Russia lost an ally in the death of Kim Jong-il on Saturday and gained an uncertain friend in his son, Kim Jong-un.
President Dmitri Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sent condolences to North Korea on Russia behalf. The two nations have enjoyed healthy diplomatic relations since North Korea's founding, and in 1949, Russia and Kim Jong-il's father Kim Il Sung signed an economic and cultural cooperation agreement.
Since then, the relationship has been kept relatively intact, although it was often shaky under both Nikita Khrushchev and Mikhail Gorbachev. Still, trade remained open, and Russia invested in Korean manufacturing.
Ten years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin reinvigorated cooperation between the two states and the military partnership between North Korea and Russia developed at a rapid pace.
Interestingly, Russia was also part of the six-party talks, a group of countries that tried and failed to convince Kim to abandon his nuclear program. The talks fell apart in 2008, but perhaps Kim Jong-un's legacy will be as the reformer who decides to move past his father's ideals rather than reinforce them.
Along with China, Russia was one of the very few countries where Kim Jong-il would make official visits. His last visit to Russia was in August of this year.
The question for Russia now is how cooperative Kim Jong-un will be and whether they have a friend of a foe in the new leader?
Lavrov said Monday that he believes things should stay the same, provided that Kim Jong-un is able to hold on to his nascent power.
“Of course, we hope that the loss which has befallen this amicable people will not affect the future development of our friendly relations,” he said of North Korea.
With Kim Jong-il now gone, Russia hopes to push through a number of old economic proposals, such as a train-line connecting North and South Korea and a pipeline running from Russia all the way through the Korean peninsula.
Russia is North Korea's third largest trade partner after China and South Korea, with annual trade totaling about $100 million.