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Russia is Turning into North Korea

Vladimir Putin 2017 New Year Address to the Nation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is destroying Russian power, and his misbegotten Ukraine war is accelerating Russian decline. Putin himself does not seem to realize this. Western officials increasingly suspect that Putin is being lied to about the war by his closest advisors. And Putin has never seemed much interested in economic affairs. He does not appear to grasp just how much the Russian economy will shrink if the sanctions on Russia are left in place for a lengthy war.

In a few years, we may look back on this war as the breaking of Russian power, as the reduction of Russia to a middle power for at least a generation.

Putin is now a Fascist War Criminal

The regime Putin has built over the last decade and a half is increasingly authoritarian, closed, hyper-nationalistic, and repressive. Putin began his presidency seeking to restore Russian stability after the chaotic 1990s. A strong hand was arguably necessary to rein in the gangsterism of post-Soviet ‘wild west’ capitalism. But Putin slid increasingly toward open authoritarianism, rigging the constitution to stay in power almost indefinitely.

Putin has also become increasingly paranoid about Western intentions. He has seen a Western hand in the ‘color revolutions’ on Russia’s perimeter. He has helped North Korea and Iran evade sanctions. He has sought to play spoiler in the Middle East, particularly in Syria where his military engaged in brutal behavior against civilian targets similar to the shelling of Ukrainian cities in the current war.

At home, this paranoia has led to a closing of Russian society, repression of its civil institutions, jailing of opponents, elimination of opposition media, and so on. An ideology of belligerent nationalism – Russia under siege by hostile Western forces – accompanied this crackdown.

This slide toward rightist authoritarianism seems to have peaked with the Ukraine war, where Putin’s extreme language, embrace of open imperialism, and toleration of war crimes have led many to argue that Putin is now a fascist.

The Russian Economy is Corrupt and Shrinking

Russian corruption is famously pervasive. Putin initially seemed to break that in destroying the power of the oligarchs. Instead, though, he channeled it to serve his own regimes interests. Russia has long had an extraordinarily high corruption score – from Transparency International – from a country with great power aspirations.

Corruption not only undercuts Russian economic growth, it also undercuts its military capability. A stagnant economy cannot support the expense of a hi-tech modern military. Corruption in society inevitably spreads to the military itself. It is increasingly clear that Russian military logistical problems in Ukraine stem from widespread graft – theft and sale of spare parts, fuel, munitions.

On top of this, the war-related sanctions are punishing. Russia’s GDP is now the 11th largest in the world, and economists are predicting a sanctions contraction of 10-15% of GDP just this year (!). If the war drags on for years, Russia will fall out of the world’s top twenty economies in, perhaps, two years. Capital flight and the brain drain will accelerate, as will economic dependence on China.

Reckless Nuclear Threats Worsen Isolation

Putin has responded to Russia’s isolation from diplomatic intercourse and the world economy with outlandish threats and references to nuclear weapons. Putin appears obsessed with Russia’s perception as a great power. Yet Russia does not have the economic might to support its pretensions, and that problem is about to worsen dramatically because of sanctions.

Putin has responded with the nuclear card, talking up these weapons as a last-ditch claim to Russian importance in world politics. As Russian conventional power has stagnated under the weight of a corrupt, dysfunctional economy, its doctrine has increasingly emphasized nuclear weapons. Russia has reduced its threshold for nuclear use as its ability to generate traditional power – to match NATO and China – has declined.

The Ukraine war has illustrated that Russian conventional power is even weaker than outsiders thought. After the war finally ends and Russia’s economic base is much reduced, it will likely strategically lean into its nukes even more as a last grasp at great power prestige.

Russia as North Korea

There is another country much like Russia emerging from the Ukraine war: led by a paranoid, brutal, nationalistic leader toadied to by servile cronies; with a corrupt, dysfunctional economy; loathed, feared, and isolated by much of the world; served by a corrupted, bloated military; leaning into nuclear weapons for international prestige; making outlandish threats and waving its nukes around recklessly; repressive of its own people, where anyone who can leave does; with an extreme nationalist ideology; dependent on China.

Putin is turning Russia into a bigger version of North Korea.

Dr. Robert E. Kelly (@Robert_E_Kellywebsite) is a professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University. Dr. Kelly is a 1945 Contributing Editor as well. 

Written By

Dr. Robert E. Kelly (@Robert_E_Kelly; website) is a professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University. Dr. Kelly is now a 1945 Contributing Editor as well. 



  1. Commentar

    April 8, 2022 at 1:11 pm

    Russia has long been targeted by the west for regime change and things are only starting to coalesce.

