Andrei Gromyko, famously known as “Mr. No,” served as the Soviet Union’s foreign minister for nearly three decades (1959-1987). He professed that no international question of any consequence could be decided either without the Soviet Union or in opposition to it. This overtly displayed confidence reflected the enormous military and economic prowess, which gave the Soviet Union an overwhelming impetus and edge in determining the fate of conflicts of international standing. No one knew this trend would be carried forward, decades later, by the Bear that is the Russian Federation. As far as for the Korean peninsula, it is an undisputed fact that the Chinese Dragon holds an epochal economic clout over the so-called rogue state of North Korea, with which it has an annual bilateral trade volume of almost $5.4 billion (2015). However, it is also worth-noticing that despite the fact that its annual bilateral trade volume is only $83 million (2015), the Russian Bear still has significant diplomatic, strategic, and historical upper-handedness over the Communist regime of North Korea. It dates back to the years when the Cold War began between the Soviet-led Communist and US-led capitalist blocks. History is an inevitable guide here. After Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s ascent to power in 1985 and later on in 1991of Boris N. Yeltsin of the Russian Federated Republic, relations between North Korea and its former Communist patrons in the Kremlin began to corrode. The reason is that the former embarked on employing an “Atlanticist” approach to their corresponding foreign policies, thus keeping the rogue Communist polity at arm’s length. This also led Boris Yeltsin to repeal article 1 of the 1961 agreement; Soviet-North Korea Friendship and Mutual Assistance Treaty, which bounded the erstwhile Soviet Union to scramble to North Korea’s defence in the event of a third party aggression over the Communist regime. Moreover, in his visit to Seoul in 1992,Yeltsin also affirmed and gave assurances to the South Korean leader Roh Tae-woo that his country would no longer provide North Korea with nuclear technology. These steps were largely taken in order to woo an advanced and prosperous South Korea vis-à-vis an impoverished North Korea to its side in an effort to seek its help and support in revamping Russia’s post-Communist tattered economy. However, Boris Yeltsin’s pro-South Korea and a North Korea-neutral foreign policy line quickly backfired after the Bear felt excluded, ignored and isolated from the affairs of the Korean peninsula in the aftermath of the 1994 Agreed Framework between North Korea and the US. Thus, Yeltsin had to remodel his focus on restructuring relations with North Korea. On the other hand, Pyongyang also nurtured the same desire as improved ties with Moscow could not just help the hermit regime politically, diplomatically, and economically but also technologically – especially nuclear technology, which was eagerly sought by the North Korean leader Kim Jung-iI as a probable guarantor of national defence against the US and its allies in North-East Asia. This is the sole reason that the Russian Bear matters more to the North Koreans for their existential survival, unlike the Chinese Dragon which contributes heavily but only in the economic sphere and which is also vulnerable to US sanctions. When Vladimir Putin became president of Russia in March 2000, he became the first Russian (even Soviet) leader to visit the North Korean regime in July 2000. Apparently, Putin wanted to have Russia back in the struggle for strategic influence on the peninsula, to help revitalise North Korea’s outdated Soviet-era industries and also to convince the North Korean leader to abandon further missile testing (but he nonetheless seems to have been late for the latter job). In one of Putin’s recent startling interviews, he has confessed that Kim Jung-iI spilled the beans to him in 2000 that North Korea was in possession of a bomb. Why would the reticent North Korean leader share such a highly secretive word with the Bear, and not the Dragon? This gives us another reason to believe in the depth of interconnectedness between the two erstwhile ideological polities and also a clue the Bear may be actually holding more strategic and tactical sway over the Communist regime than previously thought vis-à-vis China. In July 2017, North Korea conducted for the first time the test of Hwasong-14, an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) with a range of more than 5000 KM. In September, same year, the exceedingly growing belligerent state conducted its sixth and thus far the most powerful underground nuclear test. The bomb was mightier than the ones the US had dropped on the twin Japanese cities in 1945. This led to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s strongman, issuing a timely