to put forward the argument that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine should be reinterpreted with a broader historical perspective in mind. One aspect concerns the implication that Russia is seeking to depose the current Ukrainian government to deter further expansion of the EU/NATO. Giving credence to that conclusion is the consistent belief among members of Putin’s Kremlin that EU/NATO expansion represents a perceived “violation” of the 2+4 Agreement. Referred to by this Author as the “New Versailles Treaty,” the 2+4 Agreement is the document that led to the legal end of World II, not the official historical end (which was 1945), in 1990. West Germany, one of the “2” German signatories (East Germany being the other), agreed to surrendering its territorial claims east of the Oder-Neiße Line and restrictions on the size and composition of the Bundeswehr (West German armed forces) in exchange for reuniting (or annexing) East Germany.
It is because of the fact that the 2+4 Agreement mainly concerned West and East Germany that the only one signatory willing to challenge its legitimacy is Post-Soviet Russia, the successor of the Soviet Union. Russia insists that there was an unofficial, unwritten arrangement made between themselves and the Allied Powers (US, UK and France) that the countries beyond the Oder-Neiße Line (Poland, Czechia and Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria) would not become future EU/NATO member-states. But because the EU/NATO expanded beyond the Oder-Neiße Line, the Kaliningrad Oblast (originally part of the German region of East Prussia) is nearly cut off from the rest of Russia, and neither Germany nor Poland nor Lithuania has any territorial claims over it. That Russian-controlled half of East Prussia is precisely why the Russians are so willing to prevent Ukraine from joining the EU/NATO and express criticism of Sweden and Finland joining NATO.
An argument should be made that Russia prefers Germany to reclaim its own sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, rather than being a lapdog of the Empire of Liberty. However, there are no indications in the German-speaking world that anyone is interested in reasserting a purely German sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. That would be the biggest complication in the ongoing plans concerning Ukraine, but I cannot help but wonder if the Russians have longer-term plans where they would try to get Germany to abandon the EU/NATO, the key precedent that will make such a plan possible. The abandonment of the EU/NATO by Germany would have to be the result of the EU/NATO itself disintegrating or at the very least scaled back. Whether that is going to happen remains to be seen, but I would not too surprised if it were to happen, given the present state of affairs.
In the meantime, I should mention that there is another issue with the legal framework that make the current world order possible. Yes, it does involve Russia, but this time it has to do with Post-1945 Japan. Anyone familiar with the Post-1945 Japanese armed forces will know that it is a “Self-Defense Force.” This means that it is an armed forces that is only capable of defending its own immediate boundaries and cannot project military power beyond those same immediate boundaries. The Jeffersonians wanted to prevent Japan from being capable of projecting power in the Pacific, so they forced Japan to agree to the terms of Treaty of San Francisco during the Cold War. While it more or less led to a peace treaty between the Allies and Japan, the same cannot be true for the Soviet Union, which also fought against the Imperial Japanese during World War II.
The Soviets was not a signatory of the Treaty of San Francisco, and there were a number of objections to it. The most important included the fact that Mainland China was not invited (despite suffering the most from Japan in the Second Sino-Japanese War), that Japan would facilitate American military bases and become drawn into the Empire of Liberty against the Soviet Union, and did not recognize Soviet territorial claims over South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. The Empire of Liberty has consistently been ambiguous about whether the Maoists or the Kuomintang are the true rulers of China. It has also found controlling Japan as being integral to having a foothold in East Asia, where the PRC and DPRK are considered additional rivals. And on a legal technicality, neither the Soviets nor Japan were able to agree on peaceful terms over the two aforementioned territories during the Cold War.
This brings me to the recent news concerning the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (the Western press refers to him as “Shinzo Abe”). It has been known for years that PM Abe was on very good terms with Vladimir Putin, which has become the subject of criticism among certain members in the Japanese government. The criticism largely stems from Japan’s territorial claims over the Kuril Islands, which Abe has made it a longstanding issue throughout his tenure as Prime Minister. For much of the 2010s, there have been various diplomatic talks between Abe and Putin over the Kuril Islands in the Japanese and Russian press. The publications in both countries has maintained that neither Abe nor Putin achieved much in resolving the question of who really controls the Kuril Islands. It is apparently clear that Putin has no interest in ceding all of the islands. At best, he was willing to agree on some form of joint-ownership between Russia and Japan (as a compromise), but that obviously did not sit well with the Japanese, who preferred to control the islands themselves and without Russia.
There has been a convincing argument over the years that because Russia and Japan are unwilling to decide on who controls the Kuril Islands, “World War II never ended” for the Russians and Japanese and nobody else. It is an interesting statement, but its credibility also falls flat on its own without anyone connecting it to the European half of the conflict. After all, World War II was not restricted to either Europe or Asia; the conflict spanned throughout much of the Eurasian landmass. Today, Russia has literally nothing to gain from invading what are otherwise four uninhabited islands with very little in the way of natural resources. The strategic value is highlighted by the islands’ ability to facilitate the groundwork for aerial defense–as in the construction of airfields–or naval amphibious operations between Japan, the Eurasian landmass to its north and west, and North America to the east.
Other than that, the fact that the Empire of Liberty was built on flimsy legal grounds is something which Russia and China have sought to exploit. We have to always remember that international treaties like the Treaty of San Francisco and the 2+4 Agreement were designed on one-sided terms in favor of the Jeffersonians’ Empire of Liberty. Germany and Japan may be economic rivals to these United States, but they cannot be military rivals because of those two treaties. Economic power and military power are closely intertwined in the State of Total Mobilization, one power supporting the other and vice versa. The extent of Economic Liberalization on Germany and Japan is preferable to the Empire of Liberty insofar as neither will be militarily capable of creating their own power blocs, let alone become future allies of Russia and China (if such a thing is still possible). With Germany, it is the EU/NATO’s crises; with Japan it is the Lost Decades.
From the perspective of Post-Soviet Russia, it is understandable to court the Japanese and convince them to become allies of Russia (and maybe China). I am not at all suggesting that it would be possible at the moment, but just as I had pointed out the problems of Germany abandoning the 2+4 Agreement, some kind of precedent has to be set into motion for it to become feasible. Even so, it is still preferable for Russian-Japanese rapprochement because that might entail an emboldened Japan to evict the US military presence from its own borders. Although that might not be conducive to an actual military alliance, an independent Japan, like an independent Germany, is far better than one aligned with the Empire of Liberty. Having two powerful countries be unaligned can set the groundwork for a different world order, a world order that could potentially supersede the current order. It is ambitious prospects such as these that we have to look at the Ukraine conflict with a broader historical perspective and its implications weighed against the future of the Empire of Liberty.