Putin’s Russian empire hopes in hands of ‘pariah’ North Korea
Vladimir Putin has seen his master plan to bring Russia back to its empire’s glory days crash and burn in front of his very own eyes.
What he hoped would be a swift victory in Ukraine has turned into an 18-month war of attrition, with Kyiv’s forces finally gaining ground three months into their counteroffensive and reports of fed-up military personnel.
His arsenal is depleted and speculation is rife about an upcoming visit from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to Vladivostok to thrash out a new weapons deal.
The dire state of affairs in Putin’s Russia has led US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emmanuel to question the Russian’s leader state of mind, noting the pivot towards North Korea can only be seen as an “embarrassment” for the Kremlin.
Emmanuel said: “Put aside the fact this war is an illegal, illegitimate war…the whole endeavour was for Russia to re-establish its empire.
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“And the empire now is depending on North Korea, it’s depending on Iran. Two isolated countries, two countries that are seen as pariahs – that tells you how much of a failure this war is.
“Both for North Korea, for Russia, also for China and Iran, they have a genuine characteristic they share.
“One of economic coercion, one of aggression and one of repression at home, and all four countries also share a characteristic: people are trying to flee them, their own people are trying to flee them.”
While he argued the rapprochement of Russia and North Korea is a blow to attempts to isolate Moscow, the US Ambassador reiterated that Putin turning to Kim for support is a significant PR – and military – blow for Russia.
He told CNN: “I think at a fundamental level, while not helpful, not good for the embargo and the isolation we want of Russia, Russia’s attempt at building an empire has become dependent on North Korea.
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“I think that says it all, there’s not much to add to that.”
US officials also said that Russia is seeking to buy ammunition from North Korea to refill reserves drained by its war in Ukraine.
In return, experts said, North Korea will likely want food and energy shipments and transfers of sophisticated weapons technologies.
“Russia is in urgent need of (war supplies). If not, how could the defence minister of a powerful country at war come to a small country like North Korea?” said Kim Taewoo, former head of Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification.
Buying munitions from North Korea would violate UN resolutions, supported by Russia, that ban all arms trade with the isolated country.
But now that it faces international sanctions and export controls over its war in Ukraine, Russia has been seeking weapons from other sanctioned countries like North Korea and Iran.
Pandemic-era border closures have left Pyongyang with severe economic difficulties, and Kim is likely to seek supplies of food and energy to address shortfalls.
Kim will likely also trumpet expanding relations with Moscow as a sign that the country is overcoming its years of isolation.
North Korean leaders have long valued face-to-face meetings with world leaders as signs of international importance and for domestic propaganda purposes.
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