    There was a time when Russia was truly down to the dregs and when it asked to join fascist NATO, the answer was : “Git the hell out of here”.

    Thus, it is truly and greatly disingenuous to blame Putin, when in the massive western or grand scheme of things, Russia was marked or slated for the wreckers’ job.

    To the west, Russia can only be accepted into its fold when western intelligence agents can enter and leave the country freely, and western corporations like BBC, CNN, halliburton, LM and Boeing run it’s commerce and industry.

    Putin has made the RIGHT DECISION to confront US & NATO now, today, in 2022, BECAUSE US & NATO still not ‘up to speed’ in the htpersonics arena.

    Imagine, in a coupla more years, when (expected) US has successfully manufactured and forward-deployed hypersonic weaponry in Europe, it would be TOTALLY impossible to stop NATO.

    Therefore the time for Russia to act is now, BEFORE the US has deployed agm-183As, sm-6s and HAWCs right at Moscow’s front doorstep.

    US & NATO = genghis horde threatening humanity today.

  2. Joe Comment

    April 8, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    Commentar: If Putin truly believed the hypersonic missiles give Russia the edge over NATO, he could have invaded Lithuania. He specifically picked a country which is not yet a member of NATO on which to “operate.” And yes, the Genghis horde was very notable for the threat of its swarming news agencies and aerospace companies, which could only be countered by blowing up schools and hospitals (rolls eyes).

  3. Fluffy Dog

    April 8, 2022 at 3:28 pm

    What amazes me in this and other commentaries are the phrases like “Western officials increasingly suspect that Putin is being lied to about the war.” Of course, he was lied to, no question about it. That’s normal for any tyrant who wants to hear confirmations of his worldview, whatever that is.
    “The regime Putin has built over the last decade and a half is increasingly authoritarian, closed, hyper-nationalistic, and repressive.” A more appropriate description is a neo-Stalinist regime lacking closed borders. Which makes brain drain inevitable. There have been tens of thousands of people who left Russia since the start of the war, and many are high-tech types. Couple that with a lack of western tech to build Russian-designed computer chips and ask yourself what are they going to do to replace expended missiles and aircraft…
    Putin is a KGB operative with no understanding of modern economy and technology, and that is why he makes decisions that look insane to Western analysts. He lives by the rules of the 19th century: size defines the country.
    And one more thing: Russia has been corrupt for centuries. Add to that the Soviet habit of stealing everything from the State, and it’s no surprise that the military equipment taken recently out of the storage is massively non-functional because parts have been stripped from it and sold.

  4. Jacky

    April 8, 2022 at 4:28 pm

    The world needs to stop the likes of Biden and xi jinping.

    Biden with his expansion of NATO, and Xi with his belt and road, both want their countries to exercise global control and reach with a legion of minions in tow.

    The world must learn the true meaning of independence and freedom.No bootlicking on Biden and Xi.

  5. Vladolph Putler

    April 8, 2022 at 9:51 pm

    *Shrug* Russia was given plenty of chances, and NATO was built because Russia is what it is. Coulda’ been something different, everyone hoped. But didn’t and isn’t.

    As to “right time”? Completely delusional. Russia’s military is clearly a joke upon top of a worse joke. Pouring its nations youth, untrained into combat without proper equipment. Fodder is as fodder does. Now in theory, Russia HAS enough fodder to push through. In practice, it has lost roughly 20% of *overall* national combat capacity already, and is now calling up rusty reserves and green conscripts. Clearly this was planned for years, but the MORONS running Russia didn’t bother to train their forces. Or even give them basic situational awareness at the 11th hour.

    There was no “right time” Russia is a declining small leftover of a great power. As a Federation it was only a middle power at best. Now declining from that as well. Cause let’s face it: Russia has just proven that most of Ukraine’s benefactors could lay waste to Russia’s military single handedly short of nukes- which most of the nations in question also are protected by.

    Russia chose fear over prosperity. And doesn’t have the competence and capabilities to back it up.

    Hopefully Russia will give Putin the boot, and the world can give Russia another ill deserved chance. Highly doubtful, unfortunately. Things will get worse. Especially for Russians.

  6. Peace-making nukes of US arsenal

    April 9, 2022 at 12:15 am

    China is NOTHING compared to Russia. FULLSTOP. PERIOD.

    Russia has finally stopped US/NATO in it’s tracks after thirty (30) years.Can’t say Putin is an impatient man. Is US military in UKR, Georgia? Has china dared to stop US in Taiwan strait? HELL, no !!!

    Last year, Russia’s small-ish corvette-destroyers chased away an Arley burke destroyer in peter the great gulf and recently, a nuclear Virginia-class sub near the Bering sea by threatening to ram them. Ever heard about Chinese ships doing same thing ? HELL, no !!

