However, Moscow argues that the Yalta agreement explicitly gave it control of all the Kurils. Strategically, the Kurils allow Russia to control access to the Sea of Okhotsk. Today, nineteen thousand Russian citizens inhabit the island chain, a population which grew to support a substantial garrison, which today includes S-400 surface-to-air missiles, Su-27 jet fighters, an improved Kilo-class submarine, ground-based antiship missiles and Ka-52 attack helicopters.
Public opinion surveys show both the Japanese and Russian public strongly support their respective claims to the southern Kuril Islands. Nonetheless, there are renewed diplomatic effort between Moscow and Tokyo to arrive at a resolution to the more than seventy-year dispute. While both nations could enjoy enduring benefits from putting the conflict to rest, compromise could prove difficult due to diverging strategic alignments and strong sentiments for islands both nations sacrificed dearly to control.
Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.
Image: Map of the Soviet invasion of Manchuria. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/GFDL