This week, a U.S. official reported that Russia has been forced to buy military hardware from North Korea as Western sanctions cripple Moscow’s ability to supply its military. Moscow is in the process of purchasing millions of rockets and artillery shells from Pyongyang, as U.S. intelligence has reported. The disclosure comes days after Russia received shipments of Iranian-made drones that reportedly have mechanical problems. According to The New York Times, U.S. officials have said that Putin’s decision to turn to Iran and then North Korea has proven that Western sanctions and export controls are working to prevent Moscow from supplying its army.
The Ukraine defense ministry tweeted a mocking response to Russia’s decision to buy weapons from North Korea – stating that the Soviet weapons had exhausted their potential. Last month, North Korea recognized the independence of two states in eastern Ukraine – the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics – vowing to deepen its friendship with Moscow. North Korea’s President Kim Jong-un has blamed the United States for pursuing hegemonic policy and justifies Russia’s use of force in the region.
Western sanctions have done little to halt energy export revenues to Russia, but the agreement between Moscow and Pyongyang shows that sanctions are crippling Russia’s means to reinforce its military. According to BBC, Russia has still made over 160 billion dollars from soaring energy prices during the invasion. The New York Times reported that while China was willing to buy Russian oil at a discounted rate, Beijing has so far respected export controls by the West aimed at Russia’s military. China has not yet tried to sell Russia military equipment. Commerce secretary Gina Raimondo has repeatedly warned China that if Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, China’s largest computer chip manufacturer, violates the sanctions against Russia, then the United States will take serious action. Washington would shut down those businesses and cut off their access to American technology which they need to make semiconductors.
With most countries treading carefully under American pressure, Putin has resorted to negotiations with North Korea and Iran for bulking up the Russian military. Restricting Russia’s military supply chain is a key part of the U.S.’s strategy to weaken Moscow and help Ukraine. Russia has struggled with high-tech weaponry for months, and precision-guided weaponry like cruise missiles has had high rates of failure for the Russians. Russian stocks of weapons have been depleted, forcing Putin to pursue other strategies around a brutal artillery assault.