Soviet policy toward the two Koreas, 1985-1991: The new political thinking and power

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This research explores the evolution of the Soviet Union's Korea policy between 1985 and 1991, focusing on the correlation between Gorbachev's shifting power position within the Soviet leadership and the development of the Soviet Union's new policy toward the two Koreas. Soviet leaders utilized policy issues (foreign and domestic) to mobilize support in their internal power struggle. Conversely, they needed to establish a firm power base before launching new policies. Thus, power and policy in the Soviet political system often enjoyed a mutually reinforcing relationship, and foreign policy issues became entangled in the domestic political process. As Gorbachev's power position improved and his reform policy (new political thinking) was refined, Soviet policy toward the two Koreas correspondingly evolved in three phases: (1) Gorbachev rising: the formulation of the new political thinking (March 1985-summer 1988); (2) Gorbachev ascendant: the implementation of new political thinking (fall 1988-summer 1990); and (3) Gorbachev in decline: the continuing momentum of the new policy (fall 1990-December 1991). In late 1990-1991, Soviet Korea policy was characterized by an undisguised tilt toward Seoul. Nevertheless, the Soviets did not consider Soviet relations with the two Koreas to be a zero-sum game. Moscow sought to establish a balanced relationship with both Pyongyang and Seoul, and hoped to play an active role in peace and security on the Korean peninsula.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-46
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Northeast Asian Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1995


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