Donald Trump has done everything he can to be Vladimir Putin’s best friend. He’s repeatedly praised him, and refused to enact sanctions on Russia even after a law was passed ordering it (which he signed). Despite that, Russia is hardly an American ally—in fact, when it comes to foreign policy, they are our opposite in many areas.
Take North Korea, for example. While the United States has been an enemy of North Korea since the Korean war, Russia’s goals are somewhat different.
First, a Korea united under Seoul would put a United States military ally even closer to their doorstep. North Korea is a good buffer for that reason. Second, information was revealed at the end of December showing that Russia has been helping North Korea to obtain oil and other supplies despite international sanctions. Oil is necessary for North Korea’s missile program, among other things.
And now, Putin is shaming Trump on the world stage for being bested by Kim Jong-un.
According to Reuters, Russian state media reported that Putin said that North Korea has “won this round.” He also referred to Kim Jong as “shrewd and mature.”
‘Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “shrewd and mature” and had won the latest standoff with the West over his nuclear and missile programs.
‘“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, which can reach almost any point of the globe,” Putin told Russian journalists at a televised meeting.
‘“He is already a shrewd and mature politician,” Putin said.’
This comes just after Russia faced criticism in western media for shipments of oil to North Korea. Reuters reported at the end of last month that Russia is in flagrant violation of international sanctions against the regime:
‘The sales of oil or oil products from Russia, the world’s second biggest oil exporter and a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council, breach U.N. sanctions, the security sources said.
‘The transfers in October and November indicate that smuggling from Russia to North Korea has evolved to loading cargoes at sea since Reuters reported in September that North Korean ships were sailing directly from Russia to their homeland.
‘“The Russian vessels made transfers at sea to the North Koreans,” the first security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters. The source said the transfers of oil or oil products took place on several occasions and were a breach of sanctions.
‘A second source, who independently confirmed the existence of the Russian ship-to-ship fuel trade with North Korea, said there was no evidence of Russian state involvement in the latest transfers.’
Russia is a corrupt oligarchic state, and the interests of government, big business, and organized crime often overlap. If there are Russians shipping oil to North Korea, it seems extraordinarily unlikely that government officials would not be aware—up to and including Vladimir Putin. Putin has also made it clear in the past that he faults the West for the arms race, not North Korea, as you can see below:
Featured image via Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images