A Rush to Form Alliances Is Always a Bad Sign

A Rush to Form Alliances Is Always a Bad Sign
Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands after signing a comprehensive strategic partnership, in Pyongyang, North Korea, June 19, 2024 (uncredited Korean Central News Agency photo via AP Images).

The world is entering a perilous time, with a consolidation of competing alliance blocs that seems to be accelerating. Last week, Russia and North Korea signed a mutual defense pact in Pyongyang that Russian President Vladimir Putin described as setting “large-scale tasks and benchmarks for deepening Russian-Korean relations in the long term.” The public unveiling of the agreement shows that the two nations are poised to deepen their relationship beyond the provision of rockets that North Korea has already been supplying to Russia for its war in Ukraine.

The signing of the Russia-North Korea pact follows on the heels of last month’s meeting between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, where the two leaders reaffirmed their countries’ “no-limits” friendship by calling for a “new era” in which they would, in Xi’s words, “cherish and nurture” the “hard-earned” partnership. This is on top of exploratory talks between Russia and Iran for a pact that might be signed “in the very near future,” according to Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko. Iran is already supplying Russia with drones for the war in Ukraine, and a formal security arrangement between them could take that relationship further.

At the same time that Russia is building out its network of alliances with autocratic states, the Western powers—primarily the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which will be holding its annual summit in two weeks—are themselves consolidating as a bloc. It was announced last week that 23 of the 32 NATO members now exceed the alliance’s target of spending at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense. This is on top of NATO recently adding two new members, Finland and Sweden, as well as making clear its intent to eventually allow Ukraine—the invasion of which is the central point of contention between the West and Russia—into the alliance.

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