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The Axis of Outcasts

Russian arms deals with North Korea and Iran point to the emergence of a new axis of outcasts: countries united in their willingness to violate international law and ignore United Nations sanctions. Driven by desperation, these pariahs pose a threat to regional and global stability that should not be underestimated.

STOCKHOLM – Russian President Vladimir Putin had obvious reasons for hosting North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un at Vostochny, Russia’s new spaceport in eastern Siberia, this month. Owing to his illegal war of aggression in Ukraine, Putin is running low on both friends and ammunition.

The Vostochny spaceport has a troubled history. Intended to replace the Baikonur facility in Kazakhstan, its construction was plagued by repeated delays and allegations of corruption and mismanagement. Now, it is rarely used – though it did launch the high-profile Luna-25 mission that crashed into the moon recently.

Russian-North Korean relations have a similar backstory. Once upon a time, the bond between the Kremlin and the Kim regime was tight. After all, communist North Korea was essentially a Soviet creation, and it relied heavily on Soviet support for decades. But following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian leaders saw more to gain by developing relations with booming South Korea. The Kremlin effectively switched sides, joining the (unsuccessful) international effort to prevent the Hermit Kingdom from developing nuclear weapons.