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Russia Buying N. Korean Artillery Rounds as Sanctions Bite: Report

Russia is buying millions of artillery rounds and rockets from North Korea, The New York Times revealed, citing declassified US intelligence.

The development comes days after the Pentagon revealed that Iran is supplying hundreds of military drones to Russia, a sign that US-led sanctions and export controls are hampering Moscow’s ability to supply military equipment to its forces.

Unlike other countries, sanctions have not deterred Iran and North Korea from exporting weapons to Russia as the nations are “largely cut off from international commerce thanks to American and international sanctions,” the outlet wrote, adding that “neither country has much to lose by cutting deals with Russia.”

The intelligence didn’t reveal the exact size, timing, or type of short-range munitions shipped to Russia. However, it stated that Moscow is expected to buy additional weapons from the country.

Iranian drones
Iranian drones in an underground facility. Photo: AFP

Sanctions Biting Russia

The latest US intelligence came after a lag, The New York Times observed, adding that Washington had correctly predicted the Ukraine invasion based on its intelligence.

The revelation endorsed the effectiveness of sanctions on Russia’s ability to buy weapon components and electronics, the outlet wrote, citing US officials. 

In contrast to its military, the Russian economy has largely weathered the economic sanctions imposed on its banks, trade, and individuals primarily on the strength of higher energy prices due to the invasion.

It added that even China has refrained from selling military equipment to Russia, fearing an adverse impact of violating the “export controls aimed at Moscow’s military.”

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has repeatedly warned Beijing against supplying semiconductor chips to Moscow, saying that a breach of export controls on Russia would result in the US shutting down “those businesses [Chinese semiconductor makers], cutting off their access to the American technology they need to make semiconductors.”

People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers march during the opening ceremony of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing
China has made massive investments in military modernization along with determined diplomatic and economic outreach to developing countries. Photo: AFP

Question Mark Over Russia’s Manufacturing Ability 

The development also confirms Ukrainian intelligence claims that Russia has used 55 percent of its missile stockpile, leaving it with less precise artillery to compensate for the loss.

Citing a US official, The New York Times wrote that exporting weapons such as artillery shells from North Korea reveals Russia’s seeming inability “to produce the simplest matériel needed to wage war.”

The American Enterprise Institute’s Frederick W. Kagan said, “The only reason the Kremlin should have to buy artillery shells or rockets from North Korea or anyone is because Putin has been unwilling or unable to mobilize the Russian economy for war at even the most basic level.” 

“This is very likely an indication of a massive failure of the Russian military-industrial complex that likely has deep roots and very serious implications for the Russian armed forces.”

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