NATO arms transfers to Ukraine risk nuclear nightmare / by Scott Ritter

A soldier walks past a line of M1 Abrams tanks at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs | Photo by Christian Murdock

Posted to Canadian Dimension on January 27, 2023

The West’s recent approval of more military assistance for Kyiv could lead to rapid and irreversible escalation.

Early on the morning of May 2, 1945, General Vasily Chuikov, the commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army, accepted the surrender of the German garrison of Berlin.

Two days prior, soldiers from the 150th Rifle Division, part of the Soviet 5th Shock Army, had raised the victory banner of the Red Army over the Reichstag. An hour after the banner went up, Adolf Hitler and his mistress, Eva Braun, committed suicide in his study inside the Furhrerbunker.

Chuikov, the hero of Stalingrad whose battered 62nd Army was renamed the 8th Guards Army in honor of their victory in holding that city in the face of a massive German onslaught, had led his troops into the heart of the Nazi capital, battling stubborn Nazi resistance in the Tiergarten district of Berlin, where the den of the Nazi beast was located. The Soviet general was rewarded for the courage and sacrifice of his soldiers by being in position to accept the German surrender.

In honour of this accomplishment, and the sacrifice it entailed, the Soviet Army inaugurated, in November 1945, a commemorative monument along the Tiergarten. Constructed from red marble and granite stripped away from the ruins of Adolf Hitler’s Neue Reichskanzlei (New Imperial Chancellery), the monument, consisting of a concave colonnade of six joined axes flanked by Red Army artillery and a pair of T-34 tanks, with a giant bronze statue of a victorious Red Army soldier standing watch from the center pylon.

From 1945 until 1993, when the Russian Army withdrew from Berlin, Soviet guards stood guard over the monument. Since that time, the monument has been maintained according to the terms of the German Reunification Treaty of 1990, which brought West and East Germany together in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Carved into the granite of the monument, in Cyrillic letters, is an inscription that reads “Eternal glory to the heroes who fell in battle with the German fascist occupiers for the freedom and independence of the Soviet Union.”

In a turn of events which must have Vasily Chuikov and the Soviet heroes to whom the Tiergarten war memorial was dedicated turning in their graves, the forces of fascism have once again reared their odious heads, this time manifested in a Ukrainian government motivated by the neo-Nazi ultra-nationalistic ideology of Stepan Bandera and his ilk.

Bandera and his murderous movement had been physically defeated by Soviet forces in the decade following the end of the Second World War. However, its ideology survived in a western Ukrainian diaspora formed from the survivors of that movement who found safe haven in West Germany (where Bandera himself settled until assassinated by the Soviet KGB in 1959); Canada (where Chrystia Freeland, the granddaughter of a former publisher of pro-Bandera propaganda, currently serves as deputy prime minister), and the United States (where the followers of Bandera have constructed a “heroes park” outside Ellenville, New York, including a bust of Bandera and other neo-Nazi Ukrainian ultra-nationalists).

The ideology also survived in the shadows of the western Ukrainian districts that had been absorbed by the Soviet Union following the dismemberment of Poland in 1939, and later, after the reoccupation of these territories by Soviet forces in 1945.

CIA-funded political underground

Here, beginning in 1956 (following the de-Stalinization policies instituted by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in the aftermath of his “secret speech” to members of the Communist Party), thousands of members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-Bandera (OUN-B), who had been arrested and convicted by Soviet authorities, were released from the Gulag and returned to their homes, ostensibly to be reintegrated into Soviet society. This reintegration never materialized, however.

Instead, Ukrainian fascists, funded by the CIA, operated as a political underground, running sabotage operations and fomenting anti-Soviet ideology amongst a population where the precepts of Ukrainian nationalist ideology ran strong.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, at the end of 1991, these Ukrainian nationalists emerged from the shadows and began organizing into political parties backed by gangs of violence-prone extremists who promulgated, through physical intimidation, a cult of personality built around Bandera.

