Vladimir Putin has been left ‘humiliated’ after he had to travel ‘to the far end of Russia’ to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and ‘plead for ammunition’, a retired US General has said.
Ben Hodges, former commander of US forces in Europe, said the fact that Putin is having to plead with Kim for ageing ammunition and rockets to help with his grinding war in Ukraine is a ‘clear sign of his isolation and desperation’.
General Hodges added that while the Russian warmonger would hope that the supply of such ammunition would help with his assault, it will only ‘extend his war efforts for a few more months’ in a move that will see ‘thousands more Russian soldiers die for no reason other than Putin’s personal ambitions’.
A ‘desperate’ Putin greeted Kim at Russia’s modern space rocket launch site today with an enthusiastic handshake that lasted 40 seconds in a rare summit that the US warns could see North Korea supply Moscow with much needed artillery shells and antitank missiles to use in Ukraine.
‘This is a humiliation for Putin and his regime. The Russian defence industry is in tatters thanks to sanctions and years of corruption,’ General Hodges told MailOnline.
‘Going to the far end of Russia to meet with Kim Jong Un and plead for ammunition is a clear statement of Russia’s isolation and desperation.’
Vladimir Putin has been left ‘humiliated’ after he had to travel ‘to the far end of Russia’ to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un (pictured together today at a Russian space base) and ‘plead for ammunition’, a retired US General has said
Putin points into the air during a visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome with Kim on Wednesday
Ben Hodges (pictured at a military air base in Hungary in 2015), ex-commander of US forces in Europe, said the fact that Putin is having to plead Kim for ageing ammunition and rockets to help with his grinding war in Ukraine is a ‘clear sign of his isolation and desperation’
North Korea is believed to have tens of millions of aging artillery shells and rockets that would have compatibility with Russia’s Soviet-era designs, as well as a history of producing such ammunition.
General Hodges said even if North Korea does supply Russia with its stockpiles of ageing ammunition and rockets for Soviet-era weapons, it wouldn’t lead to a Russian victory.
‘Depending on what North Korea actually agrees to provide, this might provide Russia the means to extend its efforts for a few more months,’ General Hodges said.
‘This means that thousands more Russian soldiers will die for no reason other than Putin’s personal ambitions.
‘For Ukrainian soldiers, this will bring into sharp relief the dire situation of their Russian enemy and the significant amount of ever-increasing support they are getting from 50 other nations.’
He said today’s meeting between Putin and Kim was ‘significant only in what it says about the state of Russia’s defence industry and desperation’. ‘It also illustrates how isolated Russia is in the world,’ General Hodges added.
Both Ukraine and Russia have expended massive numbers of shells, and have looked to allies and partners to refill their ammunition stockpiles.
Russia fired 10-11million rounds last year in Ukraine, a Western official estimated on Friday.
Among the ammunition the US has provided Ukraine are shells with advanced capabilities, such as the Excalibur, which uses GPS guidance and steering fins to hit targets as small as 3 metres (10 feet) from up to 40km (25 miles) away.
North Korea’s offering is likely to be less high-tech but accessing those stocks could help Russia in the short-term.
‘Almost none of the ammunition is in any way “advanced” – it would feed the traditional Russian barrage type use of artillery but not provide Russia with any precision ammunition,’ said Siemon Wezeman, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
To have minimal stocks for all their artillery in 100mm to 152mm calibre would mean North Korea would have millions of shells stockpiled, Wezeman said, and just to replenish any ammunition fired in exercises or demonstrations will need some serious production capacities.
General Hodges added that Putin’s request for ammunition from impoverished North Korea marks a new low.
Indeed, such a request marks a reversal of roles from the 1950-53 Korean War, when Moscow gave weapons to support Pyongyang’s invasion of South Korea, and in the decades of Soviet sponsorship of the North that followed.
And while artillery can help ‘shatter the will and cohesion of the enemy’, it’s more complicated than simply shells at the enemy, Patrick Hinton, a British Army fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said in a recent report.
Hinton said the question of quality in North Korean artillery shells could have an impact if flaws fall outside accepted tolerances.
‘Poorly made ammunition will have inconsistent performance – behaviours in flight may be affected which will reduce accuracy; poor quality fuses may lead to premature function; shelf life may be reduced if the content is poorly made,’ he said.
‘These all need to be made to a high specification otherwise they may not land where they are expected to which can have catastrophic consequences.’
