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Geopolitical Divide: Hurtling Towards More Wars

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In the introduction to the SIPRI Yearbook 2024, there is a stark warning of global security and stability in increasing peril.

‘We are now in one of the most dangerous periods in human history,’ said Dan Smith, SIPRI Director. ‘There are numerous sources of instability—political rivalries, economic inequalities, ecological disruption, an accelerating arms race. The abyss is beckoning and it is time for the great powers to step back and reflect. Preferably together.’

Days later this stark reality was evident with unfolding of events in two parts of the World Europe and North East Asia.

Ukraine Peace Summit

Burgenstock in central Switzerland was the venue for the 'Summit on Peace in Ukraine', hosted by Switzerland President Viola Amherd. 

Of the two antagonists, Ukraine was the only one present. Ukraine President Zelensky presented a peace plan which included demands for a cessation of hostilities, restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian soil and the restoration of Ukraine’s pre-war borders with Russia.

The plan also called for establishment of a special tribunal to prosecute Russian war crimes.

On the face of it the plan would have been instantly rejected by Russia which was however not represented.

In absentia but preempting the proposal Russian President Vladimir Putin restated Kremlin’s peace plan with more land to end Ukraine war.

The proposal called for Ukrainian troops withdraw from four southern and eastern regions of Ukrainian territory that Moscow said it would annex in violation of international law and demanded Kyiv abandon its bid to join NATO.  Again this was a strict No No for Ukraine.

The reality of the ‘Peace’ Summit was best stated by Head of the Indian Delegation, Secretary (West) Shri Pavan Kapoor, at the Burgenstock, India being one of the few countries from South and South East Asia to attend the summit.

Kapoor said, ‘We continue to believe that such a peace requires bringing together all stakeholders and a sincere and practical engagement between the two parties to the conflict. Accordingly, we will continue to engage with all stakeholders as well as the two parties to the conflict to contribute to all earnest efforts to achieve lasting peace in Ukraine. In our view, only those options acceptable to both the parties can lead to abiding peace”.

Russian Response

Consolidation of Western support to Ukraine at Burgenstock saw an almost immediate reaction from Russia declaring a strategic partnership with pariah state North Korea, sanctioned by the UN Security Council during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to North Korea on June 19.

With major powers allied with the United States led coalition of like minded countries supporting Ukraine, perhaps Mr Putin saw no alternative but to shake hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un whose country is on the UN sanctions list for decades.

The visit was preceded by a lead article by the Russian President in the local North Korean media in which he said, nations should Western ambitions “to hinder the establishment of a multipolar world order based on justice, mutual respect for sovereignty, considering each other’s interests.”

Clearly the indicator was a reaction to the Summit in Switzerland and the diametrically opposite peace plans proposed by Russia and Ukraine which implied that the war in Ukraine only got lengthened till both sides were convinced of futility of battle as the stratagem for their political objectives.

With the might of the Western arms industry behind Ukraine, Russia can rely on arms from just a few countries one of which is North Korea. That North Korea is sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council of which Russia is a member was not of concern to Mr Putin for whom winning the war or at least forcing a hurting stalemate on Ukraine deemed it essential to even befriend Kim Jong un spurned by most leaders in the World.

Russia and North Korea signed a comprehensive strategic partnership treaty calling for mutual assistance.

"The treaty on comprehensive partnership signed today provides for mutual assistance in the event of aggression against one of the parties to this treaty," Putin said after summit talks with Kim, according to Russia's TASS news agency.

Interestingly Russia and North Korea will also develop trade and payment systems “that are not controlled by the West” and jointly oppose sanctions against the countries, which he described as “illegal, unilateral restrictions.”

Pyongyang Times as quoted by KCNA Watch states, “Putin’s visit to the DPRK at a remarkable time, when the traditional relations of friendship and cooperation between the DPRK and Russia have surely entered the course of new comprehensive development, is of great importance in reliably promoting the strategic and future-oriented development of the bilateral relations consolidated in the trials of history generation after generation and from one century to the next and powerfully propelling the cause of building powerful countries, a desire common to the peoples of the two countries”.

Tension on the Korean Peninsula

This comes as tensions on the Korean Peninsulas are at their highest point in years, with the pace of both Kim’s weapons tests and combined military exercises involving the United States, South Korea and Japan intensifying in a tit-for-tat cycle.

The Korea’s are engaged in Cold War-style psychological warfare that involved North Korea dropping tons of trash on the South with balloons, and the South broadcasting anti-North Korean propaganda with its loudspeakers.

At least two instances of South Korean soldiers firing warning shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the land border have been recorded this month.

In case the agreement to provide military and technical assistance goes through which is at present an, ‘if’ North Korea will be looking for advanced telemetry, nuclear submarine and military satellite and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) technology.

Russia needs North Korean defence industry to support munitions shortfall for sustaining the War in Ukraine which has become ironically an artillery duel of sorts.

Risk and Advisory

Russian military and technical support to North Korea will pose an immediate threat not just to the Korean Peninsula but also the United  States  with Pyongyang developing nuclear submarine with advance ICBMs with countermeasure technology, highly improved reconnaissance and target acquisition threatening the US mainland.

Indeed, such a threat will not manifest in the short term thus there is adequate time for pulling back the disastrous course of escalation undertaken by the two blocs – United States and Russia/China [latter’s support having energized Mr Putin’s adventurism.

But for now, the two blocks seem to be hurtling out of control, difficult to rein in.



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