Political parties such as Svoboda (“Freedom”) and Right Sector came into being. Although lacking support among the majority of the Ukrainian population, these groups were able to leverage their penchant for organization and violence into a dominant role in the riots that broke out in Maidan Square in Kyiv, in early 2014, that led to the ouster of democratically-elected Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych and his replacement by a government of figures hand-picked by the United States, including the future prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

An intercepted phone call between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, which took place in the days prior to the ouster of Yanukovych in February 2014, had Nuland positioning Yatsenyuk as the future leader of Ukraine and, in this context, was actively encouraging Yatsenyuk to coordinate with Oleh Tyahnybok, the head of Svoboda, who was being openly backed by armed radicals from the Right Sector.

The close coordination between the new post-Maidan government of Ukraine and the pro-Bandera Svoboda and Right Sector political parties manifested in these organizations having an oversized role in Ukrainian security affairs.

By way of example, Dmytro Yarosh, the former head of Right Sector, became an adviser to the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi. In that role, Yarosh oversaw the incorporation of numerous volunteer units of the Right Sector into the regular armed forces of Ukraine.

One of the units created because of this reorganization is the 67th Separate Mechanized Brigade, which since November 2022 has been undergoing training in the United Kingdom.

The fact that NATO members, such as the United Kingdom, are actively involved in the training of Ukrainian forces is well-established. In July 2022 the British Defense Ministry announced that it would begin training approximately 10,000 Ukrainian troops every four months.

That they are playing an active role in providing combat training to ardent neo-Nazi military formations is something Western media outlets appear to eschew.

Protesters with the OUN-B’s red and black flag among Maidan Square protesters in Kyiv, December 2013 | Photo: Nessa Gnatoush/Wikimedia
Ukraine defense contact group

The issue, however, is far more complex⁠—and controversial⁠—than simply providing basic military training to a few thousand adherents of Bandera’s hate-filled ideology.

The 67th Separate Mechanized Brigade is likely to be one of three Ukrainian brigade-sized formations that will be trained and equipped using billions of dollars of military assistance recently approved during the eighth session of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

The contact group was first convened at the sprawling US Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany, in April 2022, and has served as the primary mechanism of coordination between the armed forces of Ukraine and NATO regarding the provision of training and material support to the Ukrainian military.

The most recent convocation of the Ramstein Contact Group took place in the shadow of an interview given by the commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, to The Economist, in December 2022. According to Zaluzhnyi, the primary problem facing Ukraine was the need “to hold this line [i.e., the Soledar-Bakhmut defensive belt] and not lose any more ground.”

Since that interview, Soledar has fallen to the Russians, and Bakhmut is threatened with being surrounded. Moreover, Russian forces are on the offensive north and south of the Bakhmut front, in some instances advancing up to seven kilometers per day.

Zaluzhnyi also stated that the second priority for Ukraine was:

to get ready for this war which can happen in February [2023]. To be able to wage a war with fresh forces and reserves. Our troops are all tied up in battles now, they are bleeding. They are bleeding and are being held together solely by courage, heroism, and the ability of their commanders to keep the situation under control.


The Ukrainian commander noted that the February “war” would have Ukraine resuming the attack:

We have made all the calculations—how many tanks, artillery we need and so on and so on. This is what everyone needs to concentrate on right now. May the soldiers in the trenches forgive me, it’s more important to focus on the accumulation of resources right now for the more protracted and heavier battles that may begin next year.


The goal of this offensive, Zaluzhnyi said, was to push Russia back to the borders that existed on February 23, 2022, the start of the Russian invasion. He also indicated that the liberation of Crimea was an objective.

“In order to reach the borders of Crimea, as of today we need to cover a distance of 84 kilometres to Melitopol [a strategic city in the south of the Donetsk Republic]. By the way, this is enough for us, because Melitopol would give us a full fire control of the land corridor, because from Melitopol we can already fire at the Crimean Isthmus.”