warning from inside China on the heels of a BRICS summit, “imposing further sanctions on North Korea is nonsense. If peaceful negotiations are not held, we may be heading toward ‘a planetary catastrophe- resulting in the loss of millions of people’.” Putin’s warning call was answered by Trump who called him on December 14, 2017 to seek Russia’s help in resolving the ever growing volatile issue with North Korea. After two days, Trump complained “China is helping. Russia is not helping. We would like to have Russia’s help – – very important.” These remarks coupled with Tillerson’s accusations of ‘Russia not doing enough’ were returned by Russian ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya “Joint US-ROK military exercises have actually escalated the tensions on the peninsula and must stop temporarily while the North Koreans cease further weapons testing in order to show they are primed for peaceful negotiations.” He added rather sarcastically “We very much hope the US will be able to help resolve the crisis.” Russia’s proposals for de-escalation on the peninsula can be summed up as: halting of joint US-ROK military exercises, ceasing of further provocative testing from North Korea, dismissing of further economic sanctions and political pressure on North Korea (isolationism), holding of timely diplomatic talks between the concerned partners and a recently added suggestion of engaging with North Korea economically. Tensions, war of words, threats of pre-emptive nuclear strikes continued to prevail on the Korean peninsula but it seems sanity had prevailed on the US side, at least, as it realised earlier in 2018 the importance of Russia’s proposals of direct diplomatic talks with North Korea and of the impotence of adding to the existing regime of biting economic sanctions against the Communist polity. If the US seriously wants to end the North Korean crisis, then it must listen carefully to what the Bear says This realisation by Washington culminated in the revelation of CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s visit to North Korea on a highly secretive mission to lay the groundwork for a direct Kim-Trump summit. While this caught many by sheer surprise, Russia continued to send in and receive from, high level diplomats and intelligence officers to North Korea and the US to materialise on the development and to nudge the possibility of concrete talks to tread on a realistic path. The two leaders, Trump and Kim, finally met on June 12, 2018 in Singapore for direct bilateral diplomatic talks, something truly unthinkable given the recent bitter history of relations between the two states, if it was not for Russia’s Putin to float this idea and intervene actively. Peskov, Kremlin’s spokesman, was quick to take the credit “The very fact that the summit took place, underlines that Putin was right. The only possible path to peace is one of direct dialogue.” On one hand, North Korea’s nominal head of state and a close comrade of Kim Jung-un, Kim Yong-nam has paid a four-day visit to Moscow, after the Kim-Trump talks, to meet with Putin on behalf of Kim Jung-un and ostensibly to attend the opening ceremony of FIFA World Cup 2018. On the other, South Korea’s president Moon has arrived in Moscow (first ever ROK president since 1999) to seek and discuss Moscow’s full cooperation in the Korean de-escalation, economic and infrastructural cooperation and the prospect of engaging economically with Moscow via North Korea which borders on Russia. Above all, and most important, Trump is quite eager to meet with Vladimir Putin, despite a growing opposition clamour over the probe into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US elections, as he sees Russia’s help instrumental in materialising on the Kim-Trump summit. Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, has just paid a visit to Moscow to pave the way for a Trump-Putin rendezvous in Europe in the coming weeks. All the above developments point to an increasingly resurgent role of Russia as a deal-broker and de-escalator, bypassing China’s sole economic edge, and capitalising on its rich history of using a mix of influence, diplomacy, and power in North-east Asia especially North Korea which dates back to the Stalinist years. This is nonetheless compounded by the presence of a businessman-turned-president in the Oval office, Trump, who is sane enough to use, unlike his predecessors, Russia’s historical strategic importance in the region to ward off a potential bone-chilling nuclear crisis with the North Korean regime. This leads us to the conclusion that if the US seriously wants to close the North Korean crisis, then it must listen carefully to what the Bear says. The writer holds an MPhil in International Relations and is an avid reader in Soviet and post-Soviet Russian Studies Published in Daily Times, July 5th 2018.