Russia, Tokyo Olympics, and the Kuril Islands

Russia, the biggest country in the world in terms of landmass, is barred from participation in the current Tokyo Olympics. Russian athletes can’t hoist their country flags. Olympics authorities also banned Russian anthem playing in tournaments. Some Russian athletes are allowed to participate under the banner of ROC. 

What is ROC?

Russian Olympic Committee is sending 335 neutral Russian athletes to the ongoing summer Olympics. Although they wear dresses of Russian colors. But they are not considered Russian representatives. Hence there will be a ban on Russian flag hoisting in the starting ceremonies. And there will be no Russian anthem playing if some of them wins medals. Why is it happening? It is because Russian athletes were found involved in doping issues.

Russian Doping Issues In Olympics

WADA, World Anti-Doping Agency sanctioned Russian athletes in the 2019 mega doping scandal. Restrictions were announced for four more years. This made Russian athletes excluded from all international sports events including the Olympics.

Russia then made a revisit appeal to the X Court for Sports. Court gave them 2 years of relaxation in punishment. Hence Russia has to wait until December 2022 for reentrance in major sports. This whole process created a vacuum for ROC. Russian Olympic Committee’s primary purpose is facilitating Russian athletes. Who prove themselves as not involved in the doping scandal. So that they could be able to compete in the Tokyo Olympics.

Read more: Tokyo Olympics under threat of cyberattacks

How does ROC operate?

ROC solely works under IOC International Olympic Committee rules. According to these rules Russia can’t play in the 2022 Winter Olympics. These rules made Russia angry this time. As the event is ongoing in Tokyo Japan. Russia has started military drills in the disputed islands of Kuril near mainland Japan. 

Dispute Of Kuril Islands Between Russia And Japan

There are four islands named variously in both countries, Shikotan, Habomai Islets/khabomai, Kunashiri/Kunashir and Etorofu/Iturup. They lie between Japanese and Russian water boundaries. The Soviet Union conquered them in the second world war. There have been negotiations in the past to resolve the issue. 

Russia at some time agreed to give control of two islands to Japan. But it is now reluctant to do so. For many political reasons, Putin can’t hand over these islands to Japan.

Political Reasons For Russian Reluctance to give away two of Kuril Islands

If somehow Putin accepts Japan’s position on two islands, he will get more pressure from the west to do so in Crimea. The second reason is that it will show the weakness of Putin. Which he cannot bear at this time. The third reason is that Americans have bases in Japan. And they can make other naval bases thereafter Russian withdrawal if needed. Putin cannot allow such a strategic blunder. The fourth reason is according to some reports. These islands have vast oil and rare mineral reserves. Which Russia cannot ignore.

Japanese leadership’s dire desire is to end the war-like situation with Russia. But Russian stance for these islands is that they are an integral part of the country. Russia is militarizing that region now more than it was in the past. 

Russian Moves During Tokyo Olympics

And recently it started military drills amid the Tokyo Olympics. And Japan is protesting with this move of Russia. Reports are that Russia is deploying an S-400 missile defense system there. Putin is not looking to reach any peace agreement on the issue in near future. 

Popular leaders used to be stubborn on national issues. Flexibility is rare among authoritative mindsets. Nothing happens to be more superior than their prestige. The Kuril island issue seems a matter of prestige for Russia. Therefore, the prediction can’t be false that Russia is not going to lose its position on these islands. 

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