Behold the nuttiest rumor of the war, made nuttier by the fact that it seems to have originated in Russia itself. I would have guessed at first glance that it was Ukrainian propaganda: “Putin is so strapped for manpower that he’s willing to deploy malnourished slaves on loan from Kim Jong Un.”

North Korea’s army might be the only major force on Earth that’s less well equipped for modern warfare than the Russians themselves.

A desperate Vladimir Putin is considering turning to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un for help in his invasion of Ukraine, and is willing to offer energy and grain in return for 100,000 soldiers, according to reports in Russia.

North Korea has made it clear through ‘diplomatic channels’ that as well as providing builders to repair war damage, it is ready to supply a vast fighting force in an attempt to tip the balance in Moscow’s favour, reported Regnum news agency.

They would be deployed to the forces of the separatist pro-Putin Donetsk People’s Republic [DPR] and Luhansk People’s Republic [LPR], both of which Kim has recently recognised as independent countries.

Nothing says “Russia and Ukraine are one people” like deploying troops from another country halfway around the world who speak a different language to keep the peace in occupied parts of the Donbas.

It’ll never happen, and not just because it would be a looooong trip for North Korean troops through Russia. I think Kim Jong Un would fear the reaction of his men once they got to see firsthand how relatively well Ukrainians in the Donbas live. There were reports earlier in the war of Russian troops marveling at how much higher the standard of living in Ukraine is compared to where they’re from, which explains the phenomenon of appliances like washer-dryers being looted. If kids raised in rural Russia think Ukraine is a first-world paradise, imagine what those raised in Kim’s gulag would think.

The first rule of cults is that no one gets to leave and see how good people have it on the outside. Same here, I’m sure.

The fact that Russian state TV is willing to entertain this idiocy, though, is another sign of how pressed they are for reinforcements. If the success of your war depends on being bailed out by North Korea, good luck.

Even Korotchenko’s colleagues couldn’t suppress a laugh at the thought of North Korean “volunteers” but they’ll take ’em if they’re offered given the dearth of alternatives. Putin is desperate to avoid a mass mobilization of Russian society for fear that doing so will galvanize anti-war sentiment, which means all other options are on the table. “To make up the manpower shortfall, the Kremlin is relying on a combination of impoverished ethnic minorities, Ukrainians from the separatist territories, mercenaries and militarized National Guard units to fight the war, and promising hefty cash incentives for volunteers,” the Times reported recently. Some recruits are middle-aged.

Those who take the money and enlist can expect only the most perfunctory training before seeing action:

Desperate to reinforce its battered forces in Ukraine, the Kremlin is raising scores of volunteer battalions—and plans to rush them to the front after just 30 days of training.

A month isn’t enough to train an individual recruit in a soldier’s individual tasks—to say nothing of training the battalion as a whole to fight and survive against battle-hardened Ukrainian formations.

“This drive will likely produce ‘soldiers’ of lower quality than the normal conscripts,” the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War explained…

A month of training isn’t enough to prepare a recruit for the rigors of mechanized warfare. For comparison, a U.S. Army infantry recruit endures more than five months of training before arriving at their first battalion, where the unit-level and pre-deployment training then continues. It’d be unusual for an American infantryman to deploy for combat with less than a year of training.

How badly is Russia hurting for troops? One member of Congress told the Times last week that the latest estimate from U.S. intelligence officials is — wait for it — 75,000 Russian soldiers are either KIA or wounded since the start of the war. The initial invading force was “only” 150,000 or so. Typically losing 10 percent of a battalion is enough to render it ineffective in combat. Russia might be looking at losses of 50 percent.

The real threat to Ukraine isn’t North Korea joining the battle, it’s China seeking to punish the U.S. for Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan by boosting military aid to Putin. Tom Friedman’s piece last week about the folly of Pelosi’s visit pointed out that the White House had warned China early in the war not to get involved on Russia’s side — and China had heeded that warning. Now all bets are off. Which, I assume, is why Zelensky is suddenly urgently seeking to connect with Xi Jinping for direct talks. “The Russians are the invaders … this is a war on our territory, they came to invade. China, as a big and powerful country, could come down and sort of put the Russian Federation [in] a certain place,” he told the South China Morning Post. “Of course, I would really like China to review its attitude towards the Russian Federation.”

I doubt he believes he can talk Xi into pressuring Putin. What he wants is to talk him into not punishing Ukraine by helping Russia arm up simply to spite the United States. It’s Ukrainians who’ll die if they do, not Americans.

I’ll leave you with this satisfying clip of the latest handiwork from U.S. HIMARS systems. That’s a lot of Russian ammo that’s up in smoke.

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