Why would Vladimir Putin invite the world’s most isolated national leader, Kim Jong-Un, to Russia? Is it a plot to ally and attack the West with nuclear weapons? Probably not. The answer according to experts is simple spite.
Vladimir Putin is hosting an elaborate celebration for the 70th year anniversary of the end of World War 2. He invited 26 world leaders, and at least one said “yes,” Kim Jong-Un, dictator of North Korea.
According to CNN, President Barack Obama, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel all subsequently boycotted the event because of Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine.
Kim Jong-Un, on the other hand, will likely attend and has quite a bit to gain from a warmer relationship with Russia. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was a major donor of foreign aid to North Korea. Most of the regime’s current military hardware comes from the former Soviet Union; some of it is from the original Korean War from 1950 to 1952.
After 13 years since the collapse of the USSR, the two countries have drifted apart. CNN reports that trade between Russia and North Korea was just $100 million in 2013, which pales in comparison to trade with China at about $6 billion.
The Guardian reports that Kim Jong-Un is working to change all that. He expects trade to grow ten-fold to $1 billion by 2020, a much-needed crutch given souring relations with China. Likewise, Russia has already forgiven $10 billion of North Korea’s debt to Russia, stemming from the Soviet-era.
The World War 2 party is one more optimistic sign for Kim Jong-Un, but what does Russia hope to gain?
Russia’s warming relations with the Hermit Kingdom started as the West began imposing sanctions on Russia and condemning its action, according to the Guardian. Putin now plans to invest another $1 billion into a rail project that will allow Russia to sell gas and oil down to South Korea.
But, most importantly, analysts say Russia’s closer relationship with Kim Jong-Un gives it more leverage against Japan and the U.S.
Still other experts have a different idea. They believe Putin invited Kim just to antagonize the West.
Former U.S. ambassador to South Korea Chris Hill summed up Putin’s plan.
“I don’t think the Russians are any more enthusiastic about the North Koreans than we are. It’s their way of putting their finger in our eye.”
North Korea expert Nicholas Eberstadt referred to it as Putin’s “screw you” policy, according to Fox 17 News.
“Spite is an underestimated quality in international relations. Russia stood to gain basically nothing from playing the Kim Jong Un card. It was sort of a ‘screw you’ policy.”
If Putin’s intention was to anger or worry Western leaders, he might have succeeded. Nevertheless, he might have also gained Kim Jong-Un as a demanding friend who will never leave as a result.
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