Russian Japanology Review

Advanced search

Functionalist Approach to Explain Russian-Japanese Relations under Abe and Putin Administrations

Full Text:


Russian-Japanese relations present one of the most interesting cases of international relations with a perplexing historical background and a complex set of factors influencing contemporary  dynamics of Russian- Japanese interaction. The relations are claimed to have improved under Putin and Abe administrations, introduction of the Eight-Point Cooperation Plan and establishment of a unique post of a Minister for Cooperation with Russia. This article analyzed the specific period of Russian-Japanese relations between 2016 and 2019. Improved bilateral relations created a historical precedent that is important to understand in light of contemporary deteriorated relations between Japan and  Russia. However, Russian-Japanese  cooperation in this period is complicated by a complex historical legacy and other factors and is set to be locked in a Kurilian stumbling block. International relation theories traditionally applied to  analyze Russian-Japanese  relations fail to suggest the way out and the mechanisms to improve Russian-Japanese relations. The present article explores the theoretical apparatus traditionally applied to Russian-Japanese  relations and investigates  the potential of a functionalist approach to explain Russian-Japanese relations between 2016 and 2019. Functionalism describes the way to improve relations of countries with adversarial relations by moving away from high-politics issues and quid pro quo logic and focusing on the problem-solving approach. The spill-over effect occurs when cooperation established in one field expands to other areas. The article concludes by arguing that, in contemporary  Russian-Japanese cooperation, there is a hybrid spill-around effect.

About the Authors

G. F. Ishkineeva
Tsukuba University

Ishkineeva Guzel Faridovna – PhD (Sociology), Post-doctoral researcher Graduate School of  Humanities and Social Sciences, Tsukuba University.


F. F. Ishkineeva
Kazan Federal University
Russian Federation

Ishkineeva Farida Falesovna – PhD (Sociology), Associate Professor, Department of General and Ethnic Sociology, Institute of Social and Philosophic Sciences and Mass Communications Kazan Federal University.



1. Akaha, T. (2016). Russia and Japan: From Distant Neighbors to Future Partners. In V. Panova & A. Lukin (eds.), Russia and Japan: Looking Together into the Future. Vladivostok: Far Eastern Federal University

2. Asada, M. (1988). Confidence-Building Measures in East Asia: A Japanese Perspective. Asian Survey, 28 (5), 489–508.

3. Assetto V. J. (1988) The Soviet Bloc In The IMF And The IBRD. Routledge.

4. Axelrod, R. & Dion, D. (1988). The Further Evolution of Cooperation. Science, 242 (4884), 1385–1390.

5. Baldwin, D. (ed.). (1993). Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate. New York: Columbia University Press.

6. Barbieri, K. (1996). Economic Interdependence: A Path to Peace or a Source of Interstate Conflict? Journal of Peace Research, 33 (1), 29–49.

7. Brown J. D. J., et al. (n.d.). Seeking Stability. Japan’s Relations in Northeast Asia under Shinzo Abe. Roundtable. Asia Policy, 14 (1).

8. Bukh, A. (2009). Identity, Foreign Policy and the ‘Other’: Japan’s ‘Russia’. European Journal of International Relations, 15(2), 319–345.

9. Gehring, T. (1996). Integrating integration theory: Neofunctionalism and international regimes. Global Society, 10 (3).

10. Gribkova, D. (2016). “Yaponiya – model’ budushchego dlya mnogikh stran mira” Razgovor s Dmitriem Strel’tsovym [Japan: model of the future for many countries. A talk with Dmitry Streltsov]. Kreativnaya diplomatiya. (In Russian).

11. Groom, A. J. (1974), The functionalist approach and East/West cooperation in Europe. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 13, 21–60. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5965.1974.tb00712

12. Haas, E. & Schmitter, P. (1964). Economics and differential patterns of political integration: Projections about unity in Latin America. International Organization, 18 (4), 705–737.

13. Hopf, T. (ed.). (1999). Understandings of Russian Foreign Policy. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press.

14. Jervis, R. (1999). Realism, Neoliberalism, and Cooperation: Understanding the Debate. International Security, 24 (1), 42–63.

15. Kiatpongsan, C. (2011). The Conceptualization of New Bilateralism. In The EU- Thailand Relations: Tracing the Patterns of New Bilateralism (pp. 43–91). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

16. Kireeva, A. & Sushentsov, A. (2017). The Russian-Japanese Rapprochement: Opportunities and Limitations. Valdai Discussion Club Report.

17. Lee, H. & Mitchell, S. (2012). Foreign Direct Investment and Territorial Disputes. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 56(4), 675–703.

