Speaking at an energy forum in Moscow today, 64-year-old Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed doubt that a U.S. strike on North Korea would neutralize Kim Jong-un’s nuke and ballistic missile program. Putin doubted that U.S. intel could pinpoint all the nuke sites and missile launchers necessary to neutralize Kim’s threats. Saying he’s on the same page as Trump, Putin urged more time to let sanctions and diplomacy bring Kim to the bargaining table. While opposing a U.S. strike, Putin sounded resigned to the growing possibility of U.S. military action. Trump guaranteed that he wouldn’t let North Korea get a nuke-tipped Intercontinental Ballistic Missile [ICBM] to hit the U.S. homeland. U.N. and European Union officials oppose any U.S. military action, despite knowing that Kim threatened Sept. 14 to turn the U.S. to “ashes-and-darkness” with a nuclear strike.
It’s easy for Russia, U.N. and EU to counsel patience when they haven’t been threatened with nuclear war. North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Hong-ho said Sept. 28 that it’s “inevitable” that North Korean nuclear ICBM’s will hit the U.S. homeland. When a sovereign state talks about “inevitable,” it’s a 100% certainty that North Korea will hit the U.S. homeland with a nuke. Putin’s doubts about whether or not the U.S. can actually strike North Korea’s nuke and ballistic missile program speaks volumes that Russian remains resigned to a U.S. strike. “Can a global strike against North Korea be launched to disarm it? Yes. Will it achieve that aim? We don’t know. Who knows what they have there and where. Nobody knows with 100 percent certainty as it’s a closed country,” said Putin, knowing that the U.S. doesn’t have to hit all its nuke and ballistic missile sites to be effective.
Since telling the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 19 that he would “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatened the U.S. or its allies, Trump ratcheted up the gunboat diplomacy. North Korea upped the ante Sept. 22, threatening to detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific. Surely China and Russia have put Kim on notice that one more nuke test or ballistic missile launch could trigger a U.S. military strike. Putin’s remarks in Moscow don’t take into account that any strike on Pyongyang would aim to knock out North Korea’s command-and-control, as much as striking nuke sites and ballistic missile launchers. Putin expressed concerns about Kim’s nuke and ballistic missile sites only 200 kilometers from the Russian border. Putin would like Trump to give diplomacy a chance before hitting Pyongyang. With North Korea promising to hit the U.S. homeland, Trump doesn’t have the same luxury.
Everyday that goes by Kim inches closer to a deliverable nuke-tipped ICBM with which to strike the U.S. homeland. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Sept. 24 that Trump would not strike North Korea because Kim could strike the U.S. back with nukes. Lavrov’s statement assumes that Kim currently has a nuke-tipped ICBM to hit the U.S. homeland. Pentagon officials do not think North Korea has the technology yet but is getting closer everyday. If North Korea had not threatened to nuke the U.S., Trump would not be in the current dilemma. He seeks to neutralize Kim’s nuke and ballistic missile arsenal but, more importantly, to neutralize North Korea’s command-and-control. With Seoul’s 25 million residents only 35 miles south of the DMZ, there’s are grave risks to a U.S. strike. Trump promises a “devastating” strike on North Korea if it’s necessary.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Oct. 1 that the U.S. was talking to North Korea through back channels. Tillerson didn’t say whether or not the talks were substantive on the subject of disarming North Korea’s nuke and ballistic missile program. Trump rejected the idea of talking to North Korea until they’ve accepted the premise of disarming. “All Sides must ease rhetoric and find ways for face-to-face dialogue between the United States and North Korea, as well as between North Korea and countries in the region,” said Putin, knowing that all prior attempts at dialogue have failed over the last 25 years. Putin admitted, in a rare moment of candor, that North Korea would rather “eat grass” than give up their nukes. So, for Putin, any dialogue Pyongyang would not be about disarming. Trump said Oct. 1 that talking to North Korea would be a “waste of time,” considering the history.
Reading between the lines, Putin’s accepted that a U.S. military strike against North Korea looks inevitable. Trump won’t acquiesce to the appeasers on Capitol Hill, at the U.N. or in the EU, all calling to placate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. If Moscow or Brussels were the subject of Kim’s nuclear threats, there wouldn’t be much debate about what to do. Trump’s put the U.N., EU, Russia and China on notice that the U.S. is ready-and-willing to use military force to neutralize Kim’s nuke and ballistic missile program. Whether or not, as Putin says, the U.S. can hit the exact targets misses the point. Whether a U.S. military strike hits Kim’s nukes and ballistic missiles, it’s going to devastate Pyongyang and disrupt command-and-control. Whether or not Kim’s left with nukes and ballistic missiles, his conventional military and infrastructure will be lin shambles after neutralizing a nuclear threat.