(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Feb. 29)

Ukraine and Korean War Decision makers should learn lessons from the past In some ways, the dynamics of the Ukraine-Russian conflict, which began two years ago this month, resemble those of the Korean War. First, there is a sudden attack by an invader who expects to achieve victory within weeks, if not days. Compare North Korea's quick capture of Seoul in June 1950 with predictions that Kyiv would collapse almost immediately after Moscow launched its invasion. Then the defenders launch a successful counterattack, akin to the Incheon landing during the Korean War or Ukraine's retaking of Kherson and other cities from Russian forces in late 2022, momentarily igniting hopes of victory. Finally, the war becomes bogged down in a frozen stalemate, such as the standoff between American and Chinese forces in 1951 in the mountains along what is now the DMZ. This led to two years of armistice negotiations amid inconclusive combat that finally led to a ceasefire agreement in June 1953. Will the same thing now happe n in Ukraine? The front lines in Ukraine have barely budged in the past year. Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested recently that he is ready to negotiate to end the conflict. The U.S. so far has chosen to ignore his approach, believing that Putin wants to sap Western support for Ukraine by engaging in peace talks. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is even more adamant in rejecting talks as he clings to a maximalist stance, reminiscent of South Korean President Syngman Rhee during the armistice negotiations, that he will not give up fighting until he recovers all the Ukrainian territory that had been captured by Russia since its initial incursion in 2014. American public support for the Korean and Ukrainian conflicts has followed a similar trajectory. When the Korean War broke out in June 1950, there was wide public support in the U.S. for American intervention. But by the summer of 1951, half of the American population viewed the war as a mistake, since a quick and decisive victory was nowhere in sight. The harshest criticism came from politicians on the political right. Many conservatives, representing the still influential isolationist wing of the Republican Party, argued against any American involvement in foreign conflicts that did not directly threaten the U.S. Robert Taft, the Republican leader, called the war costly and pointless. Republican attacks on President Harry Truman and his management of the war led him to decide that he would not seek another term in office in the 1952 presidential election. Dwight Eisenhower only narrowly beat Taft for the 1952 Republican presidential nomination after he pledged that "I will go to Korea" to find a quick resolution of the conflict. Public opposition to the war meant that Seoul's requests that the U.S. support reunification by military means were repeatedly rejected by Washington during both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. A similar situation is now playing out in Washington as Republicans in Congress mount an effort to reduce or stop fu rther military aid to Ukraine. At the beginning of the Ukraine conflict, only 9 percent of Republicans believed that the U.S. was supplying too much aid to Ukraine. About half of all Republicans now believe that, according to the Pew Research Center. Many argue that such aid is wasteful to a government that they view as corrupt, a similar criticism that was made about Korea under Syngman Rhee. Opposition in the U.S. to funding Ukraine is likely to grow as Russian forces become more effective and go on the offensive, while Ukraine's military command undergoes upheaval with the firing of its top commander. Amid chaos in Congress about approving $60 billion in aid to Ukraine and a presidential election campaign, the Biden administration may have to face the reality that it needs to reconsider the viability of its approach toward Kyiv. A negotiated settlement based on compromise may be the only means to end the conflict, similar to the path taken in 1953 to end the Korean War. One plan being floated would be a n immediate ceasefire to establish a demilitarized zone, with Russian and Ukraine forces withdrawing several miles from their forward positions. The U.N. could then send peacekeepers and organize a referendum to decide which country owns the disputed territory. Conventional wisdom holds that a negotiated end to the Ukraine war is neither possible nor desirable. But like the Korean War, the Ukraine war looks likely to end in a stalemate along current battle lines. A continued conflict would pose dangers for Ukraine's future. Russia's attrition strategy threatens to exhaust Ukraine's military manpower, while undermining Western support for Kyiv and damaging Ukraine's economy. Decision makers in Washington should ponder the lessons of the Korean War as they consider the next steps in their Ukraine strategy. Source: Yonhap News Agency