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The Republic of Vanuatu and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics established official diplomatic relations on June 30, 1986 - three months to the day before Vanuatu established diplomatic relations with the United States. The USSR broke up and Russia emerged as its successor state in 1991.
Today, Russia's ambassador to Vanuatu is Aleksandr Blokhin (who is also an ambassador to Australia, and Russia's other non-resident embassies in Canberra such as Fiji, Nauru, and Tonga). In December 2011, Vanuatu appointed Thitam Goiset, "president" of the Nagriamel and John Frum movements and sister of "prominent businessman" Dinh Van Than, as ambassador to Russia.
Vanuatu, which became independent from France and the United Kingdom in 1980, was led by Prime Minister Father Walter Lini, founder of the doctrine of Melanesian socialism, from 1980 to 1991. Lini's foreign policy was one of non-alignment, manifested by Vanuatu joining the Non-Aligned Movement in 1983. His government was the only one in Oceania at the time which refused to align with the Western bloc during the dying stages of the Cold War. Lini sought to maintain cordial, though not particularly close, relations with the Soviet Union. There was never any suggestion of Vanuatu aligning with the Eastern bloc; Lini was not a Marxist, and there was no Communist Party in Vanuatu.
In 1987, Vanuatu authorised Soviet vessels to fish within Vanuatu's Exclusive Economic Zone, in exchange for economic aid. The agreement lapsed the following year, and was not renewed, due to disagreements over the price to be paid for fishing rights by the USSR.
In 2011, however, Vanuatu (under Prime Minister Sato Kilman) did follow Russia's lead in recognising the breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia as a sovereign state. Foreign Affairs Minister Alfred Carlot "offered little explanation for the decision [but] did give hints. He said he had studied at Moscow’s diplomatic academy during Soviet days, and that Vanuatu’s foreign policy aims at “eradicating colonialism from the face of the earth.”"
- HUFFER, Elise, Grands hommes et petites îles: La politique extérieure de Fidji, de Tonga et du Vanuatu, Paris: Orstom, 1993, ISBN 2-7099-1125-6, pp. 272–282
- "Vanuatu appoints ambassador to Russia", Radio New Zealand International, 5 December 2011
- "Yes, No, Yes. Vanuatu Clarifies Position on Abkhazia", New York Times, June 9, 2011