In a not so surprising turn of events, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to have had his wings clipped, or should we say, his passport stamped only once. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has reportedly issued an arrest warrant for Putin in a whopping 123 countries, turning his globetrotting lifestyle into a thing of the past. Now, his primary destination of choice? North Korea, of all places.
This shocking shift in Putin’s travel plans comes hot on the heels of a visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to Russia. Kim, who rarely ventures beyond the borders of his secretive state and hasn’t left his country since pre-pandemic times, extended an invitation to Putin that he simply couldn’t refuse.
During their “historic meeting and talks,” the leaders discussed everything from space programs to military cooperation. It’s quite the duo, really—Russia, under global sanctions for its Ukraine conflict, and North Korea, in the doghouse for its nuclear tests. This alliance has raised eyebrows in the United States, which now frets about illicit arms deals. It’s like a match made in sanctions heaven.
The Russian-North Korean bromance didn’t stop there. Kim, after treating Putin to a tour of a space center and a lavish banquet, courteously invited the Russian president to visit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), also known as North Korea. Putin, apparently desperate for a vacation spot that won’t extradite him to the ICC, eagerly accepted. He even pledged to carry forward the “history and tradition” of Russia-DPRK friendship, as if that’s what history books will remember him for.
Kim assured Putin that Russia would achieve a “great victory” over its enemies, which sounds like something out of a comic book. He also promised that “we will always be in Russia,” which, considering his isolationist tendencies, could mean just about anything.
But the real showstopper was Kim’s tete-a-tete with Putin, followed by a visitor’s book entry that declared, “The glory of Russia that produced the first conquerors of space will be immortal.” Move over, Yuri Gagarin, there’s a new hero in town.
To top it all off, Kim headed to Vladivostok to oversee a grand display of Russian warships. Because nothing says friendship like a show of military force, right?
Back in the West, there are concerns aplenty about a possible arms agreement between Russia and North Korea, particularly with Russia’s ongoing antics in Ukraine. Analysts are already envisioning North Korean shells raining down in battlefields, and neither the US nor South Korea seems ready to deal with the consequences.
For Putin, once the toast of international diplomacy, this arrest warrant drama has surely put a damper on his jetsetter status. He’s trying to make the best of it, though, by praising the “strengthening of cooperation and friendship between our countries” in Russia’s far east. Who would have thought that North Korea would become Putin’s preferred holiday destination?
But it’s not all fun and games. Washington is clearly not amused, with the State Department spokesman warning that any cooperation between Russia and North Korea would be “quite troubling” and possibly breach multiple UN Security Council resolutions. Oops, someone’s on Santa’s naughty list.
As if this spectacle couldn’t get any more bizarre, Kim Jong Un’s journey to Russia was done in style—a bullet-proof train and a military-heavy entourage that included none other than Russia’s Defence Minister. Talk about rolling out the red carpet.
In the end, it seems that North Korea and Russia are rekindling their “blood alliance” from the Cold War days, complete with summit meetings and a military entourage that could rival a small army. Who needs a world tour when you have North Korea, right? Putin’s travel plans may be limited, but his sense of adventure clearly isn’t.