18. Melegoda N. & Padmakumara C. (2018) Functionalist Regional Cooperation: South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation for Peace in the Region. Colombo Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, 3 (2), 1–28.

19. Miller, J. (2004). Russia-Japan Relations: Prisoners of History? Asia’s Bilateral Relations.

20. Mishra, S. (2015). Functional Approach to Peace: An Alternative View of International Relations. Abhinav-National Monthly Refereed Journal Of Research In Arts & Education, 4, 1–5.

21. Mitrany, D. (1994). A Working Peace System. In B. F. Nelsen & A. Stubb (eds.), The European Union: Readings on the Theory and Practice of European Integration. London: Palgrave.

22. Mitrany, D. (1948). The functional approach to world organization. International Affairs, 24 (3), 350–363.

23. Moga, T. (2009). The Contribution of the Neofunctionalist and Intergovernmentalist Theories to the Evolution of the European Integration Process. Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences, 1 (3), 796–807.

24. Nelson, B. F. & Stubb, A. (1994), The European Union: Readings on the Theory and Practice of European Integration. London: Palgrave.

25. Nicholas H. (1965) Swords into Plowshares: The Problems and Progress of International Organisation. International Affairs, 41 (1), 98–99.

26. Powell, R. (1991). Absolute and Relative Gains in International Relations Theory. American Political Science Review, 85 (4), 1303–1320.

27. Pustovoyt, E. A. (2019). Novye tendentsii v razvitii ekonomicheskogo sotrudnichestva Rossii i Yaponii [New trends in the development of economic cooperation between Russia and Japan]. Izvestiya Vostochnogo Instituta, 1 (41), 121–125. (In Russian).

28. Putnam, R. (1988). Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games. International Organization, 42 (3), 427–460.

29. Rozman, G. (ed.). (2016). Japan-Russia Relations: Implications for the U.S.- Japan Alliance. Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA.

30. Schmitter, P. (1969). Three Neo-Functional Hypotheses about International Integration. International Organization, 23 (1), 161–166.

31. Snyder, G. (1971). “Prisoner’s Dilemma” and “Chicken” Models in International Politics. International Studies Quarterly, 15 (1), 66–103.

32. Steffek, J. (2011). Tales of Function and Form: The Discursive Legitimation of International Technocracy. Normative Orders Working Paper.

33. Streltsov, D. V. (2016а). Identichnosti Rossii i Japonii v poslevoennyj period (1945–1991 gg.) [Russian and Japanese Identities in the Post-War Period (1945–1991)]. Yearbook Japan, 45, 337–352. (In Russian).

34. Streltsov, D. V. (2016b). Russo-Japanese Relations: A Sceptical View. In A. Lukin & V. Panova (eds.). Russia and Japan. Looking Together Into the Future (pp. 24–32). Vladivostok: FEFU.

35. Streltsov D. V. & Lukin, A. L. (2017). Rossiisko-yaponskie otnosheniya cherez prizmu teorii: realizm, konstruktivizm i dvukhurovnevye igry [Russian- Japanese Rapprochement Through the Lens of IR Theory: Neo-Classical Realism, Constructivism and Two-Level Games]. International Trends, 15 (2), 44–63. (In Russian).

36. Tripathi, D. (2012). Energy security: the functional area of regional cooperation for South Asia. Eurasia Border Review, 3 (2), 91–102.

37. Watanabe, K. (2016). A Constructivist Analysis of the Conflict between Japan and China over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands and a Suggestion for the Future. Discussion papers 1601, ERINA (Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia).

38. Wendt, A. (1992). Anarchy is what States Make of it: The Social Construction of Power Politics. International Organization, 46 (2), 391–425.

39. Wendt, A. (1995). Constructing International Politics. International Security, (1), 71–81.

40. Wendt, A. (1999). Social Theory of International Politics. Cambridge University Press.

41. Wiegand, K. & Powell, E. (2011a). Past Experience, Quest for the Best Forum, and Peaceful Attempts to Resolve Territorial Disputes. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 55 (1), 33–59.

42. Wiegand, K., & Powell, E. (2011b). Unexpected Companions: Bilateral Cooperation Between States Involved in Territorial Disputes. Conflict Management and Peace Science, 28 (3), 209–229.


For citations:

Ishkineeva G.F., Ishkineeva F.F. Functionalist Approach to Explain Russian-Japanese Relations under Abe and Putin Administrations. Russian Japanology Review. 2022;5(1):49-75.

Views: 27

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

ISSN 2658-6444 (Print)
ISSN 2658-6789 (Online)