North Korea’s Pivot to Russia
By John Grisafi
Throughout the past year, there has been a continuous trend in North Korea’s foreign policy: an increasingly amicable relationship between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Russian Federation. Numerous developments show that Moscow is fast becoming Pyongyang’s new preferred foreign benefactor with improvements in their diplomatic, political and economic relationships. This constitutes a significant shift from the past two decades, in which China has been Pyongyang’s only strong supporter.
Close relations between Pyongyang and Moscow are certainly nothing new, with the Soviet Union being the original benefactor of North Korea at the time of its founding in the late 1940s and continuing through the Cold War. With the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, Russian support for North Korea dwindled. This was a result of lack of both means – especially economic – and strategic necessity on the part of Russia in the 1990s, which was more concerned with rebuilding its own economy. Consequently, the People’s Republic of China became the only large power supporting North Korea, giving Beijing greater influence both in Pyongyang and with North Korea’s enemies when they sought to talk with Pyongyang.