February 22, 2015

Putin and the Hermit Kingdom

By Van Jackson

If the rumors are true, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will visit Russia in May during a commemoration of World War II in Moscow. Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora also recently confirmedthat “Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin exchange messages on a regular basis.” On the surface it seems that a revitalized Russian–North Korean alliance could be in the offing. Observing this trend, many strategists have argued that Russia’s interests in North Korea are overwhelmingly economic, including a transcontinental railroad and gas pipeline that would run through the nation. But Russia’s dalliance with North Korea also fits a geopolitical pattern reminiscent of the Cold War’s early days: Great power competition with the United States drives Russia’s North Korea strategy, and diplomatic niceties between these former communist allies disguise Russia’s true motivations.

Read the full article atForeign Affairs.