July 13, 2024

US officials are reportedly fretting that Moscow and Pyongyang may escalate tensions to help Donald Trump win back the presidency

White House officials are reportedly worried that Russia and North Korea may conspire to ramp up geopolitical tensions just before this year’s US presidential election to help Republican candidate Donald Trump defeat incumbent Joe Biden.

Biden’s administration is “increasingly concerned” over intensifying ties between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, NBC News reported on Friday. The White House is bracing for the possibility that Kim will take provocative military actions – at Putin’s behest – to boost Trump’s chances in the November election, the outlet added, citing six unidentified senior officials.

“We have no doubt that North Korea will be provocative this year,” a US intelligence official said. “It’s just a matter of how escalatory it is.” NBC said such a move could be meant as an “October surprise,” meaning a shocking action shortly before the election to manipulate voters.

The theory is apparently that by triggering increased turmoil in yet another part of the world – with the Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas conflicts continuing to rage – Kim and Putin might be able to make Americans more inclined to vote for a change in their government’s leadership. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, is already polling ahead of Biden in several of the so-called ‘swing states’ that are expected to decide the election. He has argued that Biden’s weak leadership led to the conflicts that began under his watch.

Democrats accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 US election, but special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ investigation found that no collusion occurred between Moscow and the victorious Trump campaign. US media reports have claimed that Russia is already meddling in the 2024 race. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has insisted that Moscow didn’t interfere in past US elections and won’t do so this year, either.

North Korea has stepped up its pace of missile tests since the Russia-Ukraine conflict began in February 2022, fanning tensions with South Korea and Washington. The Biden administration has reportedly been expecting Pyongyang to conduct a nuclear warhead test, which would mark its first detonation since 2017. A US official told NBC that Washington will be “ready and prepared” to respond to any such test.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said last month that increasing strategic cooperation with Putin was emboldening Kim. He warned of a “growing nexus” between Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. “This is something that we are watching very closely,” he told a US congressional committee.

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