Following the Cold War, the United States initiated a policy of positive engagement with the new Russian Federation. A key component of this policy is the expansion of contacts in Russia’s heartland beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg. The country’s many regions, which span eleven time zones, continue to grow in individual importance.
The Russian Far East, Russia’s “window on the Orient”, has remained an area of strategic importance ever since eastward expansion reached its terminus in the mid-19th century. The area’s abundant natural resources have long fueled the Russian economy, as they do today. Fur, timber, and precious metals encouraged the first settlers to make the trans-Siberian trek. Access to deposits of ore, coal, and rich oil and gas reserves coupled with determined development transformed the area into a vast industrial and military zone during the last century. Today, home to multinational energy companies, bustling ports, and enormous factories, the Far East will continue to be an integral part of Russia’s post-Cold War development.
Because of its concentration of defense-related industries, most of the Far East remained closed to westerners for decades during the Cold War. Combined with the fact that most residents were restricted from traveling abroad, exposure to outside cultures and ideas was strictly limited. In 1992, the Russian Federation opened the area to foreigners and outside investment. The United States has long been at the forefront of western efforts to establish contacts in the region.
The U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok was officially reestablished on September 22, 1992, within months of the “opening” of a city closed to even Russian citizens for 30+ years. Seventy years earlier, it was the site of the last U.S. diplomatic mission to be closed as a result of the Soviet Revolution.
The capital of Primorsky Krai, Vladivostok was chosen as the site for the new regional U.S. Consulate for several reasons. It is the largest city in Far Eastern Russia (an industrial and trade center of over 700,000 people), serves as the home port of the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet, and sits just north of Japan, China and the Koreas.