Vladimir Putin, left, and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during their meeting at the Vostochny cosmodrome outside the city of Tsiolkovsky
Putin and Kim look to the skies at the space centre in the far eastern Amur region in Russia on Wednesday
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) visit a construction site of the Angara rocket launch complex on Wednesday
Putin and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un don’t look too impressed as they stand together at the cosmodrome
Putin sat down with Kim for a meeting after they toured the space base on Wednesday
Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un examine a launch pad of Soyuz rockets during their meeting at the Vostochny cosmodrome
The performance of North Korea’s artillery and crews has been suspect since the North Korean army fired around 170 shells at the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong in 2010, killing four people.
According to a report by the Washington-based 38 North project, more than half those rounds fell in the waters around the island, while about 20 per cent of those that impacted the island failed to explode.
Such a high failure rate suggested some North Korea-manufactured artillery munitions suffered from either poor quality control during manufacture or poor storage conditions and standards, the report said.
With very large numbers of ammunition, the lack of precision and the occasional dud shells or rockets wouldn’t matter much to the Russians, Wezeman said.
‘However, it would matter if Korean ammunition is of such poor quality that it is just unsafe to use for Russian soldiers – there have been indications that such quality issues play with Korean ammunition,’ he added.
In exchange, Kim could seek badly needed energy and food aid and advanced weapons technologies, including those related to intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines and military reconnaissance satellites.
Indeed, the decision to meet at Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia’s most important domestic satellite launch facility, suggests that Kim is seeking Russian technical assistance for his efforts to develop military reconnaissance satellites, which he has described as crucial in enhancing the threat of his nuclear-capable missiles.
In recent months, North Korea has repeatedly failed to put its first military spy satellite into orbit.
Spy satellites are among an array of major weapons systems Kim publicly vowed to develop during a major political conference in 2021 – and Russia holds the technology needed to develop such spy satellites.
But an arms deal would violate international sanctions that Russia supported in the past.
In gushing praise for Putin’s war, which has seen thousands of Ukrainians killed and entire neighbourhoods destroyed, Kim said he was ‘certain’ Moscow will win a ‘great victory’ against Ukraine
Putin and Kim visit the space centre on Wednesday
Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visit the Vostochny cosmodrome outside of the town of Tsiolkovsky on Wednesday
Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visit the Vostochny cosmodrome outside of the town of Tsiolkovsky in Russia’s Far East on Wednesday
Meanwhile, a fawning Kim today praised the ‘heroic’ Russian army’s ‘virtue and honour’ on the front lines of Vladimir Putin’s ‘sacred struggle’ in Ukraine.
In gushing praise for Putin’s war, which has seen thousands of Ukrainians killed and entire neighbourhoods destroyed, Kim said he was ‘certain’ Moscow will win a ‘great victory’ against Ukraine.
‘I am deeply convinced that the heroic Russian army and people will certainly win a great victory in the sacred struggle to punish the gathering of evil,’ Kim said as he raised a glass to toast the victory of ‘great Russia’ during a dinner hosted by Putin.
Kim added that Russia would triumph against ‘evil’, in what he cast as the West’s imperialism in the war in Ukraine.
In response, Putin stood up and raised his glass whilst saying: ‘A toast to the future strengthening of cooperation and friendship between our countries.
‘For the wellbeing and prosperity of our nations, for the health of the chairman and all of those present.’
Putin and Kim were offered a menu including duck and fig salad, crab dumplings, sturgeon and beef with a choice of Russian wines, according to Kremlin reporters.
Earlier today, Putin shook hands enthusiastically with Kim as soon as the North Korean leader stepped out of his black limousine and said he was ‘very glad to see him’.
Putin showed off rockets to Kim at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russian’s modern space rocket launch site nestled among the forests of eastern Russia.
Kim, one of the few leaders who has stuck by the despot since his full-scale invasion of Ukraine began 19 months ago, told Putin he was fighting a ‘sacred war’ with the West and their two countries would together battle with ‘imperialism’.
The two dictators put on an animated display today – one that will only heighten fears that Kim will supply Putin with his much needed artillery shells and antitank missiles for his war in Ukraine.
The leaders, both of whom are known to be paranoid about assassination attempts, were flanked by a number of bodyguards during the visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome.
The two men began their meeting with a tour of a Soyuz-2 space rocket launch facility, at which the North Korean leader peppered a Russian space official with questions about the rockets.
Putin had congratulated Kim on a series of North Korean anniversaries, including 75 years since the establishment of North Korea in 1948.
The meeting underscores how the two leaders’ interests are aligning in the face of their separate, intensifying confrontations with the US and the West.
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