“Step Up”: N.A.T.O. Urges South Korea To Send Ukraine Military Aid

South Korea has supported Ukraine to an extent, but others believe it can still do more. According to Reuters, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg of N.A.T.O. is urging South Korea to increase military support to Ukraine, arguing that other countries have done the same following Russia’s invasion.

At the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies in Seoul, Stoltenberg thanked South Korea for the non-lethal aid it has thus far provided to Ukraine, but said that there is a greater need for ammunition. “I urge the Republic of Korea to continue and to step up on the specific issue of military support,” he said.

“South Korea has the same interest [as Ukraine] in peace, stability, territorial sovereignty, protecting [against] states that are invading through outright aggression,” said Terence Roehrig, a professor of national security and Korea expert at the U.S. Naval War College. But a dilemma arises in that, according to the Economist, South Korean law and political sentiment are against the idea of exporting arms outside of “peaceful purpose[s].”

Stoltenberg recognized this, but even though the decision to send military aid is one that only the country can make, he nevertheless encouraged South Korea to contribute.

“[S]everal N.A.T.O. allies who have had as a policy to never export weapons to countries in a conflict have changed that policy now,” Stoltenberg said, citing Germany, Sweden, and Norway. “If we don’t want autocracy and tyranny to win, then they [Ukrainians] need weapons, that’s the reality.”

Ukraine is still fighting for its freedom, as Russia’s extraterritorial war shows no signs of ending anytime soon. Other nations must support and aid those in need in order to restore peace. But trying to pressure South Korea to send more arms directly to Ukraine is not the best approach, as this would put South Korea in a position where its relationships with Russia and other countries would deteriorate. Last October, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned South Korea not to send arms to Ukraine, as it would end their relations.

Even without directly sending arms to Ukraine, the country could allow private arms sales (selling the arms to countries who would then send them on to Ukraine). In this way, South Korea “could shore up its alliances with Western powers and help to demonstrate to authoritarian neighbours like China and North Korea that the kind of aggression launched by Russia in Ukraine will not succeed,” says U.S. state-owned news network Voice of America. However, this would also erode Seoul’s standings with Moscow, “which are already fraying over South Korea’s support of the sanctions the U.S. imposed on Russia after it invaded Ukraine.”

South Korea may not have contributed military resources to Ukraine’s fight, but this doesn’t mean that it has done nothing. South Korea has supported Ukraine, by sending humanitarian and financial aid. This brings us to think about other countries who do not approve of Russia’s actions but have been dissuaded from providing military aid to Ukraine by fears of future retaliation. Like South Korea, maybe these other nations could take a different approach and support Ukraine in other, non-military ways. With this support, hopefully peace and justice can be brought back to Ukraine.