Zaluzhnyi exuded confidence. “I know that I can beat this enemy,” he said. “But I need resources. I need 300 tanks, 600-700 IFV’s [infantry fighting vehicles], 500 Howitzers. Then, I think it is completely realistic to get to the lines of February 23.”

Zaluzhnyi spoke of an upcoming meeting with US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “I will tell him [Milley] how much it is worth, how much it costs. If we don’t get it, of course we will fight to the end. But as a movie character said, ‘I don’t vouch for the consequences.’ The consequences are not hard to foresee. This is what we have to do.”

In short, Zaluzhnyi was saying he could win the war with Russia if he received the requested amount of military equipment. Otherwise, Ukraine would likely lose the conflict.

The eighth session

The eighth session of the Ramstein Contact Group convened on January 20 and the Ukrainians pressed hard for their Western allies to provide the material support Zaluzhnyi had requested.

Defense ministers from more than 50 countries participated, including Ukraine’s Oleksii Reznikov who, speaking at the Davos World Economic Forum a few days before the Ramstein meeting, declared that “We [Ukraine] are carrying out NATO’s mission today. They aren’t shedding their blood. We’re shedding ours. That’s why they’re required to supply us with weapons.”

The Contact Group took the Ukrainian demand for material support under consideration, and by the end of the meeting had committed to providing Ukraine with a multi-billion dollar support package, including air defense weapons, artillery ammunition, support vehicle, and (perhaps most importantly) approximately 240 of the 500 infantry fighting vehicles it had requested, broken down roughly into one battalion (59 vehicles) of US-made M-2 Bradleys, two battalions (90 vehicles) of M-1126s, one battalion (40 vehicles) of German Marders and one battalion (approximately 50 vehicles) of Swedish-made CV90s.

The Ramstein Contact Group also promised delivery of four self-propelled artillery battalions, consisting of 19 Swedish-made Archer’s, 18 British-made AS-90’s, 18 US-made M-109 Paladin’s, and a dozen French-made CEASAR’s. When added to the 24 towed FH-70 pieces, the total of artillery pieces being sent to Ukraine amounts to just under 100 artillery pieces, a far cry from the 500 requested by Zaluzhnyi.

Missing from the Ramstein Contact Group list was anything remotely resembling the 300 tanks Zaluzhnyi had requested; the best Ukraine’s European allies could muster [until Tuesday] was a promise from the United Kingdom to supply a company’s worth (14) of Challenger 2 main battle tanks.

Zaluzhnyi, in his interview with The Economist, had indicated that he could not accomplish his planned offensive with anything less than the three armored and three mechanized brigade-equivalents he had requested.

The collective West had responded with barely two brigade’s worth of equipment.

These two, when added to a third mechanized brigade that had previously been formed and was undergoing training in Poland, gave the Ukrainian general half of what he claimed he needed to launch a successful offensive against Russia.

For US General Milley, the equipment shortfall wasn’t the issue⁠—training was. Prior to arriving at Ramstein, Milley toured the sprawling Grafenwoehr training grounds in Germany. There the US Army is in the process of training some 600 Ukrainian soldiers to effectively move and coordinate their company-and battalion-size units in battle, using combined artillery, armor and ground forces.

Speaking to reporters, General Milley said such training was critical in helping Ukraine recapture territory lost to Russia last year. The goal of this training, Milley said, is for incoming weapons and equipment to be delivered to Ukraine so the newly trained forces will be able to use it “sometime before the spring rains show up. That would be ideal.”

Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov, right, with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during a Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, September 8, 2022. Photo by Chad J. McNeeley/US Department of Defense/Flickr.
What the West is giving

Operational training, no matter how competently delivered and absorbed, does not paint an accurate picture of the true combat capability being turned over to Ukraine by the West. The reality is most of this equipment won’t last a month under combat conditions; even if the Russians don’t destroy them, maintenance issues will.

