Visit of Russian President Putin to North Korea

Giant portraits of Russian President Putin on the streets of Pyongyang evoke the times of the Cold War. The Stalinist-Brezhnev political and ideological mix is an integral feature of Putin’s fifth term.

For Kim Jong Un, Putin’s visit is an opportunity to elevate his status and provoke global concern, while for Putin, it is routine. He is focused on building a system of checks and balances against China, which is clearly interested in weakening Russian power, and on pushing the West out of its traditional spheres of influence.

The escalation on the Korean Peninsula (with Kim Jong Un’s regime feeling emboldened since the start of the war in Ukraine) mirrors the tensions on NATO’s flanks. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has already stated that Putin’s visit to Pyongyang is a challenge to global security.

There is no doubt that for the West, Putin’s visit to North Korea is a serious challenge, resurrecting the grim shadows of the Cold War. For the current Russian leadership, however, it is merely an assertion of a multipolar world. Yet, in this new multidimensional world, Russia somehow desperately wants to dominate.

The strengthening of North Korea automatically means an increase in threats on the Korean Peninsula. South Korea and Japan cannot feel safe. They are already under the threat of North Korean missiles, the launches of which Kim Jong Un has turned into a family hobby. Recently, balloons filled with manure and garbage have been added to the arsenal.

Putin is clearly trying to divert the West’s attention from Ukraine. Escalation on the Korean Peninsula (and the issue of Taiwan and Chinese maneuvers around it) could have similar negative consequences for support for Kyiv as the war between Israel and Hamas, which has pushed the war in Ukraine to the background.

It is evident that after the meeting in Switzerland, Russia is literally trying to seize influence over the countries of the «Global South.» The struggle for the votes of «southerners» is seen as the displacement of the West from its traditional zones of influence.

The summit in Switzerland showed how dependent some «Global South» countries are on Russia, even at the level of personal contacts. After the summit, Russia is clearly trying to increase pressure on its satellites not only on the issue of supporting Ukraine but also on «distancing» from the West as a whole.

In addition to the growing tension in the Asia-Pacific region, the strengthening of North Korea (as Putin’s visit appears to the North Korean leadership) could activate other autocratic/totalitarian regimes. Kim Jong Un has found his moment of truth – Putin is effectively sanctioning his regime for further steps to destabilize the global situation.

Putin’s visit to North Korea at a time of escalating international tensions indicates that the Russian president has decided to expand the spectrum of allies, bringing them into the closest circle.

Moscow and Pyongyang plan to conclude a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement (according to Presidential Assistant Yuri Ushakov // A similar agreement is planned with Iran. Recently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that the text of the agreement has been fully agreed upon by both parties.

The specters of these two totalitarian regimes are capable of spoiling the appetite of any Western politician. Especially for European political elites, who are somewhat bewildered after the elections.

It is clear that Putin has sensed Europe’s weakening and simultaneously strong pressure from China, which has taken a wait-and-see position and is clearly eager to seize the moment when Russian power, if not collapses, at least cracks, while also doubting the loyalty of the post-Soviet republics.

The recent public spat between Armenia and Belarus regarding the CSTO only reinforces doubts about the «allies.»

Moreover, Russia is clearly not striving for allied relations with the countries of the post-Soviet space. In the plans of the Russian leadership, the restoration of the Russian Empire/USSR 2.0 is far from the last place.

The strengthening of Iran and North Korea automatically means for the West an increase in terrorism, nuclear blackmail, and constant destabilization in the regions.

For Europe and the West as a whole, Putin’s visit means that North Korea is becoming a significant threat. And not only because of its missiles.

The North Korean regime is becoming an appendage of the Russian economy, which is increasingly militarized. It is no coincidence that the new Minister of Defense, Andrey Belousov, who was included in the Russian delegation, was tasked with activating the Russian defense-industrial complex.

Formally, contracts with the North Korean side appear as friendly help in combating neocolonialism. In reality, North Korea becomes directly dependent on Russia and the moods of the Russian president. It seems that Kim Jong Un is so absorbed in the glow emanating from his own persona and Russian gifts that he fails to notice the obvious.

Supplying manpower for the war with Ukraine, arms deliveries, and assistance in circumventing sanctions – this is the North Korean regime’s payment for the promised food supplies.

This arrangement should alarm the West, as Putin seeks to nullify one of the effective mechanisms of influence on autocratic/totalitarian regimes, namely, to abolish the sanctions mechanism.

Sanctions against Russia itself due to the war in Ukraine are being imposed with difficulty and often do not have the desired impact on the Russian economy and, most importantly, the defense-industrial complex.

It is evident that the situation with sanctions against North Korea is quite illustrative. Sanctions against regimes that pose a threat to the global community must be implemented systematically, and their effectiveness should be assessed and monitored for circumvention schemes in the same systematic manner.

Using North Korea as an example, Russia is beginning to challenge America as a global sanctions neo-metropolis (a term used by Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev). The next step in this direction will clearly be raising the stakes in exchange for lifting sanctions on Iran. Iran, it should be noted, is also an ally of Moscow in the war against Ukraine.

Given the numerous preferences granted to North Korea, the risk of strengthening the militaristic component in the relations between the two countries increases. If Putin came to ask Kim Jong Un for weapons, it could directly impact the course of the war in Ukraine.