Suga's casus: with the new Japanese premiere, relations with Russia will face a long cold snap
24 September , 16:27
In the foreseeable future Japan will turn into an introvert country, passively reacting to the external impulses just as much as necessary.

As you know, the former secretary of Abe Yoshihide Suga was elected as the new prime minister of Japan after the long-term leader of this country Shinzo Abe resigned on his own accord. Journalist Maxim Krymov writes in an extensive and extremely informative material on the website of the Carnegie International Center about who he is, what Japan's domestic and foreign policy will become under him, and, in particular, what can Russia expect from the new prime minister.

Suga is from the bottom, he reached high ranks late, but when he got there, he established himself as an outstanding administrator. His predecessor, Shinzo Abe, was a big fan of general battles: in the seven years of his second premiership, he dissolved the lower house twice, and both times won crushing victories in early elections. The benefits of this aggravation game were twofold: the opposition population in parliament remained stably low, and Abe's support in the party was stably high, because no one in their right mind would want to change the winning leader.

Such tactics suited Abe very stylistically: loud slogans and ambitious goals, mobilizing the party and voters, not only helped to justify early elections, but also very well coincided with his sense of his own historical mission. The fact that in the end none of these ambitious goals (whether it be eliminating chronic budget deficits, reforming the constitution, or returning the disputed islands) was never achieved was of critical importance.

In this sense, Suga is the direct antipode of his predecessor. He clearly prefers quiet work to loud slogans, solution of local problems to ambitious tasks, and, as it seems, he has no sense of a historical mission at all. The new cabinet introduced by him on September 16 looks not like the vanguard of an army preparing for battle, but like a team of carpenters hired to urgently strengthen the fortress under siege.

Things in the fortress are really not in the best way: despite the relatively favorable situation with the coronavirus in Japan itself, the global pandemic has already plunged the Japanese economy into the deepest recession since the Second World War.

Other long-standing problems in the structure of the Japanese state also appeared. The Japanese bureaucracy, which functions stably in peacetime, turned out to be unprepared to work in emergency situations: it is clumsy, lacking in initiative and very prone to paperwork. The latter circumstance looks especially outrageous: the Russian electronic government is science fiction against the background of the Japanese administrative apparatus, which still actively uses fax.

If there is anything that can be called Sugi's obvious priority in his new position, it is the modernization of the Japanese bureaucracy, of which he has been the unofficial head of the last seven years. Apparently, Suga really intends to lock himself in the fortress and sit in it until the fortress is put in order. With this very order, he plans to go to the elections - both the elections of the LDP leader and the elections to the House of Representatives.

However, at the same time, Sugi will not be able to stay away from the international agenda, namely, foreign policy is one of the weak points of the new prime minister. Despite his obvious lack of experience in this area, he will have to react to the results of the US presidential elections in November this year. Last time, even his much more seasoned predecessor managed to cope with this task only with great difficulty.

Suga will also have to determine the vector of development of Japan's relations with China, which are now in an extremely ambiguous position. Abe has built them very carefully over the past seven years and even managed to achieve tangible success. But a flare-up in US-China relations could nullify all progress.

Finally, it is Suga who will soon have to formulate Japan's new "new approach" to Russia: its previous edition, on which Abe spent 27 personal meetings with Vladimir Putin and a significant part of his political capital, did not bring much dividends to the Japanese side.

Oddly enough, it is in the Russian direction that the most clarity: already now it can be argued that relations between Russia and Japan will face a long period of cooling. The intensification of bilateral contacts, which began in 2016, was Abe's unilateral initiative, based on his sense of his own historical mission and personal relationship with Putin. Abe's successor has neither the first nor the second. He also has neither experience in international affairs, nor, as it seems, the desire to leave the fortress he is rebuilding unnecessarily.

Japan Sugi in the foreseeable future will be a closed country for repairs-introvert, passively reacting to external impulses just as much as necessary. There will be no ambitious foreign policy initiatives at least until next fall. And after that, too, hardly - at least to the address of Russia. Abe’s four years of efforts ended, by and large, in nothing. Even if Sugi's reforms fail and the LDP will soon return to the question "if not Abe, then who", a potential successor to Sugi is unlikely to be inclined to start a conversation from scratch, the outcome of which is already known from previous experience.