Take, for instance, the 59 M-2 Bradley vehicles being supplied by the United States. According to anecdotal information obtained from Reddit, the Bradley is, to quote, “a maintenance NIGHTMARE.”

“I can’t even begin to commiserate how f***ing awful maintenance on a Bradley is,” the author, a self-described US Army veteran who served in a Bradley unit in Iraq, declared.

Two experienced crews MIGHT be able to change one Brad’s track in 3 or 4 hours, if nothing goes wrong (something always goes wrong). Then you got the track adjuster arms, the shock arms, the roadwheels, the sprocket itself, that all need maintained and replaced as needed. I haven’t even started talking about the engine/transmission pack yet. When you do services on that, it’s not like you just raise the engine deck lid. You got to take the armor OFF the Bradley so an M88 Wrecker vehicle can use its crane to LIFT the engine/tranny out of the hull.


The Stryker isn’t any better. According to a recent article in Responsible Statecraft, US soldiers who used the vehicle in both Iraq and Afghanistan called the Stryker “a very good combat vehicle, so long as it traveled on roads, it wasn’t raining⁠—and didn’t have to fight.”

The Stryker is also a difficult system to maintain properly. One of the critical features of the Stryker is the “height management system,” or HMS. In short, it is what keeps the hull from riding on the tires. A failure to constantly maintain and monitor the HMS system will result in the hull rubbing up against the tires, causing tire failure and a non-operable vehicle.

The HMS is complex, and a failure to maintain or operate one component will result in the failure of the entire system. The likelihood of the future Ukrainian operators of the Stryker properly maintaining the HMS under combat conditions is near-zero—they will lack the training as well as the “logistical support” necessary (such as spare parts).

The German Marder IFV appears to represent a similar maintenance headache for the Ukrainians: according to a 2021 article in The National Interest, “The vehicle was considered unreliable from the outset: Tracks rapidly wore out, transmissions often failed, and soldiers could not easily remove the vehicle’s engine for field maintenance.”

While Germany is preparing to invest a significant amount of money to upgrade the Marder, this hasn’t yet been done. Ukraine is inheriting an old weapons system that brings with it a considerable maintenance problem Ukraine is not prepared to properly handle.

The Swedish CV 90 saw some limited combat in Afghanistan when deployed with the Norwegian Army. While there is not enough publicly available data about the maintainability of this system, one only needs to note that even if the SV 90 proves easy to maintain, it represents a completely different maintenance problem from that of the Bradly, Stryker, or Marder.

In short, to properly operate the five battalion-equivalents of infantry fighting vehicles being supplied their NATO partners, Ukraine will need to train its maintenance troops on four completely different systems, each with its own unique set of problems and separate logistical/spare part support requirements.

It is, literally, a logistical nightmare that will ultimately prove to be the Achilles heel of the Ramstein tranche of heavy equipment.

But even here, neither NATO nor Ukraine seems able to see the forest for the trees. Rather than acknowledging that the material being provided is inadequate to the task of empowering Ukraine to carry out large-scale offensive operations against Russia, the two sides began haranguing each other over the issue of tanks, namely the failure of Germany to step up to the plate in Ramstein and clear the way for the provision to Ukraine of hundreds of modern Leopard 2 main battle tanks.

German history and optics

The Ramstein meeting was hampered by concern within the German Parliament over the optics associated with Germany providing tanks which would be used to fight Russians in Ukraine.

This angst was perhaps best captured by Petr Bystron of the right-wing Alternative for Germany party. “German tanks [fighting] against Russia in Ukraine,” Bystron challenged his colleagues, “remember, your grandfathers tried to do the same trick, together with [Ukrainian nationalists] Melnik, Bandera and their supporters.

“The result was immense suffering, millions of casualties on both sides and, eventually, Russian tanks came here, to Berlin. Two of those tanks remain on permanent display nearby, and you must keep this in mind when you pass them by every morning,” Bystron said, referring to the two Soviet T-34 tanks at the Tiergarten memorial to fallen Soviet soldiers.

