Russia fought two limited wars against Pacific powers on the Korean peninsula: first against Japan in 1904–05 and then against the United States and its overseas allies 50 years later, in 1950–53. Both times Russia suffered considerable setbacks and failed to achieve its primary goal: keeping the peninsula free of the expanding maritime influences hostile to Russia’s continental power.
Now, at the dawn of the new millennium, Korea is faced with the possibility of another major geopolitical shock, namely the upcoming unification of the peninsula. Obviously, such a radical transformation of the existing political and socioeconomic frameworks cannot leave Russia uninterested and passive (even despite its lingering internal woes) and is sure to focus Russian attention on peninsular affairs once again. How does a reborn Russia—itself in transition to democracy and open markets—react to the simmering North Korean nuclear crisis and the intensifying inter-Korean reconciliation? Will Russia try to influence these developments in the direction of favoring Russian national interests? Will Moscow sit on the sidelines as it did in the 1990s, or will it actively participate in shaping the future of the Korean nation as it used to do during Soviet times? Will the Kremlin prefer the application of force, as in the past, or creative peaceful diplomacy?