2023—The Year of Asian Nations Subordinating to Putin’s Russia
Throughout 2023, several Asian governments accelerated the trend of subordinating their nations to Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin. This was true in politics, economics, diplomacy and even the highly sensitive military domain.
The ‘Hermit Kingdom’
For North Korea, the development was stunningly clear. In September, Putin invited Kim Jong Un, the head of the “Hermit Kingdom,” to Russia for a week-long visit, and it paid huge dividends for the Russians. In the months that followed, North Korea sent more than 1.5 million artillery shells to Russia during a time when Putin was struggling to equip his soldiers with enough artillery to keep Ukraine from pushing them back. The North also began transferring several types of missiles to Russia to continue Moscow’s bombardment of Ukraine’s cities.
These deals directly violated Western sanctions forbidding nations from arming Russia. The North Koreans couldn’t care less about sanctions and are sending Russia all they can spare—and then some.
[T]o meet Russia’s demand for military supplies [Kim is operating his military factories] at maximum capacity.
—Yoo Sang-bum, South Korean parliamentary intelligence committee member, November 2023
The fact that North Korea is digging so deeply into its stockpiles, sending train after train of shells and missiles to the Russians, speaks to a profound level of support. The North Koreans apparently see the stage being set for a global conflict and seem to be preparing to become a vassal to Putin’s Russia.
The ‘White Russia’
Belarus, which translates to “White Russia,” is not Asian in the geographic sense, but it was a key component of the Soviet Union and of Imperial Russia before that. This year, Belarus completed its subordination to Putin’s Russia.
Belarussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko is one of few heads of state who has been in power longer than Putin. Ever since Putin saved his regime from being democratically ousted in 2020, Lukashenko has never passed up a chance to kiss Putin’s ring. Lukashenko allowed tens of thousands of Russian troops to amass in Belarus in early 2022, which they used as a staging ground to invade Ukraine. In 2023, Lukashenko completed the subordination of Belarus by hosting some of Russia’s nuclear weapons on Belarussian soil.
At this point, many onlookers no longer view Belarus as a separate country in the ways that matter. It has become so fully subjugated that many now view this nation of 9 million people as basically a Russian state.
Belarus is “no longer independent” but rather a “province of Russia.”
—Gitanas Nausėda, Lithuanian president, July 2023
Lukashenko has effectively turned back the clock to Belarus’s Soviet Union days, making the nation once again Russia’s vassal.
The nation of India, often called Bhārat, is among the world’s foremost economic and military powers, and is now the most populous of all counties. India generally strives to portray itself as somewhat neutral or non-aligned in many global matters, and is even partnered with America in some security groups. But you don’t have to look far beneath the surface to see India, under the leadership of Narendra Modi, increasingly bowing to the Kremlin.
First there’s a dramatic level of economic support. The West has tried to isolate Russia and punish it for its war on Ukraine by boycotting its oil. But India has drastically increased its purchases of Russian oil. The Indians went from buying essentially none of Russia’s crude exports before the war to buying a stunning 40 percent in 2023. That is a major lifeline that India is throwing to Russia, which enables Putin to keep prosecuting the brutal war. India also buys some 70 percent of its weapons imports from Russia.
India has given Russia a key diplomatic win in the United Nations by abstaining from almost every vote condemning Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Modi has reinforced this trend by holding several meetings with Putin and others in Russia’s leadership, sending the world a clear message: Despite Western efforts, Russia is far from isolated.
In 2022, India sent thousands of its soldiers into Russia to practice for war with Russian troops. Some of those Russian troops had previously acted as Putin’s enforcers, slaughtering Ukrainians to further Putin’s dictatorial ambitions, but that didn’t stop India from sending its troops to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with them in those war games. This was a stunning sign of India’s support for Russia’s war, belying the leaderships occasional statements of neutrality. The Indians followed that up in 2023 by taking major steps to boost military-technical cooperation with Russia, including a deal to jointly manufacture weapons.
The partnership between India and Russia is immune from negative factors.
—Denis Alipov, Russian ambassador to India
The Middle Kingdom
Like India, China’s subjugation to Russia has been more nuanced. China has 10 times the population of Russia and 10 times the economic power. Yet Chinese leader Xi Jinping somehow recognizes that despite China outweighing Russia in those significant metrics, China still needs Russia. Xi sees Russia as a vital counterweight to the West. Like India, China has dramatically ratcheted up its imports of Russian oil, and is now buying some 45 to 50 percent of Russian crude exports. Those steady purchases provide invaluable funding to Russia’s war effort.
Xi’s China has made a dramatic show of solidarity by sending soldiers into Russia to practice for war alongside Russian troops. It has voted in Russia’s favor in the UN and has held several notable meetings with Putin.
China has also found creative ways to circumvent Western sanctions and send vital goods to Russia’s war machine, including huge quantities of armored personnel carriers, trench-digging machinery, semiconductors and drones.
China has positioned itself as Russia’s go-to supplier of nonlethal, but militarily useful, equipment.
When the war started in early 2022, some said China would take advantage of Russia’s distraction to make itself dominant in the Russia-China tandem. Others said China was furious and would break ties with Russia over it. Some even went so far as to say China would use the opportunity to seize some territory from Russia. But none of that happened.
Instead, China recognizes, perhaps more than ever, its need for Russia. The Chinese are thick as thieves with the Russians and are submitting to Russia’s leadership.
The trend of Asian governments subordinating their nations to Russia also advanced last year in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Vietnam. More and more Asian nations are turning up their noses at Western efforts to make Russia a pariah and are submitting to Putin’s will.
This was one of 2023’s most dramatic and significant trends. It is a trend the Trumpet carefully monitors because passages in biblical books such as Ezekiel, Daniel, Matthew and Revelation make clear that Russia will soon be allied with other Asian nations, combining forces to form an army bigger than any the world has ever seen. These passages show that this massive Russia-led Asian alliance will play a major role in nuclear World War iii.
To better understand how 2023 advanced this trend, and what lies ahead in 2024 and beyond, read “Why the Trumpet Watches a Russian Strongman Dominating Asia.”