Will Russia Attack North Korea

The looming possibility of a Russian attack on North Korea has become a pressing concern in international relations. Many experts have been acutely debating if Russia, one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with veto powers, will launch a full-scale attack against the isolated country. As tensions between North Korea and the United States have intensified over the past few years, the possibility of Russia backing the former has been met with daunting prognostications.

Although Russia maintains a neutral stance on the issues faced by North Korea, it is critical to understand Russia’s underlying intentions as well as its opinion on critical matters. In 2017, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, declared that Moscow “views North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons as a real security threat for the region and the world.” This, however, does not signal that Russia is ready to intervene militarily. On the contrary, Lavrov stated that the only viable option is to start a credible negotiation process with the intention of full denuclearization.

As evidence points to North Korea’s unwavering commitment to its nuclear ambitions, the likelihood of unilateral actions has become increasingly concrete. Russian political commentator Sergei Markov recently pointed out that even if Russia does not formally follow North Korea’s cause, there is a good chance that it will try to “bolster North Korea’s defenses if Pyongyang feels threatened.” Markov went on to argue that such a move would be Russia’s only viable option as opposed to other “disastrous” choices.

Furthermore, Russia has strongly backed an easing of tensions in the Korean peninsula. Put forward first by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the “Peace Initiative” was endorsed by President Putin of Russia midway through 2018. This initiative proposes that North and South Korea should engage in a process of joint economic development within the framework of a peace treaty. Despite not offering North Korea any nuclear protection, the initiative does illustrate Russia’s commitment to reducing the risk of a nuclear catastrophe.

However, amid allegations of interference in the US election and the Ukraine crisis, there has been little public outcry against a potential invasion. As a consequence, Russia might be tempted to intervene militarily, as this would be seen as a way to flex its muscles and send a strong message in international politics.

Ultimately, it is impossible to know if Russia will launch a full-scale attack on North Korea. Experts suggest that the chances of Russia intervening in North Korea are slim, as it would have nothing to gain and everything to lose. Nonetheless, the possibility cannot be totally excluded and it is imperative for all international stakeholders to remain vigilant.

Russia’s Interests in North Korea

Russia has expressed numerous times its interests in engaging in dialogues with North Korea and maintaining a democratic and peaceful Korean peninsula. Although North Korea is an isolated country, the Russian foreign ministry has repeatedly expressed the need for understanding North Korean politics. South Korean business ventures that partner with the North to build bridges across borders have been actively encouraged by Russia.

As a major actor in international politics and as a country with a strong military presence in Asia, Russia could play a pivotal role in maintaining a peaceful resolution to the North Korean situation. The economic sanctions imposed on North Korea by the US have been heavily criticized by Russia, and have made it difficult for Russia to provide much-needed economic aid to facilitate peaceful economic growth.

On the other hand, there are those who have argued that Russia might become more involved in the North Korean crisis given the erosion of US influence in the area. Russian economist Slava Rabinovich has argued that Russia’s involvement in the situation could mean strategic gains for both countries. This could be a boon for North Korea as it could strengthen its military posturing, while simultaneously providing an opportunity for Russia to expand its diplomatic presence in the region.

This could also lead to an increased collaboration between the two countries in a multitude of different fields such as energy security, military purchases, and nuclear technological advancement. Therefore, it is possible that Russia could intervene militarily but only if North Korea engages in the construction of a mutual framework for strategic collaboration.

Russian Military Capacity

As one of the most powerful countries in the world, Russia maintains a formidable military apparatus with a range of different assets. The Russian military consists of both conventional forces and nuclear weapons; the latter being a source of great worry to its neighbors. However, the sheer extent of the Russian military’s power has been limited by economic constraints since the collapse of the USSR.

Russia has the ability to launch a massive attack on North Korea, but it has refrained from doing so in the past. This is mostly due to the country’s lack of economic incentives and the potentially dangerous repercussions of a full-scale invasion. Attempting to control a hostile country such as North Korea could lead to a long-term policy failure that would possibly lead to great losses of both human and financial resources.

According to Professor Ivan Konovalov of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, the Russian military has made it clear that it does not plan on getting deeply involved in the North Korean crisis. This policy decision reflects the country’s reluctance to take risks and its focus on creating diplomatic solutions. The presence of such solutions has enabled the possibility of an intimate cooperation between Russia and the international community in tackling the North Korean nuclear portfolio.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that the possibility of a diplomatic solution could not have been reached without the role that Russia has had in deescalating tensions. As such, experts have argued that Russia can play a key role in guiding the international community towards a more peaceful resolution with North Korea.

