Moscow rushed quietly to propping up Kim Jong-un’s position as supreme leader in North Korea with added economic support, as it fears that US regional clout could threaten Russia’s eastern in the future.
Although Russia has an interest in protecting North Korea, it backed tougher United Nations sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear tests last month.
However, Russia aims to stifle any opposition from springing and ousting Kim Jong-un, making way for US troops to push closer to its 17km terrestrial border it shares with North Korea.
According to Reuters, a Russian company began routing North Korean internet traffic this month, giving Pyongyang a second connection with the outside world besides China. Bilateral trade more than doubled to $31.4 million in the first quarter of 2017, due mainly to what Moscow said was higher oil product exports.
If the US deploys troops to the Moscow–Pyongyang route it would represent a direct military threat for the world’s largest nation.
Russia is already angry about a build-up of US-led NATO forces on its western borders in Europe and does not want any replication on its Asian border.
Though Moscow wants to try to improve US-Russia relations in the increasingly slim hope of relief from Western sanctions over Ukraine, it remains strongly opposed to what it sees as Washington’s meddling in other countries’ affairs.
But Moscow is also playing a fraught double game, by quietly offering North Korea a slender lifeline to help insulate it from US-led efforts to isolate it economically.
More so, Russian politicians have repeatedly accused the United States of plotting so-called color revolutions across the former Soviet Union and any US talk of unseating any leader for whatever reason is politically toxic in Moscow.
Russia’s joint military exercises with neighboring Belarus last month gamed a scenario where Russian forces put down a Western-backed attempt for part of Belarus to break away.