Putin is turning Russia into the world’s most dangerous rogue state…and Kim Jong Un is teaching him just how to do it

Putin is turning Russia into the world’s most dangerous rogue state…and Kim Jong Un is teaching him just how to do it

IT is tempting to dismiss Vladimir Putin’s trip to North Korea as a symptom of just how isolated Russia is since it invaded Ukraine two years ago.

If a state visit to the world’s most sanctioned and isolated country is the most prestigious outing the master of the Kremlin can arrange, then isn’t Vlad dangerously short of friends and global influence?

Putin and his despotic pal Kim Jong Un are undoubtedly cooking up bad news for the West

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is greeted by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un during a state visit

But choosing North Korea as this high-profile stop is Putin’s way of telling the world: “I don’t care what you think, and in case you thought I did, see who my best buddy is!”

Of course, what Putin and his despotic pal Kim Jong Un are going to discuss and decide together is wrapped in secrecy.

But nobody needs to be in any doubt that they will be cooking up bad news for the West.

Massive headache

Putin can use Kim to distract the US from its commitment to Europe, especially to Ukraine.

North Korea has a track record of staging incidents on its ceasefire line with South Korea or firing missile tests over America’s other East Asian ally, Japan.

Kim’s missiles are increasingly long-range, threatening to reach deep into the USA.

An unpredictable North Korea, alongside growing Chinese naval and missile power, means Washington has to keep back stocks of weapons and anti-missile systems in the Pacific from going to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s drones and bombs.

Russia’s much more advanced missile and nuclear know-how could upgrade North Korea’s actual military threat.

For some time, Kim has been trying to build a submarine capable of launching nuclear missiles from the sea.

Last year he proudly showed off one — but there are doubts it can actually fire any weapons of mass destruction.

Putin knows that giving Kim the ability to strike at any target from anywhere in the world would be a massive headache for the West.

Kim’s nuclear sabre-rattling towards hated neighbours such as  South Korea and Japan is frightening enough already.

Helping North Korea get nuclear bombs means Putin will have defied UN sanctions.

Moscow is already providing North Korea with the oil and food this failing regime desperately needs.

So what is Russia getting in return?

Kim is a merciless dictator who executed his uncle and poisoned his half-brother soon after inheriting the top job in supposedly communist North Korea.

Twenty years ago, even Russia and China backed the West in imposing sanctions, but Kim has shown bad guys like Putin how to outface global condemnation.

In the brutal slug-out with Ukraine, Russia has benefited from access to North Korea’s vast stockpile of artillery shells and ammunition built up in the 70 years since the Korean War ended in 1953.

Kim denies breaking sanctions by providing weapons to Russia, which illegally invaded its neighbour, but there is plenty of evidence that he has given Putin extra firepower.

In the trench warfare of Ukraine, Kim’s ability to provide Putin with masses of old-style shells and crude bombs is very useful to Russia, which is still building up its high-tech forces for any showdown with Washington and Co.

Since invading Ukraine, Putin’s Russia has become a pariah like North Korea and its equally sanctioned buddy Iran.

Kim has lessons for his guest as his ally faces being shut out of so much world trade.

His family has kept the country isolated for decades to protect their control and to defy UN and Western sanctions.

Kim’s ability to wage cyber war from his hermit state to disrupt Western governments and businesses sets a bad example for Russia to follow, which could impact ordinary people here.

His cyber ninjas routinely engage in ransomware hacking to raise hard cash or more anonymous Bitcoin for his regime.

Remember how our NHS was hacked and blackmailed by cyber disruption traced to a team linked to North Korea?

Many businesses and institutions across the West have quietly paid up to get their systems working again.

Lot to fear

Most North Koreans live in dire poverty, fed with propaganda not food, but Kim has been generous to a favoured few nuclear scientists, missile technicians and cyber warriors.

If Putin’s Russia is becoming a gigantic version of North Korea — but with plenty of basic foodstuffs and oil and gas — then the West has a lot to fear from what the Russian President’s team will learn in Pyongyang.

Kim can teach him how to survive our sanctions and deepen control of society while counter-attacking with cyber tools, just short of war.

It is doubtful ordinary Russians will get much comfort out of President Putin’s visit to North Korea.

But they will understand the symbolism of courting Kim Jong Un — and so should we.

Putin is turning Russia into a gigantic rogue state modelled on Kim’s North Korea — yet much more dangerous.

Mark Almond is Director of the Crisis Research Institute, Oxford.

Leave a comment

Send a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *