On September 13, in the Amur region of Russia, at the Vostochny cosmodrome, a meeting took place between the dictators of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, and Russia, Vladimir Putin.
This meeting was the first in the last 4 years. Nowadays, Putin rarely meets with foreign leaders: he skipped the meeting with BRICS allies in South Africa, the G20 summit in India, and even declined to go to Turkey, despite receiving personal security guarantees from Erdogan. The main reason Putin avoids leaving Russia is the simple fear of arrest based on an International Criminal Court order for the kidnapping of Ukrainian children.
Since the start of the full-scale invasion in Ukraine, Putin has solidified himself as one of the most toxic partners on the global political stage. Collaborating with the Kremlin dictator today means getting your hands dirty with the blood of the Ukrainian people and casting doubt on your own honor and reputation.
Without the ability to secure support from world leaders, the head of the Kremlin seeks meetings and assistance from similar pariahs like himself. Russia’s strategic partners today include Belarus, Iran, China, several African countries, and North Korea. In recent years, Russia has rapidly transformed from a stalled transitional state with a semi-democratic facade and destroyed civil liberties into a terrifying, embittered, isolated, militaristic North Korea—a country with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles but perpetually short on rice for sustenance.
Considering that the ‘special operation’ has lasted for almost 19 months and the capabilities of Russia’s military-industrial complex leave much to be desired, Putin must negotiate arms deliveries, including with leaders of pariah states like North Korea. Specifically, this involves Russia supplying artillery shells and anti-tank missiles.
North Korea possesses an impressive arsenal of artillery shells, mines, rockets, and other weaponry that is analogous to Soviet models. It also has stocks of anti-tank missiles and ‘surface-to-air’ missiles. North Korea is one of the few countries with sufficient supplies of Soviet-era tanks similar to those Moscow uses in combat operations in Ukraine, such as the T-54 and T-62, and it can provide spare parts. The list of weaponry that Russia would likely want to obtain probably includes 122mm and 152mm artillery shells, as well as 122mm rockets.
According to experts, ammunition deliveries from North Korea are unlikely to have a decisive impact in the short term, but they will facilitate Russia’s continued war of attrition, providing the Russian defense industry with an opportunity to catch up with demand.
Subjected to harsh international sanctions, North Korea lacks access to technologies that would enable it to mass-produce any precision weaponry. Therefore, Kim Jong-un, in turn, relies on Russia for missile technology and food aid. Russia is capable of assisting North Korea’s nuclear program and the program for creating intercontinental ballistic missiles. It’s not the first time Putin has armed pariah regimes. Eventually, with his assistance, Iran made significant progress in developing a nuclear bomb and became a real threat to Western interests, including those of Israel, in the region. Armed with new knowledge, North Korea will create additional problems for the United States on the other side of the globe, in the Pacific region.
The cooperation between Moscow, Pyongyang, and Tehran creates new global threats, which is why Russia’s defeat in the war with Ukraine is in the interest of the entire civilized world.