Putin and Kim: the birth of a new alliance?

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un have pledged to deepen their cooperation. After Kim’s trip to the Vostochny Cosmodrome in a heavily armoured train, Putin now apparently plans to travel to North Korea. Although no details of the results of the meeting have been disclosed, observers suspect that Russia wants weapons while UN-sanctioned North Korea wants modern technology and food.

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Sanctions are there to be bypassed

The state agency Ria Novosti says Moscow will cease to apply the North Korea sanctions it has supported so far:

“Russia is not going to terminate the sanctions regime right now — we don’t want to give the Americans an excuse to throw tantrums in front of the UN. But it will bypass these sanctions without announcing it. In which sectors? Practically everywhere, because the current sanctions ban North Korea from almost all foreign trade activities and from receiving foreign currency. No matter in which direction you develop relations, you run into sanctions. But Russia and our economy already have nothing to lose.”

Pjotr Akopov
Večernji list (HR) /

A chance for Pyongyang’s satellite dreams

Russia could help North Korea get into space, Večernji list speculates:

“Although neither country has made all the details of the talks or the framework of their agreement public, it is known that Pyongyang has tried twice in the last six months to send a spy satellite into orbit. Both attempts failed. Many analysts therefore believe North Korea may be demanding access to advanced military technology from Russia in return for missiles and artillery shells. Launching a spy satellite would allow the regime to be far more precise in planning attacks on its many enemies.”

Dino Brumec
Sega (BG) /


Putin and Kim are birds of a feather, Sega remarks with a touch of irony:

“The two are now so similar that they were able to understand each other without a translator because they both talk about the same things: threats against the West, military cooperation, mutual support for their dictatorial regimes. ... Russia and North Korea are mainly interested in exchanging weapons and military technology. Regarding economic cooperation, Kim has proposed exporting North Koreans so that the Russians can exploit them and transfer part of their salaries to finance the requirements of the top leadership in Pyongyang.”

Swetoslaw Tersiew
Financial Times (GB) /

Reach understandings with Beijing

China won’t be happy about the new alliance between Kim and Putin either, says the Financial Times:

“The US and its allies lack tools to influence Russia or North Korea beyond stepping up already extensive sanctions. Washington needs to make doubly clear it is ready to support Ukraine’s military effort for as long as it takes. Despite recent US-China tensions, it should also step up efforts to reach understandings with Beijing on areas of common interest — which ought to include doing whatever might be possible to restrain an increasingly wayward Moscow and Pyongyang.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Moscow is running out of munitions

The main thing North Korea can supply is ammunition, Jutarnji list says:

“Pyongyang has production facilities for artillery ammunition and missiles that meet Soviet standards. The Russian army can use these in its offensive against Ukraine. The attackers used artillery ammunition without any restraint in the first months of the war (the West estimates that ten to eleven million artillery shells were fired last year) in the belief that this would destroy the Ukrainians’ morale. The damage to their own forces was twofold: morale in Ukraine increased, but their munitions stockpiles are completely depleted.”

Željko Trkanjec
Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Not as easy as it may seem

Neatkarīgā sees difficulties regarding the possibility of arms deliveries:

“What will happen if an agreement is reached? It will be difficult for Russia to cover up large deliveries of ammunition and projectiles from North Korea, and Moscow may have to admit that it is violating UN Security Council sanctions. Such a move could also anger many states in the so-called Global South. ... On Russian TV propaganda programmes, several hotheads have already made what they think is a constructive proposal — just as they voted for sanctions against North Korea, it wouldn’t be all that complicated to withdraw the signature now, they say. But the UN Charter does not provide for such a move.”

Māris Krūmiņš
The Times (GB) /

China arming Russia through the back door

The Times explains why Beijing could also benefit from Russian-North Korean cooperation:

“One theory is that Putin’s interest in dealing with Kim is less to do with North Korea’s offering and more with providing a cover for the supply of Chinese kit. That could work by Kim handing over some of his mothballed stocks to Putin and having his arsenal replenished by China. Kim gains a more modern army courtesy of Xi’s generals. Russia gets its war materiel. China fulfils its commitment to Putin but does so with a degree of deniability.”

Roger Boyes
Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Upping the pressure on the US

Corriere della Sera suspects a subtle form of blackmail:

“Moscow says it will discuss ‘humanitarian aid’ for North Korea, which is in a perpetual food crisis (most of the regime’s resources are invested in the development of nuclear missiles). At the same time, the Russians are visibly at pains to play down their desperate need for weapons. ... Putin is hinting that by forming an ‘axis of evil’ with the marshal he will aggravate the North Korean problem unless Joe Biden agrees to a compromise on Ukraine.”

Guido Santevecchi
Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

The "axis of evil" is back

Putin is gathering a club of dictators around him to create a counterbalance to the US, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung suspects:

“What a comedown for Russian President Vladimir Putin. ... But he can’t be too picky. With North Korean leader Kim Jong-un he is now courting one of the world’s worst dictators. Russia is isolated and its president can only travel to a handful of states because of the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court. The Kremlin is all the more eager for proof that Russia still has friends — even if they are rogues. ... The term ‘axis of evil’ is fitting for Putin’s club of dictators. ... Russia, Iran, North Korea and Belarus are united by their desire to stand up to the US.”

Andreas Rüesch