The Role of the USSR in the Korean War as Estimated by US Intelligence




Korean War; USSR; USA; CIA; internationalisation of internal conflict; PRC; DPRK


This article considers the role of the USSR in the Korean War of 1950–1953. Although Russian and foreign historians have published several works based on a comparison of Soviet, Korean, Chinese, and American documents describing the involvement of the USSR and Stalin personally in the preparation of the DPRK army’s invasion of the south, several issues require further clarification. This article is devoted to the perception of the American intelligence agencies of the USSR’s role in the war and to determining the degree of effectiveness of the information support in the conflict provided by the analysts of the US intelligence community. Special attention is paid to cases when analysts made correct conclusions and forecasts based on open sources which were not adequately assessed at the higher levels of intelligence and political hierarchy. The authors employ comparative analysis, historical imagology, and the new history of the Cold War. The war in Korea is seen as an internationalised internal conflict involving additional actors on both sides, usually with goals other than those officially declared. The analysis refers to FBIS electronic archive collections, documents of the State Department, the CIA, the US National Security Council, various narrative materials, and the Soviet press. The article considers the causes of the war, the circumstances behind the failures of US intelligence in 1950, and the conditions in which the negotiations for a truce on the Korean peninsula were conducted. The authors conclude that Stalin considered the conflict in Korea to be a local one. US intelligence recorded this detail, but the political leaders of the US regarded the war in Korea as the beginning of a global communist offensive initiated by Moscow.

Author Biographies

Valery Yungblud

Dr. Hab. (History), Professor, Vyatka State University.

36, Moskovskaya Str., 610000, Kirov, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-2706-3904

Denis Sadakov

PhD (History), Associate Professor, Vyatka State University.

36, Moskovskaya Str., 610000, Kirov, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0003-4308-7276


Acheson, D. (1969). Present at the Creation. My Years in the State Department. NY, W. W. Norton. 798 p.

Aid, M. (2009). The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency. NY, Bloomsbury Press. 432 p.

Bajanov, E. (1995). Assessing the Politics of the Korean War, 1949–1951. In Cold War Intern. History Project Bull. Iss. 6–7, pp. 54–68

Condit, D. M. (2018). History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Middletown : US Government, Department of Defense. Vol. 2. Pentagon’s Role in the Korean War, the Recall of MacArthur, Hydrogen Bomb, Truman and NATO. 537 p.

Corke, S.-J. (2008). US Covert Operations and Cold War Strategy: Truman, Secret Warfare, and the CIA, 1945–1953. NY, Routledge. 256 p.

Cumings, B. (2011). Korean War: A History. NY, Random House. 291 p.

Current Communist Position on a Korean Armistice. 1953. July, 1. In CIA [website]. URL: (mode of access: 17.08.2019).

Dundukov, M. Yu. (2008). Razvedka v gosudarstvennom mekhanizme SShA [Intelligence in the USA State Mechanism]. Moscow, Kuchkovo pole. 448 p.

Eisenhower, D. Address “The Chance for Peace” Delivered Before the American Society of Newspaper Editors. In The American Presidency Project [website]. URL: (mode of access: 17.08.2018).

FBIS. 1950. In Korean War CIA FOIA Release [website]. URL: (mode of access: 17.08.2019).

FBIS. 1951. In Korean War CIA FOIA Release [website]. URL: (mode of access: 17.08.2019).

FBIS. 1952. In Korean War CIA FOIA Release [website]. URL: (mode of access: 17.08.2019).

FBIS. 1953. In Korean War CIA FOIA Release [website]. URL: (mode of access: 17.08. 2019).

Felix, D. (2015) Kennan and the Cold War: An Unauthorized Biography. New Brunswick, Routledge. 220 p.

FRUS. 1950. Vol. 1. (1977). Washington, GPO. 947 p.

FRUS. 1950. Vol. 7. (1976). Washington, GPO. 1675 p.

FRUS. 1952–1954. Vol. 15. Korea: in 2 Parts. (1984). Washington, GPO. Part 1. 1151 p.

Goodman, M. (2016). The Official History of the Joint Intelligence Committee: in 2 Vols. NY : Routledge. Vol. 1. From the Approach of the Second World War to the Suez Crisis. 492 p.

Hastings, M. (1987). Korean War. NY, L., Toronto, Sydney, Simon and Schuster. 391 p.

Heer, P. J. (1995). George F. Kennan and US Foreign Policy in East Asia. Ph D. Diss. Washington, DC, The George Washington Univ. Press. 300 p.

Hitchcock, W. (2018). The Age of Eisenhower. N. Y., Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. 672 p.

International Organizations Division Weekly Summary No. 26 for Week Ending 4 July 1950. In CIA – FOIA [official website]. URL:–01617a004900010090–8 (mode of access: 17.08.2019).

