Russia and Japan put aside conflict in wake of tsunami

The World

Russia has increased its monitoring of radiation levels along its Pacific Coast, following explosions at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant. So far, everything seems normal.

Japan has accepted a Russian offer of help in rescue efforts, and several dozen equipped rescuers took off for Japan on Sunday. Russia has also responded to a Japanese request for increased energy supplies, agreeing to send an extra 150,000 of liquefied natural gas.

Helping a neighbor deal with an unfathomable tragedy may seem normal enough, but it’s actually a big deal. In the past few weeks, Russia and Japan had engaged in an increasingly loud war of words over the Kuril Islands, which belong to Russia but which Japan claims as its own. Russia had even announced that it planned to install antiship and antiaircraft missiles on the islands, and that the Mistral warships it has ordered from France would be stationed there. Russia has also increased its rhetorical defense of the islands lately, with President Dmitry Medvedev becoming the first ever Russian or Soviet leader to visit when he traveled there in November. (Anna Chapman, ex-spy and growing political figure, has canceled a planned visit because of the tsunami.)

The feeling of good will has grown to such heights that nationalist firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky has even invited the entire nation of Japan to move to Russia. “We have plenty of room where hands and brains, especially Japanese ones, can be useful,” he said.

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