Unfinished War Essay

2247 words - 9 pages

This essay will examine a significant issue in history and consider Stalin’s role and the Soviet involvement in the Korean War (1950-53) with the substantial Russian documents.

In the mid-1990s, the Russian government declassified a number of important documents on the Korean War. In addition, a number of Russians and North Koreans who played military or political role in the war published their memoirs and allowed interviews on the subject. Before scholars gained access to previously top secret Soviet-era documents, they could only guess at the extent of Stalin’s involvement in the war due to lack of evidence. However, the new Russian documents made scholars able to verify the ...view middle of the document...

Therefore, this essay will particularly examine Stalin’s rationale for supporting the invasion of South Korea as a significant issue relevant to Cold War history, especially to the origins of Korean War.

In his book, the Korean War in World History, Stueck contended that the combination of Stalin’s foreign policy setbacks in Europe during the period of 1947-49 and the victory of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in late 1949 kindled Stalin’s interest in promoting communism in the Korean peninsula (2004, pp. 68-69). In fact, in the Cold War confrontation in Europe, Stalin had suffered a series of embarrassing reverses. The success of the 1947 Marshall Plan, the failure of the 1948-49 Berlin Blockade, and the formation of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty Organization which put the Soviet Union on the defensive were among the series. Then, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) achieved victory over the Nationalist Party in the Chinese Civil War in 1949. This had shown Stalin that the Nationalism became more easily aligned with Communism there than in Europe. Therefore, as Stueck pointed out, Asia now looked more promising to Stalin for Communist expansion.

The question remains, though, why Korea? Around the same time, tensions between Soviet-controlled North Korea and the U.S. protected South Korea greatly increased because both Korean regimes hoped to unify the peninsula through military means. The South Korean leader, Rhee repeatedly initiated military provocations after American troops withdrew from South Korea, so that North Korean leader, Kim actively considered an attack on South Korea begging Stalin to back him (Gaddis, 2007, pp.41-42).

In addition, the Soviet documents are clear that until the end of 1949, Stalin had been reluctant to take military action in Korea because he was worried about the North Korea’s lack of military superiority and the possibility of US intervention in Korea. Stueck also contended that in this sense, the CCP victory was very important to resolve Stalin’s concerns for two reasons. Firstly, China had its huge manpower resources and the Chinese troops were now available to fight in Korea, if necessary, to assist North Korea. Secondly, the Americans did nothing to prevent the spread of Communism in China. In Stalin’s view, this meant that the United States was weak. Thus, they would not fight for a smaller prize in Korea. However, Stueck concluded that the rise of Communist China had changed the international situation in East Asia in late 1949 and early 1950 and had created a new impetus for Stalin to look to the Korean peninsula. Stueck’s arguments seemed to be contemplated but have not been confirmed, yet. Indeed, he mentioned that the scholarly examination of the Soviet role in Korean War is still limited compared to the extensive literature on the U.S. involvement.

Zhihua argued that Stalin’s aim in the Korean peninsula was to get a new access to Pacific warm-water ports and to prevent South Korea...

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