Alliance Against "US Dominance": Why Kim Welcomes Putin

What types of cooperation and what plans do these two aggressive dictators have

by Sededin Dedovic
Alliance Against "US Dominance": Why Kim Welcomes Putin
© Guardian News / YOutube channel

Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un are ostracized by much of the international community. Through Putin's visit to Pyongyang, the two leaders aim to position themselves as powerful allies resisting American dominance. At the start of Vladimir Putin's visit to North Korea, both Moscow and Pyongyang hope that the Russian president's talks with Kim Jong Un will strengthen the relationship between the two countries, as much of the world has ostracized them, writes DW.

It is expected that numerous economic and military initiatives will result from the talks. Analysts warn that some of the agreements, especially those involving the exchange of weapons and advanced missile and satellite technology, are likely to be kept secret.

Additionally, both sides are equally eager to showcase their statecraft. Kim Jong Un desperately wants to appear as a significant world leader, and satellite images of North Korea's capital have shown extensive preparations for Putin's arrival in central Pyongyang.

Putin, on his part, wants to demonstrate that Russia still has friends and allies, and that he is free to travel abroad despite sanctions and international warrants issued against him by the International Criminal Court for allegedly abducting children in Ukraine.

“The list of countries willing to welcome Putin is shorter than ever, but for Kim Jong Un, this visit is a victory,” says Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“Not only does the summit enhance North Korea’s status among countries opposing the U.S.-led international order, but it also helps bolster Kim’s domestic legitimacy”. In an interview with DW, he said: “Moscow and Pyongyang will likely continue to deny violations of international law, but they have significantly shifted from hiding their illegal activities to boasting about their cooperation”.

Easley then added: “Putin's visit is partly an expression of gratitude to North Korea for acting as an 'arsenal for autocracy' in support of his illegal invasion of Ukraine. After Kim Jong Un traveled to Russia for the previous two bilateral summits, this reciprocal visit is politically important as it allows Pyongyang’s propaganda to portray Kim as a world leader”.

Putin visiting North Korea for the first time after 24 years© ANI News / YOutube channel

Even before departing for Pyongyang, Putin announced the creation of new, unspecified systems for trade and international payments.

Russia is practically excluded from Western-led international cooperation structures due to sanctions imposed after the attack on Ukraine. Similarly, North Korea lacks access to banking and other trading institutions as a penalty for its development of nuclear weapons and missile programs.

In an article published in the North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Tuesday morning (June 18), Putin said that the relations between the two countries are “based on principles of equality, mutual respect, and trust”.

He also expressed gratitude to North Korea for supporting Pyongyang’s “special military operation” in Ukraine and said that the U.S. “is doing everything it can to impose a so-called ‘rules-based order’ on the world, which is essentially nothing but global neocolonial dictatorship based on ‘double standards.’”

“Refined Skills, Strong Will”

An accompanying editorial in the newspaper praises Putin as an “outstanding politician” who “strengthens (Russian) national power with his refined skills and strong will”.

Yakov Zinberg, a professor of international relations at Kokushikan University in Tokyo, born in Russia, sees Putin's visit to Pyongyang as “threatening”. “This is a calculated threat to the U.S.-South Korea-Japan security alliance in the region and is designed to send a message that not only is Putin strong against NATO in Europe, but also in the Far East,” he said.

Zinberg predicts that Kim will commit to providing Russia with more artillery ammunition, in addition to the millions of shells analysts believe have already been shipped to the front lines in Ukraine. In return, Putin will continue to provide technological support for the North’s nuclear, missile, and space projects.

Russia and North Korea have denied supplying ammunition and any illegal cooperation in satellite and military technology. Lim Eun-jung, an associate professor of international studies at South Korea’s Kongju National University, adds that Kim made a “strategic choice” to support Russia from the start of the invasion of Ukraine, partly to reduce reliance on China for political support on the international stage.

“Kim visited the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East in September last year and appears to have been able to secure additional advanced Russian technology,” she told DW. “I expect he will seek the same at this meeting but may also seek strong military support from Putin and, if he gets it in writing, it would put North Korea in a very strong position”.

Oil and Gas in Exchange for Labor

Putin is also likely to agree to provide the natural resources needed by North Korea’s economy, including oil and gas. Meanwhile, Kim is expected to agree to send more workers to Russia to make up for shortages caused by conscription.

Kim is likely maximizing the deal, Lim said, noting that even Kim’s friends in China might have objections to Pyongyang getting closer to Moscow. Easley says: “This is a significant concern in Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington, but also in Beijing.

However, Easley suggests that the lines of division will likely exist just below the surface of this alliance born out of necessity. “The convergence of such states poses a threat to global trade and peace,” he said.

“However, these states do not have enduring allied institutions and values; they are merely loosely connected by resistance to the enforcement of international laws and norms”. “Besides wealthy democracies, many other countries have substantial interests in rules-based trade and diplomacy,” Easley concluded.

“They should urgently implement sanctions to ensure the failure of Putin and Kim’s vision of international relations”.