It was dubbed a “global pariah summit” by Politico. Other international commentators and media outlets used similar terminology. Britain’s Sky News warned of a “growing pariah alliance,” and France’s Le Monde described the event as a “worrying summit of pariahs.” They were referring, of course to the September 13 meeting between Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and North Korean despot Kim Jong Un.
“Not long ago, Russian government officials used to mock the hermit kingdom in conversations with me,” he noted in a social media post. “Now, North Korea is a vital Russian ally. Incredible,” stated former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.
“It is very humiliating that North Korea is a Russian ally again,” former Russian Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev told the BBC. “A great power would not go to North Korea for an alliance or for military supplies.”
“This ‘Summit of the Rogues’ also illustrates Putin’s desperation as his invasion of Ukraine continues to falter. The fact that the Kremlin leader is so desperate for artillery, rockets, and other munitions that he is forced to consider a deal with North Korea that would likely violate UN sanctions exposes the absurdity of Moscow’s claims to great power status,” wrote Brian Whitmore, a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, an assistant professor at the University of Texas-Arlington, and founder and host of “The Power Vertical Podcast.”
But while there may be a tendency to gloat over the degradation of the Russian war machine, this meeting must be viewed with foreboding. Markus Garlauskas, the director of the Indo-Pacific Security Initiative of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, has termed this as the formation of a new authoritarian axis, which is even more dangerous than the World War II axis of Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and imperial Japan, due to its level of coordination. “North Korea may be close to sealing a major arms deal to provide Russia munitions beyond what it had already provided, and China is providing for Russia’s military equipment needs just short of providing arms. Moscow is receiving robust and vital support from Pyongyang and Beijing for its war against Ukraine. As a result, it should now be clear that Russia, North Korea, and China constitute a new “authoritarian axis” that is not just symbolically and historically aligned in its rhetoric against the United States and its allies, but is now openly engaged in high-impact practical military and strategic cooperation,” he says.
That is one takeaway. A second critical one is how and why Russia’s military power became so degraded. The answer, of course, is that it is Ukraine and primarily Ukraine that is responsible for this. The country was expected to fall in a few days, but has surprised not only Russia, but the whole world by its vigorous defense. One has to acknowledge that military aid from democratic allies has been a factor, but this aid has been sporadic and slow in coming. When it did arrive, however, it has been used with pin-point precision reflecting the proficiency of the Ukrainian military and its relentless determination to repel a rapacious and murderous enemy. It also reflects the incredible courage of civilians who daily face the unrelenting bombardment of their homes, schools, hospitals, shopping malls, railway stations, and critical infrastructure of every description. Yes, Ukrainians are systematically destroying the Russian war machine, but only at immense cost in terms of Ukrainian lives and material resources. This is something that Western leaders who complain that Ukrainians are not grateful enough for the support they receive have yet to grasp or appreciate.
Moral and financial support are important, but when it comes to the ultimate sacrifice, Ukraine stands alone against this 21st century axis of evil. It is Ukraine that is standing at the gates of the free world holding back a global onslaught of the world’s most despotic states. It is Ukraine that is losing an entire generation of its best and brightest while the rest of the world frets and squabbles over how much, if any, support to provide Ukraine or whines about the economic cost of sanctions against Russia while perched comfortably far from the frontlines. Meanwhile, it is Ukraine that continues to pay the ultimate price.
The longer this war continues, the more lives that are lost, the more economic and environmental damage that is inflicted by the Russian hordes, the closer the world will approach a foreboding and unimaginable abyss. Those who would advocate territorial concessions to Russia in the hope of ending this war must realize that all they are doing is delaying the inevitable upon the bones of valiant Ukrainians.
There is only one possible course of action in this situation: the war must be brought to an end as soon as possible. And that can only be accomplished through a conclusive Ukrainian victory which returns the country to its 1991 borders. In that way, and that way alone, will this axis of evil be rent asunder, peace be restored, territorial integrity be assured for even the smallest and least powerful of countries, and the world be made safe again for democracy and freedom to flourish.