Since the beginning of the New Year, Russia has embarked on a massive onslaught targeting Ukrainian cities on a par with its bombing blitz at the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022. This offensive assault was not surprising as Russia was believed to be purposely accumulating missiles and drones in the final several months of 2023. However, the source of some of the missiles used in Russia’s most recent bombing missions has touched off some serious consternation in Ukraine and in Western capitals.

In reaction to these latest barrages of bombs, the White House claimed that Russia had used North Korean ballistic missiles to strike Ukraine. This announcement was later verified by senior Ukrainian officials. On Jan. 9, 2024, the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, the European Union and some 40 additional partner countries denounced North Korea’s export of ballistic missiles for Russian use.


The transport of North Korean missiles is the latest expansion of the country’s support for Russia’s military aggression toward Ukraine. The first reports of North Korean arms shipments to Russia came out back in late 2022. A year later, in October 2023, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby revealed that North Korea had delivered over 1,000 canisters of weaponry and equipment to Russia. In late 2023, South Korean officials maintained North Korean military factories were operating at full force in an attempt to meet Russian demand for arms.

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It is not known what Russia is trading in exchange for North Korean weapons, although rumors claim the Kremlin is providing the sanctioned nation with access to newly developed military technologies. It has been reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited several military sites displaying advanced military systems during a September 2023 trip to Russia.

Unfortunately, North Korea has been joined in stocking Vladimir Putin with an arsenal for attacking Ukraine by a second autocratic regime. Iran has furnished Russia with vast numbers of attack drones and artillery shells with Russia also gaining use of Iran’s drone technologies to institute extensive domestic production of attack drones to utilize against Ukraine. Reports in the New Year show this collaboration is strengthening with Russia set to receive upgraded drones along with Iranian ballistic missiles.


The Russian war effort two years into its invasion of Ukraine has come to be dependent on the military backing it is getting from North Korea and Iran. Whereas Putin has transferred much of Russia’s economy into war mode, the duration and vigor of the fighting in Ukraine demonstrates that Moscow is presently not able to meet the high demand for specific munitions classes like drones, missiles and artillery shells.

Currently in year three of the full-scale unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, North Korea and Iran’s ammunition deliveries are allowing Russia to preserve a notable heavy weapons advantage in a battle now described as a war of attrition. Additionally, the constant supply of Iranian drones allows Russia to pursue its intense bombing crusade against Ukrainian cities and the country’s civilian infrastructure. Ballistic missiles obtained from North Korea and Iran will permit Russia to continue expanding the air war against Ukraine.


As Putin’s fellow cohorts in Pyongyang and Tehran become braver in their willingness to subsidize Russia’s war with Ukraine, the West’s group allegiance to the Ukrainian side has become questionable. In the US, the recently passed aid package for Ukraine saw a six-month delay thanks to domestic political haggling. This development is raising questions about the future of the West’s support for Ukraine in a drawn-out conflict with Russia.

Recent indicators of Western frailty are encouraging to Putin, who believes he can withstand Ukraine’s Western allies in a test of political fortitude. His historical endgame of invading Ukraine has always been a venture to put an end to Western dominance and initiate a new world order. Forming alliances with congenial autocratic regimes is a major step toward achieving such a goal.

There is little doubt that Russia has successfully instituted a partnership in arms together with North Korea and Iran. The three autocratic countries are capitalizing on their military capability and manufacturing large quantities of weapons required to thwart resistance from the West and attain a Russian victory in Ukraine.


This union of authoritarians constitutes a severe threat to the future of the world’s security. Should Russia triumph in Ukraine with the help of military backing from North Korea and Iran, Ukrainians will not be the only victims. A Putin victory could set off a catastrophic paradigm. The global community could easily be confronted by more wars of aggression, with the world plunging into a perilous new age where today’s regulations with regard to national sovereignty and territorial integrity would no longer be applicable.

This is not yet a reality, but time is of the essence. To avoid decades of international apprehension and uncertainty, Western leaders have to send an unequivocal message to all autocrats and Putin copycats by ensuring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine culminates in a momentous defeat.

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post. 

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