Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling warned that the reported upcoming meeting between Vladimir Putin and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un shows the Russian president “is scrambling for help” as he remains isolated amid the war in Ukraine.
The New York Times on Monday reported that Kim is planning to travel to Vladivostok, likely using an armored train, this month to hold talks with Putin.
Putin wants “artillery shells and antitank missiles” from North Korea as it continues to fight against Ukraine, while Kim is looking for “advanced technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines,” U.S. and allied officials told the Times.
The Kremlin has so far refused to comment on the reports.
“They’re also two desperate leaders of the world’s most noted pariah states. This will generate a lot of attention,” Hertling told CNN Monday of the potential visit. “It’s showing that Mr. Putin is scrambling for help.”
Last week, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre warned arms negotiations between Russia and North Korea were “actively advancing,” citing a visit by Russia Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to Pyongyang with the aim of convincing Kim to sell artillery ammunition to Moscow. Jean-Pierre said another group of Russian officials subsequently visited North Korea to continue those negotiations.
Russia is in need of weapons as the war drags on and Ukraine continues its counteroffensive against it. But John Everard, who served as the U.K.’s ambassador to North Korea from 2006 to 2008, told the BBC North Korea’s stockpiles are “in very poor condition.”
Retired Maj. Gen. James “Spider” Marks added that overall Russia is in a “desperate” position and pursuing a relationship with Kim is “a very tactical move.”
“There’s nothing strategic about a long-term relationship with North Korea unless, unless Russia wants to have a very provocative partner that will do some dirty work and will allow Russia to reap the benefits of that,” Marks told CNN’s “Situation Room.”
Marks, though, said the reported partnership is unlikely to “strategically alter the outcome of the fight in Ukraine.”
“What it really describes is that Kim Jong Un is looking for a partner,” now that China appears to have distanced itself from Pyongyang, Marks explained.
National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson on Monday called on North Korea “to cease its arms negotiations with Russia and abide by the public commitments that Pyongyang has made to not provide or sell arms to Russia.”