As international pressure mounts on Russia and North Korea, leaders Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un seek to fortify their alliance. Both nations have much to gain: North Korea’s extensive defense capabilities could serve as a lifeline for Russia’s prolonged conflict in Ukraine, while Pyongyang may acquire much-needed humanitarian aid and advanced technology from Moscow.

by Brandon Mitchell

As 2023 unfolds, Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un find themselves increasingly bound by common concerns. Both have lived largely reclusive lives recently—Putin hasn’t ventured out of Russia this year, while Kim hasn’t left North Korea for four years. Their respective nations face accusations of being “rogue states,” shackled by crippling international sanctions and both are fervently opposed to what they perceive as the United States’ global dominance.

Their growing affinity stops short of the “bromance” label but offers strategic advantages for both. Unlike the more theatrical relationship former US President Donald Trump had with Kim Jong Un, Putin and Kim are less overt but possibly more pragmatic in their diplomatic exchanges.

Mutually Beneficial Alliance

Russia, currently mired in the Ukraine conflict, can benefit from North Korea’s robust defense industry and its ability to produce large quantities of munitions. There are strong indicators that discussions about potential arms deals between the two nations are advancing. Though unconfirmed by Russian officials, Washington believes Moscow is actively seeking supplies such as artillery shells from Pyongyang.

This July, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made a historic visit to North Korea, the first of its kind since the Soviet era, hinting at future joint military exercises. During the visit, Kim Jong Un personally guided Shoigu through a weapons exhibition, signaling the potential for increased military cooperation.

Andrei Kozyrev, a former Russian foreign minister, criticized the move. Speaking from the United States, he stated, “If Russia is seeking weaponry from one of the world’s most isolated and underdeveloped nations, it undermines Russia’s claim to be a ‘great power.’”

Shifting Alliances and New Realities

It’s worth noting that Russia had previously been a strong advocate for UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea. However, that stance may be changing. Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defence Policy chairman, Fyodor Lukyanov, recently questioned why Moscow continues to abide by these sanctions when “the whole system of international relations is in a state of total pandemonium.”

What North Korea Stands to Gain

Kim Jong Un could benefit in other ways, too. North Korea may secure humanitarian aid from Russia to alleviate its food crisis. Moreover, Pyongyang appears interested in Russian advancements in technology, possibly for use in satellites and nuclear-powered submarines.

Long-term Outlook

While Putin’s Russia is far from desperate, its engagement with North Korea signals a willingness to explore alternative alliances to maintain momentum. According to Kozyrev, Putin “learns every day how to circumvent the sanctions, how to cooperate with China, with North Korea, and some regimes in Africa.”

As both nations find themselves increasingly isolated on the global stage, this developing alliance could serve their immediate needs and potentially set the stage for long-term strategic cooperation. But as they navigate these uncharted waters, the world watches closely, uncertain of the implications for global stability.

(Associated Medias) – All rights reserved