The issue of Leopard tanks, however, was more political than technical, with Poland threatening to ignore Germany’s refusal to allow the tanks to be sent to Ukraine, announcing that it was prepared to dispatch 14 of its own Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine in the near future. When combined with the 14 Challenger 2 tanks being promised by the British, Ukraine was getting 28 of the 300 tanks it said it needed for any future offensive (now roughly 58 with the US Abrams).

The numerical disparities and maintenance difficulties aside, NATO politicians seem quite pleased with what was accomplished at Ramstein. According to British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, in an address to Parliament:

The international community recognizes that equipping Ukraine to push Russia out of its territory is as important as equipping them to defend what they already have. Today’s package is an important increase in Ukraine’s capabilities. It means they can go from resisting to expelling Russian forces from Ukrainian soil.


Wallace seems to ignore that by empowering Ukraine to expel Russian troops from what are⁠—following the annexation of the four former Ukrainian territories (Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson) last September⁠—permanently part of the Russian Federation, NATO would be potentially creating the conditions under which Russia would be able to doctrinally employ nuclear weapons. Those conditions would be to defend against the accumulation of conventional military power capable of threatening the existential survival of Russia.

Russia, however, has not ignored this. Speaking after the Ramstein Contact Group finished its meeting, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, “Potentially, this is extremely dangerous, it will mean bringing the conflict to a whole new level, which, of course, will not bode well from the point of view of global and pan-European security.”

Senior Russian officials chimed in on social media. Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the United States, declared on his Telegram channel that:

It should be clear for everyone⁠—we will destroy any weapons supplied to the Zelensky’s regime by either the United States or NATO. That is true now as it was true during the Great Patriotic War. The emergence of tanks, bearing Nazi insignia, on the former Soviet soil unequivocally makes us aim at toppling the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine and creating normal conditions so that the neighboring peoples in the region could live peacefully like in the old days.


Dmitri Medvedev, a former Russian president and close adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, added on Twitter that those who promote a Russian defeat risk unleashing global ruin. “None of them gets it that a nuclear power’s loss of a conventional war can lead to a nuclear one. Nuclear powers haven’t been defeated in major conflicts crucial for their destiny.”

The consequences for Ukraine

The reality is, however, that the consequences of the Ramstein Contact Group’s work will be far more detrimental to Ukraine than Russia.

Under pressure from the West to carry out a major offensive designed to expel Russian forces from the territories captured last year, General Zaluzhnyi will be compelled to sacrifice whatever reserves he would be able to assemble in the aftermath of Ramstein for the purpose of engaging in fruitless attacks against a Russian opponent that is far different from the one Ukraine faced in September and October of last year.

Then, a reconstituted Ukrainian army, bolstered by tens of billions of dollars of NATO equipment, training and operational support, was able to take advantage of over-extended Russian forces to recapture large swaths of territory in Kharkov and Kherson.

Today, Russia’s military presence in Ukraine is a far cry from what it was in the autumn of 2022. In the aftermath of Putin’s September 2022 decision to mobilize 300,000 reservists, Russia has not only consolidated the frontline in eastern Ukraine, assuming a more defensible posture, but also reinforced its forces with some 80,000 mobilized troops, allowing for Russia to sustain offensive operations in the Donetsk regions while solidifying its defenses in Kherson and Luhansk.

From February 24 through the autumn of 2022, Russia deviated significantly from how it doctrinally prosecutes armed conflict. Moving forward, Russia will be waging war by the book. Defensive positions will be laid in a manner designed to defeat concerted NATO attack, both in terms of troop density along the frontline, but also in depth (something lacking in the Kharkov offensive in September 2022) and with sufficient dedicated fire support (again, lacking in September 2022).

