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Capsule Review

Mending Fences: The Evolution of Moscow's China Policy from Brezhnev to Yeltsin

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Mending Fences: The Evolution of Moscow's China Policy from Brezhnev to Yeltsin

Mending Fences: The Evolution of Moscow's China Policy from Brezhnev to Yeltsin
By Elizabeth Wishnick
University of Washington Press, 2001 306 pp. $45.00 Purchase

Nothing bequeathed to the new Russia by its doomed Soviet predecessor was more positive than the healing of the 35-year rift with China. Wishnick covers particularly well the intricate story of how this change came about under Mikhail Gorbachev. Her account also includes a pithy summary of the troubled Sino-Soviet relationship from the late 1960s through the early 1980s, spiced with new memoir and archival material. The emphasis is on the political-strategic dimension of the conflict, including disputed borders, rather than on the fading but still intricate role of ideological differences. All this material provides an important backdrop for the section on Boris Yeltsin, who picked up where Gorbachev left off after an initial period of unease and built an ever-more elaborate Russo-Chinese relationship. Even then, the mutually morose view of U.S. unilateralism and other common causes formed only one part of a many-layered relationship, including the increasingly intricate dynamic between contiguous Russian and Chinese border regions, an area in which Wishnick is particularly expert.

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