Staunton, December 6 – During the Cold War, it was widely recognized that the Soviet Union made use of its satellites to carry out tasks which for one reason or another the USSR’s leadership did not want to take on itself, most notoriously its use of the Bulgarian security services to engage in “wet” attacks on those Moscow viewed as its enemies.
It is as yet less widely recognized the Vladimir Putin has restored this Soviet practice and now uses the Kremlin’s more limited and less totally controlled “allies” to do much the same way, thus achieving plausible deniability about particular actions which achieving precisely the goals it seeks.
In a Kasparov.ru commentary, Aleksandr Nemets describes the way Moscow is using what he describes as its “North Korean branch” to attack the West while not bearing full responsibility and its other “branches” in various locations around the world (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A26D53822D09).
North Korea is especially important in this regard, Nemets says. Russia uses it to transfer advanced rocket and nuclear technologies, to create problems for the US, Japan, South Korea and even China, countering anti-Russian sanctions, and other tasks which are more important for Moscow than they are for Pyongyang.
Because of its importance, Nemets continues, Moscow has been willing to transfer to Pyongyang some of Russia’s most advanced technology and to forgive almost all of its debt to Russia. And Russia’s role in this regard is clearly seen from the timing of what Moscow has done and what Pyongyang has done.
Between 2011 and 2016, Putin visited North Korea, wrote down Pyongyang’s debt by 11 billion US dollars, and provided North Korea with missile and nuclear technologies, all of which Kim Jong Il then exploited. But Russia’s use of North Korea against the West really took off “in the first months of 2017.”
After the failure of the Kremlin’s “’Trump is Ours’” project, Nemets says, “the significance of ‘the North Korean branch of the Russian Federation’ grew many times over.” Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests were clearly timed in response to or anticipation of American actions, most of which were hurting the Kremlin far more than North Korea.
Nemets traces these step by step from last spring to earlier this month, a timetable that suggests a controlling Russian involvement rather than simply the imperatives of North Korean advances. And the Russian commentator concludes that “by the beginning of December, North Korean had become the most privileged and valuable of ‘the foreign branches” of Russia.
But it was and is hardly the only one, he continues; and Nemets provides a listing of “’the foreign branches of the Russian Federation’ and their chief functions.”
· Transdneistria which distributes weapons at Moscow’s direction and creates problems for Moldova and Ukraine, “blocking the entry of Moldova into the EU and NATO.”
· The Russian occupied Donbass which also distributes weapons and creates problems for Ukraine, including “blocking Ukraine’s entrance into the EU and NATO.”
· Crimea, “annexed” by Moscow, which supplies arms and creates as many threats as possible to Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and NATO countries on the Black Sea littoral.
· South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which provide weapons to groups Moscow wants them to go to and creates “the maximum threat to Georgia,” including “blocking its entrance into the EU and NATO.”
· The occupied regions of Syria, “a joint project with Iran,” which also distribute weapons, create chaos in the Middle East, and lay the basis for increasing the price of oil on world markets.
· And Belarus, which supplies arms, creates problems for Poland, the Baltic countries and Ukraine, and holds off NATO forces.