Accessibility links

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

Did you ever notice that Russia's oh-so-mild criticisms of North Korea always come with a little twist, a little hedge, and a little yeah, but?

Just this morning, for example, Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov offered the obligatory condemnation of Pyongyang's latest missile launch.

He felt compelled to add, however. that Moscow is "calling on the partners with whom we are working to show restraint, including toward military activity in this region."

It was the same song and dance after another North Korean missile launch earlier this month, when Vladimir Putin said we need to "stop intimidating" Kim Jong-un's regime and find "peaceful ways of resolving these issues."

WATCH: Today's Daily Vertical

Now a little context here is useful. Because lately the Kremlin's been quite busy courting Pyongyang.

Shortly after Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, for example, Putin wrote off most of North Korea's $11 billion debt to Russia.

About 50,000 North Koreans are working on construction sites in the Russian Far East. And since most of their pay is taken by the North Korean state, it's not a stretch to call them slave laborers.

And a new ferry route was recently opened between Vladivostok and the North Korean port of Rason.

Kim Jong Un, it appears, is fast joining Bashar al-Assad as an honorary member of Putin's gallery of rogues.

And as it becomes the protector of some of the world's most odious regimes, the Kremlin also gains valuable new tools to extort concessions from the West.

It's just another aspect of Putin's global protection racket.

Keep telling me what you think on The Power Vertical's Twitter feed and on our Facebook page.

XS
SM
MD
LG