As tensions between the US, its regional allies and North Korea continue ebb and flow, depending on what and where Kim lobs the next missile and whether Kelly can block Trump from tweeting for the next few hours, Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to personally weigh in on the conflict for the first time since the UN passed new sanctions against the North earlier this month. In an article published on the Kremlin’s web site, the Russian president warned that the two sides are “balancing on the verge of a large-scale conflict,” adding that any efforts to pressure the North to end its nuclear program would prove “futile,” and that the only tenable solution to the standoff would be a “dialogue with preconditions.”
“It is essential to resolve the region’s problems through direct dialogue involving all sides without advancing any preconditions (for such talks),” Putin wrote. “Provocations, pressure, and bellicose and offensive rhetoric is the road to nowhere.”
His remarks about a diplomatic solution alluded to a “road map” to peace formulated jointly between Russia and China…. without the U.S.
According to the joint Russian-Chinese deescalation plan, North Korea would stop work on its missile program in exchange for the US and South Korea halting large-scale war games, allowing tensions to gradually subside.
“Russia believes that the policy of putting pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear missile programme is misguided and futile,” he wrote in the article sent to media in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – the BRICS member states.
“The region’s problems should only be settled through a direct dialogue of all the parties concerned without any preconditions. Provocations, pressure and militarist and insulting rhetoric are a dead-end road.”
As recently as last week, tensions between the two sides appeared to be easing, with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson praising the country’s restraint after the North went nearly a month without a new missile test, despite restrictive new UN sanctions that took effect on Aug. 5. That quickly changed with the beginning of the US and South Korea’s annual 11-day joint military exercises, which appeared to provoke an especially vitriolic response from the North this year, prompting not one but two rocket launches over the next few days.
Two days ago, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reportedly warned Tillerson that it would be “dangerous” to push for more sanctions against North Korea.
“Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Tillerson that the U.S. should avoid taking military actions against Kim Jong Un’s regime and that the Russian government believes additional sanctions could prove “counterproductive and dangerous.”
Tillerson’s response to Lavrov is unclear, but the pair did condemn the North’s most recent test on Monday, when a missile sailed over U.S. ally Japan.”
Of course, the North’s missile launch earlier this week which flew over Japan airspace appeared to – at least temporarily – startle investors, triggering a short-lived selloff in global stocks. A day ago, US and South Korea insisted on a provocation of their own, conducting a bombing drill with nuclear-capable US bombers and the new F-35 stealth fighter.
Despite the bellicose rhetoric from both sides, an all-out war is much less likely than the public might believe. Echoing comments made by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, a professor warned yesterday that the US is in “no position” to start a war with the North because of the unprecedented devastation the North’s artillery could unleash on Seoul, the densely populated South Korean capital.
As Bannon said during an interview with the American Prospect, the US doesn’t have a tenable military option for toppling Kim Jong Un.
“Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
As the war of words stretches into its eighth month, observers will surely keep this in mind. Investors, on the other hand, are just looking for an opportunity to “buy the fucking nuclear war dip.”