- - Tuesday, January 16, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

North Korea is a Stalinist state, created by the Soviet Union. Pyongyang has long and deep ties to Russia and Moscow wants to keep it that way. In this environment of President Trump putting pressure on China and North Korea to defang Kim’s nuclear weapons program, the White House would be wise to remember this fact.

Just to make the point that the Kremlin has a dog in this fight, the Russian military notified NATO they are conducting large military drills across the Russian Far East involving mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Russian Defense Ministry stated the drill would include “missile regiments armed with Topol-M and Yars mobile systems.”

These weapons are very hard for NATO to track and destroy if need be. The re-entry systems also have countermeasures to defeat missile defense systems and can take evasive maneuvers if threatened.

The point is, this exercise is a flexing of the nuclear muscles by Vladimir Putin, who is famous for saying, “Don’t forget we have nuclear weapons.” With Mr. Trump upping the ante on the Korean Peninsula, Moscow wants America to keep one eye on the Russian military and think twice about acting as with impunity. China may need America, but Russia certainly doesn’t as much as Beijing for its survival. They have and will continue to wean themselves off Western sanctions.

President Putin has also made it clear that he views Kim Jong-un as a legitimate leader, and one that Moscow might protect if need be, as they did in the last Korean conflict. Russia is providing fuel, training, and exchanging hard currency for tens of thousands of North Korean laborers in Siberia. The relationship between Moscow and Pyongyang is as strong as ever.

“I think that Mr. Kim Jong-un has obviously won this round. He has completed his strategic task: He has a nuclear weapon, he has missiles of global reach, up to 13,000 km [more than 8,000 miles], which can reach almost any point of the globe,” Mr. Putin said, reported Reuters. “He is already a shrewd and mature politician.”

I’m not one to underestimate Donald Trump. I’m also not one to underestimate Vladimir Putin and Russian paranoia with the West. We’re witnessing a struggle between the art of the deal and the big stick. Hopefully, we won’t have to see who wins.


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