Putin Flies into North Korea with a Promise Against the West

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un walk jointly after a welcoming ceremony on June 19, 2024, Pyongyang (Photo/AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in North Korea on Tuesday to a warm red carpet welcome, signaling a deepening alliance between Moscow and Pyongyang. 

This is the first time a Russian leader has visited North Korea in several years, underscoring the importance Putin places on strengthening ties with Pyongyang. 

Russia and North Korea share a long and complex history of diplomatic and military relations, dating back to the Cold War era. The Soviet Union was one of the first countries to recognize North Korea in 1948, providing significant economic and military support during the Korean War (1950-1953). After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Russia’s influence waned, but bilateral ties were rekindled in the 2000s with increased diplomatic engagements and economic cooperation. Recently, the relationship has strengthened, with both nations seeking to counterbalance Western influence in the region.

The two-day summit, spanning Tuesday and Wednesday, is likely to focus on military cooperation. As a weakened Russia continues waging war against Ukraine, a shifting power balance is developing in the region. “The fact that Putin has to come all the way to North Korea… underscores how desperate he is for the ammunition he needs…,” Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, said

The deepening ties between Pyongyang and Moscow have significant diplomatic and economic implications. For Russia, this partnership offers a strategic advantage in its ongoing conflict with Ukraine, potentially receiving much-needed military supplies from North Korea. In return, North Korea could gain access to Russian technology and economic support, which are crucial for its struggling, poverty-stricken economy.

For the U.S., this alliance complicates its foreign policy in Asia. The Biden administration has already warned of severe repercussions if North Korea provides military support to Russia. The Biden administration has provided support to Ukraine in the form of tanks, weaponry, and humanitarian aid. The increased military cooperation between North Korea and Russia would likely lead to increased sanctions and further isolation of both nations on the global stage​​. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is already apprehensive of the consequences of Russia’s financial backing of North Korea’s already established nuclear missile programs. This includes North Korea’s recent advancements in missile technology, including the test-firing of a new intermediate-range ballistic missile​​. These developments pose a direct challenge to U.S. and allied forces in the region.

The visit also signals a shift in the geopolitical landscape, with Russia and North Korea positioning themselves as counterweights to U.S. hegemony. This partnership is part of a broader strategy to create a multipolar world order, challenging the dominance of Western powers. North Korea’s Foreign Ministry emphasized this point, stating that the cooperation aims to establish a “new multi-polarized international order”​​.

In response, the U.S. and its allies, including South Korea and Japan, have intensified their military exercises and strategic planning. The ongoing military drills and enhanced defense cooperation among these nations are seen as efforts to deter aggression from the Russia-North Korea axis​​.

Written by Sahasra Yellepeddi

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