A new Pyongyang-Moscow axis?

According to the US government, Vladimir Putin plans to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vladivostok this month. Apparently, he wants Pyongyang to supply Moscow with weapons for its war against Ukraine. European commentators see this as a sign of Russia’s weakness and note that it will give North Korea’s leadership new leverage.

The Spectator (GB) /

An unholy alliance

The Spectator notes that the two partners’ goals are clear:

“There appears to be a growing willingness on both sides to admit that their relationship is more than just about ideological camaraderie. The benefits for both sides are clear. For all the regime’s ability to evade sanctions, the North Korean economy remains cash strapped. While Moscow, now bereft of friends worldwide, is desperate for weapons to continue its fight against Ukraine. ... The motivations behind Moscow’s recent manoeuvres towards Pyongyang — and vice versa — remain predominantly practical. This is an unholy transaction between two rogue states seeking to present a united front against their common nemesis of the United States.”

Edward Howell
Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

Pariahs on an equal footing

The roles have reversed since Putin and Kim last saw each other four years ago, notes the Kleine Zeitung:

“If Kim does indeed pay Putin a second visit soon, he will not come as a supplicant, but as a rescuer. Because North Korea not only has the ammunition developed in the Soviet Union, which Russia is running out of after 20 months of war in Ukraine, but unlike China or India, which do not want to risk a further deterioration of their already strained relations with the West, North Korea has nothing to lose here. The war in Ukraine has turned Russia and North Korea into pariahs on an equal footing.”

Ronald Schönhuber
Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Putin counting on North Korea

Russia and North Korea are now openly allies, Gazeta Wyborcza concludes:

“In the second year of the war in Ukraine, Russia has stopped pretending it has nothing in common with the global pariah North Korea. It has given up its act and resumed relations with its former client. ... The planned cooperation will not end with munitions, however. The increasing isolation of belligerent Russia has prompted Putin to build up his anti-Western front not only with China but also with North Korea.”

Maria Kruczkowska
Večernji list (HR) /

Russia has sunk very low

Russia, supposedly so powerful, has become quite dependent on others, Večernji list observes:

“After 18 months of Russian attacks in Ukraine, it turns out that what Putin touts as ‘mighty Russia’ has exhausted its own missile arsenal and armoury and is running out of weapons. Moscow is clearly having to beg the North Korean dictator for the weapons and Iranian drones it uses for its daily attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets and infrastructure, and without which Putin’s invasion would be in even worse a state than it already is. ... The once mighty Russia is now ‘scrabbling around looking for friends and begging North Korea for weapons from the 1960s’, noted former British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.”

Denis Romac
Handelsblatt (DE) /

Kim is the real war profiteer

For Handelsblatt, the rapprochement is a clear sign of Putin’s weakness:

“The Russian president is running out of allies on the sensitive issue of weapons — neither China nor other players want to incur the wrath of the US and its allies by supplying weapons to Russia. North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un, however, will know how to turn the situation to his advantage. ... The geopolitical impact of this rapprochement over weapons should not be underestimated. Firstly, as the supplicant, Moscow will finally lose its moderating influence on North Korea. Secondly, imports of key weapons components from Russia will make the rogue state even more dangerous. ... This is all bad news for peace — and for the stability China is seeking on its borders.”

Martin Benninghoff
Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Leverage in relations with the US

North Korea’s ruler is mainly trying to get Washington’s attention, Corriere della Sera suspects:

“It’s in Kim’s interest to put pressure on Joe Biden to make concessions. The hypothesis of North Korea becoming an ammunitions supplier for the Russian army immediately caught the attention of Washington, which has warned Pyongyang against such a move. Since the breakdown of the dialogue attempted by then president Trump, the US has shown little interest in the North Korea dossier, despite the barrage of missile tests ordered by Kim. North Korea’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis could serve to put Kim back on Biden’s list of priorities.”

Guido Santevecchi