Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un corresponded on the occasion of the North Korean national holiday. They exchanged warm and friendly messages, much more than the sterile messages that statesmen send to each other onimportant dates. Russia and North Korea understand each other very well, they want “even stronger ties in the future” (Putin), and they are bound by a joint effort against the threats of “enemy military forces” (Kim).
Great Russia, a world power, one of the “poles” of the new, multipolar world, apparently has a new brother on the international stage and is fighting with all its might for his favour. Russia’s brother is North Korea, the most backward country in the world, isolated from any progress, a dictatorship whose ferocity is unmatched by any totalitarianism in modern history. Regardless of the way North Korea is, Putin desperately needs it today.
What was not in the messages, that a hundred thousand North Korean soldiers were prepared to join the Russians in conquering Ukraine, appeared on Russian state television. Moscow propagandists, encouraged by this kind of news, consider Kim’s “volunteers” to be solid fighters, who can endure difficult conditions and they have already assignedthem a duty to fight against “Ukrainian fascism”. Moscow isalready looking forward to this new wartime alliance. It would be a kind of barter arrangement, in which North Korea would export much-needed divisions to Russia, and in return would receive grain, coal and gas. All this is much more reminiscent of the medieval conquests of mercenary armies, than of two states in the 21st century, which consider themselves important for world events, for reasons known to them.
The import of North Korean fighters, even as a possibility that no one in Moscow has rejected, shows how desperate Putin’s war machine is six months after the beginning of the aggression against Ukraine. First, it speaks about the irresolvable problem with the manpower at the front, losses and low motivation of the Russian forces, which cannot be renewed by a general mobilization because the Kremlin does not want to admit that it is at war. Second, this mercenary transfusion would not cost Moscow much, which is extremely important when Russia’s economy is struggling for air, and the cost of the invasion goes up to 20 billion dollars a day. And finally, North Korea remains the last ally who can extend a hand to it in the war campaign against Ukraine, because there are no other allies left. Pressure on partners in Central Asia can provide only a small number of mercenaries, which is not enough for Moscow, so 100 thousand North Koreans sounds like a way out.
Putin and Russia have put themselves in the position of forming a blood brotherhood with the most notorious of all renegade regimes in the world. Moscow is openly joining the “axis of evil”, as George W. Bush called North Korea, Iran and (Saddam’s) Iraq back in 2002. It clearly belongs to this circle of renegade states, because Russia’s military alliance with North Korea would no longer be a surprise to anyone. These two countries and their people have a solid, common interest, even a mission, which is the fight against the “political West”, as they say in Moscow, with the thrill of defeating their greatest enemy in this fight.
The war cries from Moscow are no different from the murderous messages from the state TV in Pyongyang, at least when it comes to razing the West to the ground, sometimes by invasion, sometimes by nuclear strikes. Both nations enthusiastically stand by their leaders, give them encouragement and pledge to be with them until final victory. They do not have friends in the world, but they don’t care about that anymore, they turn to each other, exchange soldiers for grain and gas and dream of triumph.
Russia’s military alliance with North Korea is not only a cold, military arrangement; it is above all a gathering around the same values. Moscow and Pyongyang do not hide that the pivot of these values is the destruction of the West, as the source of all their misfortunes. After long six months and being stuck in Ukraine, Putin and Russia are removing the last layer of false representation as a civilized, European nation, and the face of an aggressive bully, both towards its environment and its population remains.
Russia is in the grip of war and chooses its allies and friends solely based on who can directly help it in the war campaign. It seems that only North Korea remained and that is a true reflection and measure of both Russia’s internal state and even more a mirror of its position in the world. It’s a humiliating image, but Russia and its leader have consciously chosen it and are persisting in that choice.
Being a partner of such a Russia today means joining a suicidal adventure and renouncing any expectation of any civilizational progress. If there is still any dilemma left in Serbia, let Russia’s rejoicing in brotherhood with North Korea be the last in a long line of sobering ups. Simply put, Serbia’s path must not be towards the values that Moscow and Pyongyang enthusiastically share. Serbia has nothing in common with that.
It is the leader’s duty to recognize this, even if public opinion surveys driven by emotion, not reason, convince him otherwise. The people elect a leader to lead them, not to follow them, because leaders must look decades ahead and make decisions that will bring benefit, not ruin. If Kemal Ataturk had called a referendum for all the reforms he implemented, today’s Turkey would not be much different from the feudal one, and it is possible that such a Turkey would be in an alliance with Russia and North Korea. Fortunately, and thanks to the courage, vision and wisdom of its leader, today’s Turkey is a great power and because of that it celebrates the “Father of Turkey” (Ataturk). Will Russia, which is fraternizing with Kim’s Korea, have anyone and anything to celebrate? This is also a question for today’s Serbia.