Russia is turning to North Korea to buy millions of artillery shells and rockets, the New York Times reported, citing declassified U.S. intelligence.
The report comes after Russia received the first batch of Iranian drones capable of conducting strikes and electronic warfare, and indicates a growing Russian dependence on foreign arms as its supplies dwindle six months into the Russia-Ukraine war.
“The only reason the Kremlin should have to buy artillery shells or rockets from North Korea or anyone is because Putin has been unwilling or unable to mobilize the Russian economy for war at even the most basic level,” Frederick W. Kagan, a military expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told the New York Times.
The intelligence report “provided few details” about the nature of the weapons, but a U.S. official stated that Russia will probably buy more North Korean arms in the future, according to the outlet.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has increasingly leveraged his relationship with globally sanctioned North Korea since the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, pledging to expand bilateral ties with Kim Jong-un. Putin has also met in person with the leaders of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, and Iran, while attempting to create a sphere of alliances amid heavy sanctions from the West.
North Korea, which is economically dependent on Russia, was the third nation to recognize the independence of the Russian-occupied Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, and was one of the five countries in the U.N. who refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine.
North Korea has also promised to send “builders” to help rebuild Russian-occupied Donbas, the Russian ambassador to Pyongyang claimed.
“North Korea is one of the very few countries that can afford to pursue a completely independent foreign policy. No one — neither Russia with China, let alone the United States — can force North Koreans to do something or not to do something,” ambassador Alexander Matsegora said.
On August 5, Russian talk show host Igor Korotchenko said on Russian state TV that North Korea had promised 100,000 “volunteers” to fight in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but his claim was disputed by the Russian Foreign Ministry.