    In july 2021, Russian military fired live warning shots at a Brit destroyer after it tried to enter Crimea waters, ever heard Chinese military ever doing same thing? HELL, no !!!

    Russia has fired a kinzhal hypersonic weapon in combat and tested its zircon hypersonic ashm several times at sea. Ever heard china done same thing? HELL, no !!!!

    China is nothin’ compared to Russia under Putin. Nuthin’.

  7. Alex

    April 9, 2022 at 11:27 am

    If you look at how the peoples of Russia rallied around their president and how the peoples of Russia live now, then we can make a bold conclusion – they absolutely do not care about the squeals of the West and they are ready for anything that can happen, unlike the peoples of the West. This is clearly seen from the materials of real independent Western and Eastern journalists who work in Russia, and do not write their propaganda articles without even having been there.

    • Charles Kinsella

      June 26, 2022 at 8:40 pm

      Czar Nicholas believed the same things.

  8. Tokyo Woes

    April 9, 2022 at 1:28 pm

    Z ‘looks like half a swastika,’ yeah like Putin & the neo soviets are half a man who can’t get their act together.

  9. James Thomas

    April 9, 2022 at 2:08 pm

    Wonder if Russia even needs a foreign office or foreign secretary in the coming years….. No one wants to talk with Russia any more….

    And, who will be the first western politician to shake hands with Mr. Putin?

  10. L'amateur d'aéroplanes

    April 9, 2022 at 2:29 pm

    Article in French. Russia today like the USSR yesterday live in an Orwellian universe where the state lie becomes the official truth:

  11. Alex

    April 9, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    Tokyo: you’re just an uneducated person. Z is the letter of the Old Russian alphabet, which means “land”, “our land”.
    Not a single prisoner of war in Donbass and Russia has swastika tattoos. All Bandera Nazis have swastikas on their backs, chests, shoulders. Great evidence is not needed.

  12. Joe Comment

    April 9, 2022 at 4:16 pm

    If Russia really does not care about anyone else’s opinions, what’s the point of all the pro-Putin trolling around here?

  13. Alex

    April 9, 2022 at 6:18 pm

    Joe: There are people all over the world who support Russia. Europe has already seen pigs from Ukraine. Only 20-30% of normal Ukrainians, the rest arrived in expensive cars and behave like pigs. Europe is starting to see. If you are a pig, then no matter how much money you have, you simply have no place in a civilized society.

  14. Joe Comment

    April 9, 2022 at 9:42 pm

    Alex: Then would you care to make a prediction as to when Russia will be invited to rejoin the Council of Europe?

  15. Vladolph Putler

    April 9, 2022 at 9:53 pm

    “China is NOTHING compared to Russia. FULLSTOP. PERIOD.”

    Reeaally? So if that’s the case, which is Russia having to call in conscripts and reservists by the hundreds of thousands to roll a neighbor who no one would have even claimed to be a “middle power”?

    Yeah, better watch your troll mouth. China might just take some of that fallow South Siberian farmland that Russia has failed to capitalize on. NATO would mop the floor with Russia worse than it did with Iraq at this point. But NATO isn’t going to kick Russia in the butt for no reason. China *might*.

    Think not? Then just *exactly* why have multiple brigades of nuclear tipped Iskanders been parked on the Siberian frontier borders with China? I’ll help you out. It’s because your overlords may be foolish, but they are not THAT foolish. They already know China has the capability to eat your lunch, and nukes are the only thing stopping them. Better hope it stays that way. 😉

  16. Natalya Hmelik

    April 10, 2022 at 4:21 am

    I would say Venezuela, not the North Korea. Yet.

  17. Alex

    April 10, 2022 at 11:12 am

    More and more videos appear on the Internet that prove the crimes of Bandera Nazis: looting, torture, rape, murder. These bastards often film their crimes themselves in order to “boast” in front of the same bastards. People in cities such as Bucha and Irpen are intimidated by the Bandera Nazis and simply remain silent. But there is one BUT: when everything is over, and we all understand how it will end, they will start talking. They will speak to the whole world and no false propaganda of either the criminal Ukrainian authorities or the United States or Britain will be able to shut them up. There are already hundreds of testimonies from people from cities where war crimes were committed by Bandera Nazis. These are people who fled to the Donbass, to Russia, Belarus, and they SPEAK. The special services are trying to remove it from the Internet, but this is not possible, they continue to talk on all channels, in all social networks. Soon there will be tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of such testimonies! When the world learns about everything, the attitude towards Ukraine and some Western countries will change forever.

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