At a meeting with Russian journalists President Putin remarked on the success of North Korea's policy and the country's success in developing a viable nuclear deterrent. The Russian President stated: "I believe Mr. Kim Jong Un has certainly won this round. He has a nuclear weapon and a missile with a range of up to 13,000 kilometres (Hwasong-15) that can reach almost any place on Earth or at least any territory of his potential adversary. He is already an absolutely shrewd and mature politician." President Putin went on to say that the Korean leader was likely to be seeking an easing of tensions in the region.
What the Russian leader failed to mention was the not insignificant role his own country played in facilitating North Korea's success. While U.S. President Trump assured his supporters shortly after taking office than North Korea's development of a viable nuclear deterrent against the U.S. mainland 'wont happen' - the speed at which the East Asian state developed its ballistic missiles and successfully tested a hydrogen bomb were unprecedented. This led to the U.S. leader threatening to 'completely destroy North Korea' and to several American civilian and military leaders strongly advocating a preventative war on the country - one which would almost certainly require the deployment of American nuclear weapons. While North Korea's large, heavily armed and well prepared military was one critical deterrent against an attack, with its special forces, nuclear and chemical arsenals among several highly potent assets which could devastate U.S. targets across the Pacific, another factor which deterred U.S. attacks was the threat of Russian involvement.
Historically the threat of Russian military intervention has been one of the most effective means of deterring military action by the Western bloc, from the Korean War and Suez Crisis in the 1950s to Russia's intervention to prevent direct Western attacks on the Syrian government since 2013. In much the same way as Russia's military deployed advanced air defences and air superiority fighters to cover Syrian airspace and thereby prevent Western air and missile attacks, so too did Russia's deployment of its most sophisticated air defences and advanced fighters to the North Korean border, with coverage over the entire peninsula, serve as a critical inhibitor to any attacks against the country. Large scale drills in the Russian Far East training Marines for landings and counteroffensive actions which could prove lethal against U.S. facilities on the Korean Peninsula and seriously undermine any attack also sent a strong message. Russia's statements that it would not accept attacks on its neighbour were thus backed by credible force and a means of effectively neutralising American aircraft or missiles launching aggressive actions. This and extensive assistance provided to North Korea's military both in developing its own air defence network and in gaining intelligence on its adversaries were also major factors making U.S. military action infeasible. With U.S. war plans relying overwhelmingly on attacks from the air, effectively sealing North Korean airspace with anti access area denial weapons has been key to guaranteeing the country's security.