Russia could have had a revenge for one of its most “humiliating” military defeats, had the country followed through on newly revealed plans to attack Japan last year.
A whistleblower from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) shared with Newsweek a leaked letter claiming that Russia was “preparing quite seriously for a localized military conflict with Japan” in August 2021, just months before choosing to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine instead.
The attack plans may have been linked to a long-running territorial dispute over the strategically important Kuril Islands, which are occupied by Russia but claimed by Japan.
Russia and Japan once fought in what is now known as the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. The war was decisively won by the Empire of Japan, delivering what was then a shocking defeat to the Russian Empire. The conflict has centered on the rival expansionist ambitions of countries in China and Korea.
The war began following the refusal of a Japanese offer to limit its ambitions to Korea while allowing Russia to take territory in China. On February 8, 1904, Japan launched a surprise attack on Port Arthur, an area of China that had been leased to Russia after being previously occupied by Japan.
Russia brushed aside an early Japanese ceasefire proposal, mistakenly believing that its superior navy would eventually defeat Japan with ease. Russia then lost a series of battles on land and sea. The war finally ended with the signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth on September 5, 1905, which was negotiated by US President Theodore Roosevelt.
There were up to 120,000 estimated Russian dead and up to 86,000 Japanese dead as a result of the Russo-Japanese War. Historians say Russia’s loss of the war had a lasting impact on the world.
“Russia’s humiliating defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 had profound effects,” states a 2016 article published in the journal Foreign policy analysis. “Domestically, it accelerated revolutionary discontent in Russia and raised Japan’s national image as a modern state.”
“Internationally, it shattered long-held beliefs in European military dominance, triggered a major loss of prestige for Russia, removed any doubts about Japan’s status as a new great power, and redefined the balance of power in the Far East,” he continued.
Scholars believe the Russo-Japanese War also “set the stage” for World Wars I and II, with some calling it “World War Zero,” according to History.Com.
This month, Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov compared Russia’s loss in the Russo-Japanese War to the much more recent withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson, Ukraine.
Russia, as a member of the Soviet Union, was part of the Allied forces to defeat Imperial Japan and other Axis powers during World War II.
In August 1945, as the US military dropped atomic bombs on Japan, the Soviet Union separately invaded a Japanese-controlled area of China and captured the Kuril Islands, which have remained in dispute ever since.
The FSB, in August 2021, declassified information regarding the brutal torture of Soviet citizens by Japanese special services during World War II.
The FSB whistleblower suggested it was part of an “information campaign against Japan” that could be used to help condition the Russians for the planned attack in 2021.