China's junior partner
Russia’s long-term goal is to prevent the reunification of the Korean peninsula under the aegis of the United States and to weaken the US ’s position in the region. Its short-term goal is to avert the danger of an outbreak of armed conflict on the peninsula and the possible collapse of North Korea. Russia’s support for the reunification of the two Korean states is purely declaratory; in practice the Kremlin is striving to maintain the political status quo on the peninsula. At the same time, Russia wants to maximise its influence by developing economic relations and maintaining political contacts with both Koreas. Moscow does not view the denuclearisation of North Korea as one of its priorities. Its approach to Pyongyang’s nuclear programme is instrumental; in Moscow’s eyes, although the program poses certain risks for Russia, it also opens a number of opportunities. The course of the crisis so far has demonstrated that Russia does not have sufficient tools to influence the course of events. As a consequence, it has had to accept a role as China’s ‘junior partner’ in the Korean issue.