Debate: Ukraine War like Korea’s?

Mohammad Ali Salih
6 min readJul 6, 2022


Continuing for Years with DMZ?

By Mohammad Ali Salih — Washington

Stephen Walt

Max Hastings

Ivo Daalder

Last week, many American officials and media outlets confirmed what many had expected: the war between Russia and Ukraine would continue for years — and, in the end, Russian would prevail.

President Joe Biden was reported to have settled on long “personal war” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, not only to continue the type of personal — and insulting — diplomacy that he has been leading, but by predicting that Putin might not stay in power for a long time. Recent reports show that Biden is planning to run again for the presidency in two years’ time, although he will be 82-years-old, in addition to his already seemingly fragile health, made it look like a battle of survival between him and Putin.

Biden’s decision to send to Ukraine sophisticated arms, such as anti-ship missiles and long-range mobile artillery that will be capable of destroying the heavy Russian military weapons, or of striking deep into Russia, reflects his growing willingness to confront Putin for the long haul.

Glad to hear Biden’s determination, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as he vowed last week to retake all of Russian-controlled Ukraine, even areas annexed long before the February invasion.

“We’re here to dig in our spurs,” American Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said last week, after meeting with dozens of European counterparts.

But many American commentators have been saying that despite the surge in American military aid and strong morale among Ukrainian troops, the war would continue for a long time because of Russia’s far bigger, better armed military. They also said that unlike Russia’s failed attempt to seize the capital Kyiv, the Donbas region’s battle has played to Russia’s military strengths, allowing it to use traditional artillery strikes to pound Ukrainian positions and gradually expand its reach.

For how many years?

Many commentators believe the war is likely to settle into a lower intensity conflict, like that in the Korean Peninsula. After the 1953 armistice, without a formal end of the war, the North and the South established a demilitarized zone (DMZ). Although heavily-armed and with occasional flare-ups, it could be an example of the borders between Ukraine and its Donbas region that has been — and is being — taken by Russia.

Following are excerpts from statements and opinions by three American commentators, from their tweets, websites and media reports:

First, “Realism will win,” said Stephen Walt, Professor of International Relations at Harvard University, and author of many books, including “The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy.”

Second, “Just the beginning of a long war,” said Max Hastings, a commentator with New York-based Bloomberg News.

Third, “Land-locked Ukraine, no Black Sea access,” predicted Ivo Daalder, former U.S. ambassador to NATO who now heads the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

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Stephen Walt: “Realism will win”:

“Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

The school of thought doesn’t explain everything — but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted …

The political scientist Robert Gilpin once wrote that “no one loves a political realist.” His lament seems especially apt today, as the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine has spawned an uptick of realism-bashing…

Much of this ire has been directed at my colleague and occasional co-author John J. Mearsheimer, based in part on the bizarre claim that his views on the West’s role in helping to cause the Russia-Ukraine crisis somehow make him “pro-Putin” and in part on some serious misreading of his theory of offensive realism.

Another obvious target is former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whose recent comments urging peace talks with Moscow, a territorial compromise in Ukraine, and the need to avoid a permanent rupture with Russia were seen as a revealing demonstration of realism’s moral bankruptcy …

The irony here is hard to miss. Realists of various stripes repeatedly warned that Western policy toward Russia and Ukraine would lead to serious trouble, warnings that were blithely ignored by those who claimed that NATO’s open-door policy would lead to lasting peace in Europe…

Now that war has broken out, lives are being lost, and Ukraine is being destroyed, you would think proponents of open-ended NATO enlargement would have set aside their idealistic illusions and think about these issues in a hard-nosed, realist fashion …”

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Max Hastings: “Just the beginning of a long war”:

“Deliver us from evil. The line is among the most familiar, in one of the oldest Christian prayers. Most of us are wary about using the E-word, because grown-up people know that few issues, or indeed people, can rightfully be characterized as either wholly good or the other thing, but instead exist somewhere between.

Yet, it seems hard to consider Russian President Vladimir Putin as anything other than a force for evil. He is personally responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in Ukraine through an act of unprovoked aggression, designed to fulfill a vision of national and personal greatness that has no foundation in law or morality.

At least as appalling, through his strangulation of Ukrainian grain shipments he is inflicting hunger and threatening starvation upon a growing portion of the Southern Hemisphere.

People like me, who assert skepticism about the prospects of Ukrainian victory, are widely derided as at best “ultra-realists” …

In a famous, or rather notorious, address to a committee of the Prussian parliament in 1862, Otto von Bismarck said: “Not through speeches and majority decisions will the great questions of the day be decided” but by “Blut und Eisen” — blood and iron.

We like to believe that civilized 21st-century societies have advanced beyond such brutish doctrine. Yet Putin is attempting to demonstrate that he can exploit extreme violence to secure a vastly larger role on the world stage than Russia’s economic and political stature confers …”

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Ivo Daalder: “Land-locked Ukraine”:

“This battlefield impasse leaves the US with a stark choice: either continue to help Ukraine sustain a potentially bloody status quo, with the devastating global consequences that entails; or halt support and permit Russia to prevail. If the US will withdraw its support, that would mean feeding Ukraine to the wolves. And no one is prepared to do that …

Russia’s war on Ukraine has been a military disaster. It has failed to occupy Kyiv and Kharkiv, Ukraine’s two largest cities, and its progress in the Donbas has been slow, coming at extraordinary costs.

But these failures shouldn’t obscure the fact that Russian forces have also made important strategic gains — not least by cutting off Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea.

While failing in the north, Russia has swiftly occupied large swaths of southern Ukraine, securing much of the coastline along the Sea of Azov, establishing the long-sought land bridge between Russia and Crimea …

Russia’s ultimate aim is to extend Russian territorial control along the entire northern coast of the Black Sea, turning a reduced Ukraine into a land-locked country …

Ukraine is determined to prevent this from happening. But even if Russia ultimately fails to secure territorial control of the northern Black Sea, Ukraine won’t be able to break Russia’s block on shipping in and out of the country …”



Mohammad Ali Salih

Mohammad Ali Salih. Journalist. Since 1980, Washington. For Saudi newspapers. Since 2008, White House often vigil: “What Is Islam?” and “What Is Terrorism?”