International Response to Russian Intervention

As global public opinion stands strongly against a full-scale Russian intervention in North Korea, the international community has not held back in condemning such a possibility. Most notably, numerous countries, have been vocal in expressing the need for a peaceful resolution and for diplomacy to be the main political tool for deescalating the situation.

The United Nations Security Council, an international forum for peace and security, has also strongly condemned any suggestion of a military solution to the North Korean crisis and has instead encouraged countries to form diplomatic partnerships with each other. This strong stance against military action is evident in the fact that no permanent member of the Security Council has advocated military measures to settle the North Korean crisis.

Nonetheless, as the US maintains a unilateral stance on the North Korean crisis, the Russian President’s statement in 2018 may signal a gradual shift in international opinion about a potential intervention in North Korea. Despite his support for the South Korean initiative of peaceful economic development, President Putin has stayed silent on the issue of potential military action.

Efficacy of an Intervention

Speculation regarding a potential Russian intervention in North Korea has been rife for years. Over this time, numerous experts have questioned the efficacy of such a move given the military and economic constraints faced by Russia. This was reinforced in a statement recently made by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Ryabkov, who declared that Russia was not planning a military intervention in North Korea and was instead focusing all its energy on diplomatic and economic ties.

Moreover, many experts have warned of the danger of a full-scale invasion in the Korean peninsula. Due to its nuclear arsenal, North Korea could cause irreparable damage in the region if provoked by Russia. The possibility of a nuclear war is indeed a looming one, and thus it is crucial that Russia considers the implications of such an act before making any actionable decisions.

At the same time, many have argued that an invasion of North Korea would be a futile attempt. According to John Mearsheimer, a professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, it would be impossible for Russia to successfully intervene in North Korea. Mr Mearsheimer believes that the geography of the Korean peninsula, as well as its lack of resources, means that a successful invasion is impossible for any outside powers.

Overall, due to a multitude of factors, a Russian intervention of North Korea is highly unlikely. As such, it might be wise for the international community to focus on other options such as diplomatic dialogue to resolve the North Korean crisis.

Possibility of a US-Russia Collaboration

In the past few years, there have been several diplomatic conversations between the US and Russia over the North Korean crisis. In particular, Russia has proposed the possibility of jointly enforcing economic sanctions against North Korea. This has stemmed from the notion that a possible collaboration between the two countries would considerably reduce the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

In 2017, Russian officials visited the North Korean capital of Pyongyang to discuss ways of deescalating the crisis. Although no agreements were made, both countries were reported to have shown a willingness to “do more” to resolve the conflict. This has been seen as a sign of increasing cooperation between the two countries on the matter.

At the same time, the US has also been open to the idea of a joint strategy with Russia in tackling the North Korean nuclear portfolio. The US has proposed the possibility of a phased approach whereby economic sanctions are deployed with the hope of eventually leading to a denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Russia has since accepted the proposal, indicating its willingness to enter into joint economic discussions with regards to North Korea.

Overall, a US-Russia collaboration has been outlined as the most viable solution for deescalating the North Korean crisis. Although there have been several attempts in the past to address the issue, the possibility of an effective joint strategy could provide an opportunity for international cooperation and make significant progress in bringing peace to the region.

Influence of China

China is one of North Korea’s closest allies and so has a considerable amount of influence in terms of its actions. Over the past few years, China has actively sought to improve its relations with North Korea and provide support in terms of economic and military aid. In fact, analysts have argued that Chinese financial assistance has been a key factor in propping up the North Korean economy.

Moreover, China has also been vocal in expressing its opinion on the US-led sanctions against North Korea. China has maintained that such sanctions have only served to increase tensions in the region and have proved to be largely ineffective in achieving their desired outcome.

Since the onset of the North Korean crisis, China has adopted a policy of neutrality in terms of the country’s nuclear ambition. It is evident that China has sought to maintain its relations with North Korea in order to avoid a potential nuclear conflict in the Korean peninsula. As such, any potential Russian intervention in North Korea might be hindered by Chinese opposition.

At the end of the day, it is clear that whilst Russia has the capacity to intervene, it must be done so in conjunction with other concerned parties and with the approval of China. Given the current state of international affairs, it is more probable that Russia will focus on diplomatic solutions as opposed to military action. This indicates that any future decisions by Russia on the North Korean crisis are likely to take the form of economic and diplomatic ties as opposed to military intervention.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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