What growing Russia-North Korea bond means for the world

What growing Russia-North Korea bond means for the world

Both North Korea and Russia might leverage this growing partnership. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
Both North Korea and Russia might leverage this growing partnership. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
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In a profoundly unsettling development that has alarmed the international community, Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have forged a formidable alliance. This partnership was solidified last week in Pyongyang, where the two leaders signed a comprehensive agreement that significantly escalated their collaborative efforts against Western powers.
As reported by Russian state media, the agreement includes a pledge of “mutual assistance” in the event of aggression against either nation. In his opening statement, Putin expressed profound gratitude to Kim for North Korea’s unwavering support of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Putin’s very presence in Pyongyang, with his visit culminating in a marathon 11-hour dialogue, underscored the seriousness with which the two leaders regard this burgeoning alliance.
Kim personally escorted Putin to his aircraft at Pyongyang airport, a gesture laden with symbolism and indicative of the newfound solidarity between them. Putin lauded the agreement as a monumental breakthrough, one that signals an unprecedented level of cooperation. The potential for military-technical collaboration with North Korea was not explicitly ruled out, adding a sinister dimension to the partnership.
Both leaders framed this strengthened relationship as a move toward peace on the Korean Peninsula, claiming that the pact was purely defensive and aimed at preserving their nations’ sovereignty. “Relations between our two nations have reached a new pinnacle of alliance,” Kim triumphantly declared at a joint press conference.
The exact contours of this agreement remain shrouded in ambiguity. While it ostensibly involves mutual support, it is unclear if this extends to potential direct military interventions. Both countries are already intertwined thanks to the exchange of vital resources such as oil, food and weaponry.
The implications of this pact are profoundly disturbing. Russia’s democratic institutions have been systematically dismantled and dissent is silenced through imprisonment or assassination, while territorial expansion has been aggressively pursued, as evidenced by the annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the North Korean regime’s nuclear ambitions and ballistic missile tests have further isolated the country on the international stage. Under Kim’s leadership, North Korea has conducted numerous missile launches, including intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US. It has continued to develop its nuclear weapons program despite international sanctions and diplomatic pressure.
This alliance heightens regional tensions and poses a significant threat to global stability. The mutual support clause in the agreement could lead to coordinated actions that defy international norms and challenge the established global order. For instance, Russia’s military capabilities combined with North Korea’s advancements in nuclear technology could result in a powerful and unpredictable military partnership that threatens neighboring countries and beyond.

Both countries might leverage this partnership to circumvent international restrictions.

Dalia Al-Aqidi

The potential for military-technical collaboration is particularly concerning, given North Korea’s ongoing development of nuclear weapons and missile technology. Such cooperation could exacerbate the threat posed by both nations and destabilize the delicate balance of power in Northeast Asia. Moreover, their alliance serves as a stark reminder of their resilience in the face of international pressure and sanctions. Their ability to withstand economic and political isolation and still forge powerful alliances indicates a troubling shift in global dynamics.
In addition to military cooperation, the partnership could extend to other strategic areas, including cyberwarfare, in which both nations have shown considerable capabilities. North Korea’s cyberattacks, such as the 2014 Sony Pictures hack and numerous attacks on financial institutions, demonstrate its prowess in this domain. A collaboration with Russia, known for its sophisticated cyber operations against various countries, could increase coordinated cyber threats.
Furthermore, the economic implications of this alliance cannot be overlooked. Both countries, facing sanctions and financial challenges, might leverage this partnership to circumvent international restrictions. North Korea’s ability to provide labor and natural resources, combined with Russia’s technological and industrial capabilities, could lead to a mutually beneficial economic arrangement that undermines the effectiveness of international sanctions.
The international community, led by the US, must take decisive action to counter such a dangerous partnership. Revitalizing diplomatic efforts to isolate Russia and North Korea is essential, involving key players like China and India. Enhanced economic sanctions targeting critical sectors and individuals will curb their capabilities. Strengthening military readiness through regional defense alliances and joint exercises will also deter aggression.
Cybersecurity measures should include robust international collaborations and specific countermeasures against cyber threats from these nations. Intensifying humanitarian and human rights initiatives can draw global attention to the situations in North Korea and Russia. Also, restricting sensitive technology exports and developing economic alternatives for nations dependent on Russia and North Korea will weaken their strategic positions.
Finally, utilizing international legal institutions to hold both countries accountable for their violations of international law is a crucial move.
An integrated strategy combining diplomatic, economic, military and informational tools, implemented with broad international cooperation, is necessary to counter the threats the Russia-North Korea alliance poses, safeguarding global peace and security.

  • Dalia Al-Aqidi is executive director at the American Center for Counter Extremism.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view