Even though the Korean War never reached foreign soil, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics played an important role in initiating and prolonging the dispute. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin backed North Korea's communist leader Kim II Sung and prompted him to invade South Korea. Stalin was a highly visible dictator who ruled with an iron fist and used the Korean conflict to further his political agenda. The United States supported the South Koreans’ attempt to gain independence from their oppressive position and took a strong stance against Communist leadership that ruled North Korean during the Korean War.
At the onset of the Korean War, the Soviets wanted to show the world that the U.S.S.R. was a dominant superpower. Soviet leaders believed they could turn country by country toward Communism and eventually create a world empire. Joseph Stalin and his followers refused to participate in Security Council meetings out of protest against the United Nations’ support of non-Communist leadership in Taiwan and China. As a result of the Soviet Union’s disengagement, they were not present to veto the United Nations' decisions concerning the Korean War. The U.N. determined that sending military assistance to South Korea was necessary.
Stalin took control of the Soviet Union in the late 1920s, shortly after Vladimir Lenin died, and had the official title "General Secretary of the Communist Party." As dictator, he vehemently opposed democracy, capitalism and individual, personal freedoms. By the time the Korean War started in 1950, Stalin had already led a reign of terror that forcefully punished those who opposed Communism. He strategically censored and quenched Western values and purged the Soviet Union of ideology that contradicted his socialist pursuits. Stalin established strong ties with other Communist leaders, such as Kim II Sung of North Korea, hoping to build his Soviet empire. Some historians believe Stalin had paranoia.
Nikita Khrushchev worked under Stalin during the Korean War and became the Communist Party's First Secretary in the collective leadership that governed the U.S.S.R. after Stalin’s death in 1953. Khrushchev strongly believed that Communism and socialism would eventually suppress capitalism and Western values, but he didn’t use violent purges or aggression to ensure his goals. Khrushchev was flamboyant and dramatic and used his skills to create effective propaganda, encouraging his followers to support Communist rhetoric. When Dwight Eisenhower became President in 1953, he quickly ended the Korean War by threatening to drop an atomic bomb if China, North Korea’s primary supporter, didn’t agree to a truce. Khrushchev followed Eisenhower’s lead and agreed to peaceful co-existence with the United States, supporting the end of the war. Shortly after the war ended, Khrushchev publicly denounced Stalin’s tyrannical leadership style and criticized his acts of violence.
Khrushchev successfully challenged the Soviet Union’s former reputation as a brutal and violent nation and helped relax some of the tensions between Communist-supported countries and their Western counterparts. He released prisoners of war from the Gulag concentration camps and began a process of de-Stalinization in the U.S.S.R. The results of the Korean War re-established the 38th parallel as the division between North and South Korea. The U.S. placed troops along the border to ensure the success of the armistice and to thwart any hostile actions on either side of the division.
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