K zaversheniyu Koreiskoi voiny (1950–1953 godov) [To the End of the Korean War (1950–1953)]. In Istoriko-dokumental’nyi departament Ministerstva inostrannykh del Rossii [website]. URL:‑1950–1953-godov-?inheritRedirect=false (mode of access: 12.05. 2019).

Lowe, P. (2000). Korean War. NY, St Martin’s Press. 302 p.

Mansourov, A. Yu. (1995). Stalin, Mao, Kim, and China’s Decision to Enter Korean War, September 16 – October 15, 1950: New Evidence from the Russian Archives. In Cold War Intern. History Project Bull. Iss. 6–7, pp. 94–119.

Millett, A. (2001). Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Korean War: Cautionary Tale and Hopeful Precedent. In The J. of Am.-East Asian Relations. Vol. 10. No. 3/4, pp. 155–174. DOI 10.1163/187656101793645515.

Nitze, P. (1989). From Hiroshima to Glasnost: At the Center of Decision. A Memoir / with A. M. Smith & S. L. Rearden. NY, Grove Weidenfeld. 504 p.

Paige, G. D. (1968). The Korean Decision (June 24–30, 1950). NY, The Free Press. 384 p.

Pembroke, M. (2018). Korea: Where the American Century Began. L., Oneworld Publ. 368 p.

Pikhoya, R. G. (2000). Sovetskii Soyuz: istoriya vlasti. 1945–1991 [The Soviet Union: A History of Power. 1945–1991]. Novosibirsk, Sibirskii khronograf. 680 p.

Pravda [Pravda]. (1950). October 1.

Roberts, P. M. (Ed.) (2019). NSC‑68: US Objectives and Programs for National Security, April 7, 1950. In The Cold War: Interpreting Conflict through Primary Documents. Santa Barbara, ABC–Clio, pp. 305–320.

Rozitzke, H. (1988). The CIA’s Secret Operations: Espionage, Counterespionage and Covert Actions. Boulder, Westview Press. 287 p.

Stueck, W. (2002). Koreiskaya voyna [Korean War]. Moscow, AST. 732 p.

The Position and Actions of the United States with Respect to Possible Further Soviet Moves in the Light of the Korean Situation. In Digital National Security Archive [website]. URL: (mode of access: 17.08.2019).

Torkunov, A. V. (2000). Zagadochnaya voina: koreiskii konflikt 1950–1953 godov [The Mysterious War: The Korean Conflict of 1950–1953]. Moscow, ROSSPEN. 328 p.

Truman, H. S. (1956). Memoirs by Harry S. Truman: in 2 Vols. NY, Doubleday & Co, Inc. Vol. 2. Years of Trial and Hope. 594 p.

Volkogonov, D. (1995). Sem’ vozhdei. Galereya liderov SSSR v 2 kn. [Seven Leaders. Gallery of USSR Leadership. 2 Books]. Moscow, Novosti. Book 1. 349 p.

Volokhova, A. A. (N. d.). Peregovory o peremirii v Koree (1951–1953 gg.) (po materialam Arkhiva vneshnei politiki Rossii) [Armistice Talks in Korea (1951–1953) (Based on Materials from the Russian Foreign Policy Archive)]. In Koryo saram [website]. URL:‑1951–1953-ggpo-materialam-arhiva-vneshnej-politiki-rossii/ (mode of access: 12.05.2019).

Weathersby, K. (1993). The Soviet Role in the Early Phase of the Korean War: New Documentary Evidence. In The J. of Am.-East Asian Relations. Vol. 2. Winter. No. 4, pp. 425–458.

Weathersby, K. (2002). “Should Wе Fear This?” Stalin and Danger of War with America. Working Paper No. 39. Washington, D. C. July, 2002. In Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Cold War International History Project [official website]. URL: (mode of access: 17.08.2019).

Weathersby, К. (1995). Korea, 1949–50: To Attack or Not to Attack? Stalin, Kim Il Sung, and the Prelude to War. In Cold War Intern. History Project Bull. Iss. 5, pp. 1–9.

Yungblud, V., Sadakov, D. (2018). Diplomaticheskoe obespechenie vmeshatel’stva SShA v Koreiskuyu voinu. Opyt krizisnogo reagirovaniya [Diplomatic Support of US Involvement in the Korean War June 25 – July 6 1950. Crisis Response Experience]. In Vestnik MGIMO-Universiteta. No. 4 (61), pp. 241–261. DOI 10.24833/2071–8160–2018–4–61–241–261.



How to Cite

Yungblud, V., & Sadakov, D. (2019). The Role of the USSR in the Korean War as Estimated by US Intelligence. Quaestio Rossica, 7(4), 1324–1338.