Russia wants to improve relations with North Korea as the West continues to move away from Moscow. This move will likely do more harm to the weakening relationship between Russia and the West, especially the United States.
The US is still attempting to persuade the reclusive communist country to abandon its nuclear weapons program and to release American Kenneth Bae. Bae was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. The 45-year-old is in horrible health and was moved to a hospital in 2013.
A deal with Russia could improve North Korea’s economy, which has suffered since the Soviet Union collapsed and the Asian nation turned to China for help. But last July, Moscow began revisiting relations with North Korea and is expected now to move deals through faster since the West is punishing Russia for aggression towards Ukraine and annexing Crimea. Recent efforts included “increased trade and development projects, high-level political exchanges and a vote in the Duma, the top Russian legislative body, to write off nearly $10 billion in debt held over from the Soviet era.”
The Ukraine crisis forced Russia to turn to China for gas deals. The two countries, which are not exactly on the best terms, went to the table to complete a deal that was in the works for over two decades because Europe, which is one of Russia’s biggest customers, is looking for gas supplies elsewhere.
“It is still an open question whether the current crisis in Ukraine will result in any more substantial shifts in Russian policy toward North Korea, particularly in dealing with the nuclear and missile issues,” said North Korea expert Alexander Voronstov. “With the West increasing pressure on Russia as a result of differences over Ukraine, the very fact that Moscow and Pyongyang are subject to US sanctions will objectively draw them together, as well as with China.”
The US has imposed at least four rounds of sanctions on Russia. The latest round included Igor Sechin, President of Rosneft, which is Russia’s largest petroleum company. Rosneft holds profitable contracts with ExxonMobile and British Petroleum.