The Korea Herald


[Editorial] After 2 years of war

Ukraine-Russia war enters third year with no end in sight amid deepening concerns

By Korea Herald

Published : Feb. 27, 2024 - 05:29

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Two years ago, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, sending shock waves throughout the world. On Saturday, the war entered its third year, but there is no sign that the conflict will end any time soon.

Worse, uncertainty is only deepening as the US President Joe Biden’s $61 billion aid package is now trapped in a political fight in Washington, as Republicans continue to stall the crucial aid to Ukraine, which is struggling with a shortage of ammunition.

As the war drags on, the casualties for Ukraine and Russia keep mounting, with other ripple effects feared to affect many parts of the world, including the Korean Peninsula, as Russia has reportedly improved relations with North Korea over arms support.

On Sunday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at a press conference in Kyiv that at least 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed defending the country in the two years since Russia started its invasion.

It was the first time that Ukraine has revealed an official death toll of soldiers, while US officials said the number of dead could be much higher. Zelenskyy did not give figures for the wounded or missing, and instead claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces are estimated to have suffered 500,000 casualties, including 180,000 soldiers killed.

Zelenskyy called on Ukraine’s allies to accelerate delivers of aid to the country, which urgently needs enough weapons, particularly long-range missiles, and ammunition to fight against Russian forces, saying that 2024 could be “decisive.”

In the initial stage of the war, Ukraine forces fought bravely against Russia on the back of the US and Western allies. But things began to worsen from the summer last year when Ukraine’s counteroffensive lost a momentum in the face of the intensifying attacks from Russia.

After months of relentless battles, Russia took over the town of Avdiivka, demonstrating the limitation of Ukrainian troops low on ammunition. The US, which has provided over $47 billion in support to Ukraine since the war began, is trying to extend its help again with a new package. The Senate passed a foreign aid package including $61 billion for Ukraine, but it was blocked by the Republican-controlled House.

The woes with the aid package is now feared to embolden Putin, who seems to have gained more political ground at home after Alexei Navalny, Putin’s most formidable domestic opponent, died in prison.

Aside from the troubles with the US aid package, one critical factor to consider is that the international community’s attention toward Ukraine appears to be waning, partly due to other geopolitical conflicts like the war between Israel and Hamas-led Palestinian military groups.

The war in Ukraine, meanwhile, lays bare a harsh reality in which small and weak countries could face fatal risks such as the sudden invasion from bigger and more powerful countries, even though such attacks are clearly in violation of international norms and agreements. Talk about justice, peace and cooperation in the international community can sound empty and pretentious at a time when an independent country could confront a merciless invasion overnight.

What plays out in Ukraine is affecting the security of the Korean Peninsula, as well. The main concern is that Russia is expanding cooperation with North Korea. North Korea is reportedly sending conventional arms to Russia for its war in Ukraine in exchange for advanced Russian weapons technologies and other support. There are also reports that North Korea’s sanctions-laden economy is benefiting from the arms deal with Russia.

Against this backdrop, the Yoon Suk Yeol administration should strengthen its relationship with the US and its key allies in connection with the war in Ukraine, while taking steps to deal with the closer ties between Pyongyang and Moscow that threaten the security on the Korean Peninsula.