DESPITE the massive devastation accomplished by the earthquake, the Japanese Government speedily rejected the prompt Russian offer of 20 rescue teams from the Russian Far East to help and look for survivors in Osaka and Kobe. This surprising rebuff was the second time the Japanese have snubbed the Russians in just over a week. These diplomatic putdowns emphasise that Tokyo is paying attention to the 50th anniversary of Russo-Japanese conflict at the end of World War II, even as it seeks to quickly alleviate post-earthquake misery in the Kansai region. Post-disaster relief in Kansai has clearly left a good deal to be desired - but the Japanese Government informed the United Nations humanitarian affairs department in Geneva that no outside help was required. But some offers, notably that from the United States, could hardly be refused. Ironically, earthquake scientists from the US were already in Japan for a conference in the Kansai region on the problems of earthquake prediction. Normally, as a matter of etiquette, nations suffering a disaster accept whatever offers come their way. But not the Japanese. The speed of the Japanese refusal of Russian help has raised diplomatic eyebrows. Those entombed under collapsed buildings would hardly object to being rescued by burly Caucasians. The rejection comes a little over a week after the Japanese told the Americans they did not wish to attend the 50th anniversary commemoration of the end of the war and gave as one reason the fact that Russians would be attending. In one way, the stance is understandable. Japan and Russia are still technically at war, having never signed a peace treaty, because of their dispute over islands off Hokkaido, which Japan claims and Russia occupies. However, the two Japanese moves rejecting contact with the Russians are almost certainly the result of a more devious motive. Certain politicians and sections of the Japanese bureaucracy are determined that the 50th anniversary of World War II will be celebrated in Japan in one way only - by avoiding memories of Japan as an aggressor. All the emphasis will be on reviving memories of how Japan was the victim, first of the atomic bombings and then of Russian aggression, which began one day after the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The earthquake vividly attested that as a result of their experience with endless natural disasters the role of victim is one to which Japanese can easily relate.