When a Duma delegation recently visited North Korea, one of its members jubilantly announced: “We are kindred souls!”
He meant that the kinship is based on both countries suffering under the yoke of sanctions, all completely undeserved. But the meeting between Vlad and Kim in Vladivostok the other day established other reasons for the two rogue regimes to feel close affinity.
They are fused together by their shared reliance on nuclear threats as a way of staying in power. That scarecrow adorns their field in which nothing grows, other than the weeds of a pampered nomenklatura blowing billions on assorted monuments to bad taste around the world.
Other than that, North Koreans are starving, as are the Russians, albeit so far on a smaller scale. Things like indoor plumbing are beyond the reach of some 20 per cent of them, and I bet that proportion is much higher in Kim’s bailiwick.
In any normal country such leaders would be ousted, and in any subnormal country probably also Ceaușescued, Saddamed or, if you’d rather, Gaddafied. Obviously, no such normal or subnormal outcomes appeal to Vlad and Kim.
Both are casting envious glances at China, a country occupying a position between North Korea and Russia on the dictatorship scale. China is marginally less oppressive than the former and marginally more so than the latter, but with one crucial difference.
China took to heart the old saw “if you can’t beat them, join them – and beat them at their own game”. Her murderous dictators are relying on the West’s own institutions to gain respectability first and dominance second – and not a particularly distant second at that.
Using China’s traditional business acumen and her unlimited supply of cheap, practically slave, labour, the Peking tyrants flood the West with goods and finance, gradually moving in to colonise parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America – and threatening to do the same to Europe.
In the past 10 years, China has invested $318 billion in European assets, including some strategic industries. But that’s only on the surface. Underneath the surface are 355 mergers and joint ventures for which no terms were disclosed.
A nation counting 1,000-year eggs among its culinary delights isn’t short of patience. The Chinese will continue to buy Europe bit by bit until they find themselves in a position to dictate terms.
Their nuclear weapons are there mainly to discourage any rash countermeasures, and also possibly to make it easier to conquer Taiwan when the time comes. For the time being China doesn’t need to threaten anyone directly – she’s doing fine as it is.
The Chinese option is off limits even for Russia, never mind North Korea, which has no money to buy foreign industries. Conversely, Vlad and his gang are awash with purloined cash, and they’ve probably laundered more of it in the West than the Chinese have invested.
But therein lies the key difference: the Chinese invest; the Russians launder. Once it’s scrubbed clean, the money is used to create a philistine paradise complete with yachts, palaces and expensive whores (not just those of the sexual variety – some politicians and hacks also reach out for Vlad’s rouble).
Yet one thing Vlad and his gang can’t buy with their loot is respect. They do however know that fear is a reasonable substitute. Kim knows it too, and the two evil regimes overlap on the common denominator of hysterical nuclear threats.
Vlad rattles his big bombs to persuade Western leaders that no serious problem anywhere in the world can be solved without his participation. That strategy succeeded in Syria, with Trump’s acquiescence. In fact, his eagerness to give Putin a foothold in the Middle East adds fuel to the burning questions that the Mueller report has failed to answer.
Since other Western countries are sometimes more recalcitrant, it never hurts to remind them – as Putin’s Goebbelses do round the clock – that they could be turned to radioactive dust at the push of a button.
North Korea can’t have such global ambitions; hers are strictly regional. The countries Kim wants to keep in perpetual fear are Japan and especially South Korea, which has had the audacity to use the same people and geographic conditions to create a thriving economy, while Koreans north of the border are undernourished if they are lucky or starved to death if they are not.
China, which accounts for 90 per cent of North Korea’s trade, could put an end to Kim and all his nuclear games in one fell swoop. But she doesn’t want to: Kim can be used as the bad cop to keep China’s Asian competitors on the straight and narrow.
Vlad is using Kim for the same purpose, with the added benefit of keeping America nervous. And nervous America is, as any person would be facing a madman brandishing a razor. That’s why Trump keeps making overtures to Kim, trying to sweet-talk him into abandoning his nuclear arsenal.
Kim won’t, however; and Vlad certainly doesn’t want him to. “Denuclearisation can only happen gradually,” he explained. However, Vlad failed to define gradually in any temporal terms. How gradually are we talking, Vlad? A year? A hundred? When hell freezes over?
Actually, added Vlad, for it to happen even on such a nebulous time scale, “North Korea needs guarantees.” Of what exactly?
That no Western country is planning an attack on North Korea? Fine. Though I’m not authorised to speak on any Western government’s behalf, I’m prepared to issue this ironclad guarantee now: Neither the US nor Britain nor France is going to launch a nuclear strike on North Korea if Kim gets rid of his nukes.
Western countries can only ever attack North Korea or, for that matter, Russia in the same sense in which back in 1939 Poland attacked Nazi Germany, and Finland the USSR.
On 31 August, Germans wearing Polish uniforms attacked the radio station at the border town of Gleiwitz. When the next day Germany launched a massive offensive against Poland, it was portrayed as a defensive response to Polish aggression.
On 26 November, the Soviets shelled their own outpost at Mainila on the border with Finland. The shelling was used as a pretext to start an aggressive war against that tiny country – the Soviet Union had to defend itself against the dastardly Finns.
Neither Put-in nor Jong-un will stay in power unless they whip up a state of paranoia at home and fear abroad. Like a thief shouting “Stop thief!” louder than the pursuing crowd, both criminal regimes keep whining about the threat of an imminent attack from the West, hoping that way to stay in power and perhaps even to win some concessions.
Yes, Vlad and Kim are indeed close friends – with both desperately short of any other. In fact, when the UN introduced a resolution condemning Russia’s theft of the Crimea, North Korea was one of only ten countries (other than Russia herself) that voted against.
The others were Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. Well, tell me who your friends are…
P.S. Happy Easter to all my Orthodox readers! Христос воскрес!