You may have noticed in recent weeks that Russian President Vladimir Putin has increasingly spoken out about North Korea, cautioning that the situation between Pyongyang, Washington, and Seoul was reaching a boiling point, especially after the North’s sixth successful underground nuclear test.
But you may be wondering why Putin is speaking up when, save for sharing a common border with North Korea, Russia doesn’t really seem to have much skin in this game.
The answer is, Putin is trying to ensure that his country remains relevant on the global scene:
The United States, its allies and the North Korean regime all find themselves responding to Moscow’s increased intervention into the already complicated diplomacy. For the Trump administration, sincere Russian help with North Korea would be welcome, but that’s not what it is seeing.
“They want to be at the table, they want to be relevant, they want to have leverage to either play a spoiler role or play a broker role,” a senior administration official told me. “They are definitely up to something.”
Privately, Russia has been making a play to insert itself into the back-channel diplomacy, three officials said. Putin’s government recently invited the State Department’s special representative for North Korea policy, Ambassador Joe Yun, to come to Russia for discussions in early September about potential dialogue with North Korea. Yun initially accepted the invitation, but the visit was later postponed and has not been rescheduled.
Russia also invited Choe Son Hui, deputy director general of the North Korean foreign ministry’s U.S. affairs department, to visit Russia later this month, one U.S. official said. The goal is to feel out Pyongyang as to a possible resumption of dialogue between the United States and North Korea. Putin, for his part, will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in Wednesday at a long planned conference in Vladivostok.
Source: The Washington Post
Why it’s on our radar: Welcome to Cold War II, starring Vladimir Putin and, now, Donald Trump.
Much of what Putin, who was a part of the Cold War-era KGB, does these days is reminiscent of Moscow’s behavior when the Kremlin was the seat of power for the Soviet Union — cooperate with the United States when interests are similar, and undermine Washington when interests are divergent. Neither Washington nor Moscow (nor Seoul or Beijing, for that matter) wants to see war on the Korean peninsula, but that won’t stop Putin from attempting to undermine U.S. influence in the region and drive a wedge between Washington and its regional allies, to the benefit of enhancing Russian strategic dominance and power.