The Russian Ministry of Defense is in the process of purchasing millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for its ongoing fight in Ukraine, according to a newly downgraded U.S. intelligence finding.
Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said Tuesday that “the information that we have is that Russia has specifically asked for ammunition.” He said the U.S. has seen indications Russia approached North Korea, but said he had no other details, including whether money has changed hands or any shipments are in progress.
“It does demonstrate and is indicative of the situation that Russia finds itself in, in terms of its logistics and sustainment capabilities as it relates to Ukraine,” said Ryder, in the administration’s first public comments on the intelligence assessment. “We assess that things are not going well on that front for Russia.”
A U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence determination, said Monday that the fact Russia is turning to the isolated state of North Korea demonstrates that “the Russian military continues to suffer from severe supply shortages in Ukraine, due in part to export controls and sanctions.”
U.S. intelligence officials believe the Russians could look to purchase additional North Korean military equipment in the future. The intelligence finding was first reported by The New York Times.
Neither Ryder nor the U.S. official were able to say how much weaponry Russia intends to purchase from North Korea.
Asked why the information was declassified, Ryder it’s relevant to illustrate the condition of Russia’s ongoing military campaign in Ukraine. And, he said, it shows ”they’re trying to reach out to international actors like Iran and North Korea that don’t have the best record when it comes to international stability.”
The Biden administration said last week that Russia has faced technical problems with Iranian-made drones acquired from Tehran in August for use in its war with Ukraine. Russia picked up Mohajer-6 and Shahed-series unmanned aerial vehicles over several days last month as part what the Biden administration says is likely part of a Russian plan to acquire hundreds of Iranian UAVs for use in Ukraine.
North Korea has sought to tighten relations with Russia as much of Europe and the West has pulled away, blaming the United States for the Ukraine crisis and decrying the West’s “hegemonic policy” as justifying military action by Russia in Ukraine to protect itself.
The North Koreans have hinted interest in sending construction workers to help rebuild Russian-occupied territories in the country’s east.
North Korea’s ambassador to Moscow recently met with envoys from two Russia-backed separatist territories in the Donbas region of Ukraine and expressed optimism about cooperation in the “field of labor migration,” citing his country’s easing pandemic border controls.
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