Japan has been hit by the most powerful earthquake in recorded history. It is now going through a crisis unlike anything it has seen since the end of World War II. The hearts of people around the world go out to those affected by the quake and to the entire Japanese nation. Scores of countries have offered help and assistance.
Russia is a near neighbor to Japan. It braced itself for the same tsunami, which many feared would come ashore in the Kurils, Sakhalin, and Primorye. It is monitoring the levels of radiation following explosions at a Japanese nuclear power plant. It sent its Centrospas search and rescue teams, Emergency Control Ministry’s best, to help rescue potential survivors in Sendai and other towns in north-eastern Japan.
Disasters crush human lives, but they can also bring people together. Russia and Japan have had difficult relations over the past century, and they have inherited problems from the past. Yet, in today’s world, there is so much that unites them. Moscow and Tokyo hold very close views on most international issues.
Russia would be right to give Japan all the help it needs during this manifold disaster. In addition to the rescuers, such help includes fuel and energy supplies and expertise in dealing with civilian nuclear disasters. Hopefully there will be no second Chernobyl in North-East Asia, but the shortfall in energy production will have to be compensated by others sources. Russia can help with liquefied natural gas.
Now is the time to reach out to Japan. Russians and Japanese are neighbors and, when confronted with the forces of nature, they are human beings sharing a terrifying experience that transcends national boundaries. Russia’s emergency energy supplies are not about winning a larger share of the Japanese market in the future. They are about human solidarity, which gives a new overall quality to the bilateral relations.