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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has assiduously courted Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting with him more than a dozen times in four years.Russia has bolstered its defenses on the four disputed islands, and, just prior to this month's summit, he told the Japanese media that the current territorial arrangement suits Russian interests.If Japan did that, however, it would effectively be recognizing Russia's jurisdiction over the islands.Abe has thus been denied the legacy that he sought, while Putin has succeeded in easing Russia's international isolation. Abe was the first G-7 leader to hold a summit with Putin after Russia annexed Crimea, and now Russia has won Japan's economic cooperation, too.While Japan has softened its position, and signaled that it may accept only a partial return of the islands, Russia has grown only more intransigent.Japan is in no position to address Russia's concerns.U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's desire to improve relations with Russia may give Abe leeway to continue wooing Putin; but if Russia gets the U.S. in its corner, it won't need Japan anymore.
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