“I will find Shinzo in Vladivostok with these," Russian President Vladimir Putin remarked when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presented him with high-quality binoculars from his country during an unofficial summit in Sochi on May 6. After more than a two-year break in bilateral summits, the two leaders finally met each other this month and agreed to a new approach to stalled Russo-Japanese relations, including another Abe-Putin summit in Vladivostok scheduled for this coming September.
Putin's eagerness to schedule a second meeting—to find Abe in Vladivostok—betrayed a desperate need for Japanese investment in Russia’s neglected Asian hinterland. Meanwhile, Abe must have his sights set on a larger geopolitical agenda: his desire to turn Japan into a bridge between Russia and the West.
Abe arrived in Sochi with a sense of historic purpose. At the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit just a month earlier, U.S. President Barack Obama had commented
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