Is Russia a rogue state?

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur region on Sept. 13, 2023.

Vladimir Smirnov | Afp | Getty Images

Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has occupied an often contradictory and increasingly unsettling position on the global stage in recent years.

On the one hand, Russia continues to hold onto “legacy” roles with a large degree of respectability and responsibility, such as being one of only five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and a member of the G20.

On the other hand, however, it has become closely allied to countries widely seen as international “rogue states” — such as North Korea, Iran, Belarus and Syria — and has displayed similar character traits by crushing political opponents at home and threatening the West with nuclear weapons, although the 2022 invasion of its neighbor Ukraine has gone a step further than other “outlaws.”

Russia’s leaning toward so-called “rogue states” — loosely defined as those breaking international laws, sponsoring terrorism and posing a threat to the security of other nations and global peace — has been accelerated since it invaded Ukraine in early 2022, with a raft of international sanctions on Russian industry and individuals linked to the conflict, leaving Moscow largely isolated on the global stage.

This has effectively forced it to count on countries like China and India to buy its oil exports and to turn to the clutch of allied “rogue states” as a source of potential military equipment and support.

Some close followers of Russia believe Moscow, operating outside international law, is increasingly acting like a “rogue state” itself, particularly in its desire to challenge and subvert the West’s dominance in global affairs.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia November 20, 2017.

Sputnik | Mikhail Klimentyev | Kremlin | Reuters

The visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to Russia this week — that saw both countries pledge to deepen military and economic ties despite the concerns of nations like the U.S. and South Korea — showed Moscow was increasingly looking to both fracture the world order, and to benefit from that schism.

“Russia is increasingly a rogue state: Its core relations are with countries outside a rules-based global order: Belarus, Iran, Syria, and North Korea,” Ian Bremmer, the president and founder of Eurasia Group, told CNBC Monday.

“These are countries that can’t be effectively punished with threat of further sanction from the United States and NATO. They are already fully committed enemies. That limits the amount of further support Russia can count on but also means there’s not much the Americans can do to respond other than make angry statements,” he added.

Bremmer said the visit by Kim to Russia, and pledge to deepen bilateral ties and to exchange military technology for Pyongyang’s satellite program, showed that Russia was becoming “more risk acceptant and willing to engage in asymmetric warfare against its enemies more broadly.”

My enemy’s enemy

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