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Ukraine and the shadow of Korea

The war that started with a Russian invasion might be ended by an armistice rather than a formal peace treaty. Dal Financial Times.

For some conservatives, every foreign policy crisis is “Munich”. For some leftwingers, every war threatens to turn into “Vietnam”. But as the Ukraine war moves inexorably into a second year of conflict, a less commonplace analogy is doing the rounds — Korea. The point of the comparison is that the Korean war never formally ended. It was brought to a close by an armistice in 1953, which stopped the fighting without the signature of a formal peace treaty. Instead there has been a decades-long ceasefire, which essentially froze the conflict. The hope that an armistice might be a route to the end of hostilities in Ukraine is based on three ideas. First, neither Russia nor Ukraine is in a position to achieve total victory. Second, the political positions of the two countries are too far apart to make a peace agreement possible. Third, both countries are suffering severe losses that could make a ceasefire attractive. It is true that Moscow still talks the language of victory. Vladimir Putin likens himself to Peter the Great, the tsar who won the Great Northern War after fighting Sweden for 21 years.

But the reality is that Putin has already failed in Ukraine. His forces have been driven back from Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson. His partial mobilisation of civilians has caused thousands of Russian men to flee the country but failed to reverse the tide on the battlefield. About 100,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded — with more dying every week in brutal trench warfare.

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