North Korea Offers 100,000 Troops to Russia – The isolationist, communist state of North Korea continues its efforts to forge closer ties to Russia, with Russian state television this week revealing how dictator Kim Jong Un has offered the Kremlin as many as 100,000 “volunteers” to assist with the Russian President’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Speaking on Russia’s Channel One, talk show host Igor Korotchenko described reports of North Korean soldiers volunteering to “take part in the conflict.”
The Russian television personality also praised the North Korean military’s “wealth of experience with counter-battery warfare,” which is relevant to the Russian military in the wake of the White House’s decision to donate more than a dozen long-range HIMARS rocket systems.
“If North Korea expresses a desire to meet its international duty to fight against Ukrainian fascism, we should let them,” Korotchenko continued.
On July 13, North Korea aligned itself with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February decree that recognized the independence of the two self-styled “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. North Korea’s Central News Agency, KCNA, confirmed on July 14 that foreign minister Choe Son Hui sent letters to counterparts in Donetsk and Luhansk recognizing their independence from Ukraine.
North Korea became the third country to recognize the independence of the two separatist regions in Ukraine.
As Russia’s economy struggles under the weight of unprecedented sanctions from the West, ties between the two countries are expected to grow stronger. In July, Russian ambassador to North Korea, Alexander Matsegora, revealed plans to use North Korean builders to help rebuild infrastructure in Donetsk should Russia ultimately win the war.
Responding to the news, White House National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby said it reflected just how badly economic sanctions had hurt Russia.
“It just shows the degree to which Putin remains isolated,” Kirby said. “Now he’s got to turn to North Korea.”
Russia Needs the Help
While the Kremlin has not yet confirmed whether or not North Korea will be providing these volunteers, it is no doubt a welcome offer. Last month, Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan told CNN how U.S. legislators had been briefed on Russia’s huge personnel losses in Ukraine. The lawmaker said that as many as 75,000 Russian soldiers have been injured or killed on the battlefield.
“We were briefed that over 75,000 Russians have either been killed or wounded, which is huge. You’ve got incredible amounts of investment in their land forces, over 80% of their land forces are bogged down, and they’re tired,” Slotkin said.
CIA Director William Burns also estimated in July that around 15,000 Russian troops had been killed so far, and an additional 45,000 wounded.
With Ukrainian forces pushing back Russian forces in eastern and southern Ukraine, and more than 50 Russian ammunition depots destroyed by U.S.-supplied HIMARS in recent weeks, Russia is no doubt seriously considering North Korea’s offer.
What Do the Experts think? Would North Korea Really Send Troops to Ukriane?
“I would argue that, yet, North Korea would send troops to Russia’s aid if requested, although 100,000 seems a bit of a stretch,” argued Harry J. Kazianis, a North Korea expert and now President of the bipartisan Rogue States Project. “Pyongyang would surely be rewarded nicely for its efforts and would give Kim’s forces to be tested in battle against a determined for while getting a look at what U.S. weapons can do on the battlefield. For Kim, it seems like a win-win.”
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.
This piece has been updated to include expert comments.