chapter  8
18 Pages

A Russian view of the future Korean Peninsula

Close reading of basic Russian documents on foreign and national security policy

in the 1996-1997 period1 would have revealed that Russia did not have a long-

term policy toward the Korean Peninsula. Both Koreas were also absent from

major speeches or articles by Russian policy-makers: for example, Yevgeni

Primakov did not refer to them even once in any of his major articles on foreign

policy. One would have been forced to reconstruct policy from occasional remarks

by Russian officials during briefings or visits to the region. Non-governmental

experts and columnists did not pay much attention to the Koreas either; in fact,

On the surface, this could be explained by the fact that the Korean Peninsula

was just one among a sea of problems that Russia had to cope with. But Russia

had a policy on China, Japan, and the US role in the region; Southeast Asia

commanded increasingly close attention as well. The apparent absence of attention

to the Korean Peninsula, therefore, might seem surprising. After all, according to

the criteria established by Col.-Gen. Valeri Manilov, one of the leading authorities

on national security policy, the two Koreas fell into the “neighborhood belt” around

Russia, which embraced the immediate vicinity of the country and was considered

The lack of policy on the Korean Peninsula in the 1996-1998 period could be

explained by three factors operating simultaneously: (1) Moscow’s lack of interest

in the domestic situation in the two Koreas, (2) the global/regional context of the

peninsula, and (3) reactive Russian policy. First, Russian policy existed only with

respect to the external aspects of the situation on the peninsula, i.e. on non-

proliferation problems or international consequences of various scenarios of

unification. Even the interest in economic relations with South Korea had not

produced discernible interest in its domestic development. No politically relevant

interest groups in Russia associated themselves with either of the two Koreas.