In 2019, the Russian Federation and New Zealand marked the 75th anniversary since diplomatic ties between the two nations had been established. At present, when Oceania and the entire Asia-Pacific region have become the battleground for the political and economic confrontation between China and the West, the Russian Federation is preparing to join the ranks of other powerful regional players. And this may, undoubtedly, signal a new stage of New Zealand–Russia relations.
Diplomatic ties between the Soviet Union and New Zealand were established on 13 April 1944, in the midst of World War II. New Zealand joined the fighting together with its former colonial ruler Great Britain, and made a significant contribution to the battle against Hitler’s Germany and its allies, Japan and Italy. Not only did New Zealanders fight in the South Pacific region but also in Europe and North Africa too. In addition, they were among the defenders of Arctic convoys, which, at times of great peril, delivered necessary shipments to the USSR despite taking constant fire from Hitler’s troops. Altogether, approximately 140,000 New Zealanders were part of the war effort and 11,928 of them died as a result. Every year, members of the local Russophone community in Wellington place wreaths at the memorial dedicated to sailors from New Zealand who defended the Arctic convoys in the capital of the nation, on 9 May. It is well known that remembering the Second World War is especially important for Russia and the memory of New Zealanders’ valiant efforts during the conflict cannot but affect the relationship between the two countries.
The USSR actively purchased agricultural products from New Zealand. In fact, at one point in time, the Soviet Union was the biggest importer of its mutton, which has always been one of New Zealand’s most important exports. At present, Russia and New Zealand are also collaborating in the agricultural sphere, and both see room for development in this area.
New Zealand is thriving, but it is a fairly small country and does not have a highly developed military sector. Therefore, this nation clearly comprehends that its security and prosperity depend on the entire Asia-Pacific region as well as the world. It also understands the importance of maintaining law and order all over the world;