Is Putin Friends With North Korea

Background Information

Russia and North Korea have had a relationship of diplomatic cordiality for many years, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union. During his tenure, Vladimir Putin has become increasingly friendly with the totalitarian nation. It has been reported that between 2000 and 2007, he made nine trips to North Korea, the most of any other foreign leader at the time. While the relationship between Russia and North Korea has remained friendly, details regarding exactly what type of influence or benefits Putin has gained from his relationship with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, remain unknown.

Putin and North Korea: A Relationship of Mutual Benefit?

At a time when world leaders are increasingly critical of one another and relations between the United States and Russia are at an all-time low, the relationship between Putin and North Korea has been more of a mutual, beneficial one. Putin has regularly expressed support and admiration for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, even going so far as to call him a “strong and courageous leader”.
Meanwhile, the North Korean leader has sought to show his appreciation to the Russian president, making him an honorary member of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in 2017, a position usually reserved only for high-ranking North Korean officials. North Korean propaganda often features Putin as a symbol of friendship between Russia and North Korea, in order to emphasize the special relationship between the two countries.

What Does Putin Gain from His Relationship With Kim Jong-un?

In addition to gaining increased diplomatic support from the North Korean leader, there have been several reports that suggest Putin may be seeking economic or military benefits from his relationship with Kim Jong-un. It has been suggested that Putin is keen to gain access to natural resources found in North Korea and also to secure Russia’s place as a major power in the region.
Russia has already sold weapons to North Korea and has sent mining equipment and power-generating plants to the country. The Russian government has also expressed interest in helping North Korea develop nuclear energy. In addition, reports indicate that Putin and Kim Jong-un discussed a potential oil pipeline that could run through North Korea.

Putin and the United Nations

Putin’s close ties with North Korea prompted the United Nations Security Council to impose economic sanctions on North Korea in August 2017 as a means of curbing the nation’s nuclear weapons program. At the same time, Putin has consistently resisted efforts to enforce these sanctions, arguing that they are not effective and only serve to further isolate North Korea from the international community.
Instead, the Russian president has advocated for dialogue between North Korea and the United States in order to reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict. He has even gone as far as to suggest that the US and North Korea could enter into a non-aggression pact, a proposal that has been met with skepticism from US leaders but has been supported by China’s President Xi Jinping.

Is Putin Benefiting From His Relationship With North Korea?

Despite the numerous reports of economic and political benefits that Putin has obtained from his relationship with Kim Jong-un, it is difficult to determine how much of an advantage the Russian president has gained from his friendship with the North Korean leader. In any case, Putin’s close ties with North Korea are certainly a matter of concern for other international leaders, particularly in the United States, given the North Korean regime’s record of human rights violations and nuclear proliferation.

Perception of Russia in the West

The relationship between Russia and the United States, which have both accused one another of interference in their respective countries, have been tense for many years. But Putin’s friendship with North Korea has only added fuel to the fire, with some reports suggesting that the Russian president is using North Korea as a tool to gain leverage over the United States.
Whether or not this is true, the perception of Russia in the West has certainly been negatively affected by Putin’s friendly relationship with North Korea. The US and other Western countries view North Korea as a dangerous threat and are naturally wary of anyone considered to be too close to the North Korean leader.

Security Concerns

The threat posed by North Korea is seen as particularly concerning in light of the country’s nuclear weapons program and its recent actions, including its testing of long-range missiles in 2017. In response, the United Nations has imposed strict economic and trade restrictions on the nation.
While Putin has made efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, he has been accused of providing North Korea with economic and military assistance, making it difficult for the international community to trust his motives. This has led some to speculate that Putin may be providing assistance to North Korea in order to increase their military capabilities and therefore, gain more security for Russia in the region.

Russian Involvement in the Korean Conflict

While it is clear that Putin and Kim Jong-un are close allies, it is unknown to what extent the Russian president is involved in the North Korean conflict. The United States and its allies view him more as a potential mediator between North Korea and the international community, but others have argued that Putin could be using the situation to his own advantage.
Despite the uncertainty, it is clear that Putin’s friendship with Kim Jong-un has raised security concerns in the West. Though it is unclear what Putin gains from the relationship, if anything, it is clear that the Russian president’s involvement in the North Korean conflict has only further strained relations between the United States and Russia.

Impact of US Sanctions

The United States has imposed some of the world’s harshest economic sanctions on North Korea in an effort to curb the country’s nuclear weapons program. These sanctions have had a major impact on the country, as well as its ally, Russia. It is estimated that the sanctions have caused Russia to lose up to $4 billion in revenue in 2018.
These sanctions have also prompted Russia to take drastic diplomatic and economic measures in order to maintain its economic ties with North Korea. This includes providing North Korea with much-needed aid, such as food and medical supplies, and increasing its trade with the country.


The relationship between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is a curious one; while the two have maintained a friendly relationship for many years, it remains unclear what benefit, if any, Putin has gained from his relationship with North Korea. On the other hand, it is quite apparent that Putin’s close ties to North Korea have had a damaging effect on Russia’s relationship with the United States and other Western countries, as well as prompting the United States to impose some of the harshest economic sanctions on North Korea. Whether Putin has benefited from his friendship with North Korea or not, it is clear that his involvement in the North Korean conflict has further strained already fragile relations between the two countries.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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