By General Zaluzhnyi’s own admission, Ukraine has insufficient forces for the task. Even if Ukraine were able to concentrate all three brigades’ worth of men and material that are in the pipeline following the Ramstein Contact Group meeting at one place at the same time, the 20,000 or so troops this represents would be unable to breach a Russian defensive position laid out in doctrinal fashion.

Ukraine and NATO should heed the history lesson that Petr Bystron presented to his fellow German parliamentarians—German tanks do not historically fare well against Russian tanks on Ukrainian soil.

And Ben Wallace and Mark Milley should pay attention to the order of battle of the Russian forces opposing the Ukrainian Army, especially around the critical battlefields in and around the strategic city of Bakhmut. There, Russian soldiers belonging to the 8th Guards Army are poised to continue in the tradition of Vasily Chuikov’s heroes of Stalingrad and Berlin, destroying the forces of fascism on the field of battle.

While the modern-day soldiers of the 8th Guards Army may not be mounting a new generation of tanks on display in the Berlin Tiergarten, rest assured they know fully well their historical legacy and what is expected of them.

This, more than anything else, is the true expression of the Ramstein effect, a cause-effect relationship that the West does not seem either able or willing to discern before it is too late for the tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers whose lives are about to be sacrificed on an altar of national hubris and ignorance.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Canadian Dimension.


Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.

This article originally appeared on ConsortiumNews.com.

Ukraine War: Those who fail to call for negotiations, fail to understand the dangerous predicament that faces the planet! / by the U.S. Peace Council

The United States Peace Council

At no time since the Cuban missile crisis has our world has been so close to disaster. As the war in Ukraine approaches its first anniversary, it is being increasingly transformed by the Biden administration and the “collective west” into a war between NATO and Russia. The danger of turning into a nuclear confrontation is imminent.

The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis was a wake-up call in the midst of Cold War, warning just how close a nuclear World War III could be. Unlike today, both sides sought accommodation. They understood that a retreat from war was in their mutual interest. The Anti-Ballistic Missile and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaties, now scrapped, were negotiated.

Back then, an international peace movement with a robust US contingent amplified the demand for a peaceful world. Such voices are much diminished now. Unlike in the past, not a single Democrat in Congress spoke out for peace, leaving the ideological terrain for war virtually uncontested. Particularly unfortunate are the voices, including some in the U.S. “left,” who continue to beat the drums of war by calling for the continuation of war until the victory of Ukraine. That would only mean the victory of NATO in an all-out war with Russia.

Negotiated peace agreements are not based so much on trust as on the mutual understanding that the alternative is in neither side’s interest. Arguing as some on the “left” do that “Putin’s Russia cannot be trusted,” disregards the fact that no negotiation between warring parties has ever been based on trust.

The undeniable reality facing us should make us all aware of the urgency for negotiations and a diplomatic solution to this war.

The war in and around Ukraine must end. There should be no dispute about that. All wars end either with negotiations or with the victory of one side or the other. Given that this war is not merely between Russia and Ukraine but is between Russia and a Western-backed Ukraine, the first option — for victory — is impossible. Neither Russia (a major nuclear power) nor the Western powers (many of them being major nuclear powers) will tolerate anything near a defeat.

If a military victory is not possible, then the only way forward is for negotiations. War is not an answer. Escalating this war should not be promoted by those who believe in international cooperation and genuine peace. Those who fail to call for negotiations in the midst of this contentious period — with the war ongoing and its impact intensifying a cost-of-living crisis around the world — fail to understand the dangerous predicament that faces the planet. 


Contact: U.S. Peace Council, P.O. Box 3105, New Haven, CT 06515, Call:(203) 387-0370, Email: USPC@USPeaceCouncil.org

U.S. Deaths Highlight Need for Far-Reaching Change / By W. T. Whitney Jr.

Demonstrators carry a coffin over Brooklyn Bridge during a march against gun violence, 06.02.18, in NY. | Mary Altaffer – AP

Under U.S. capitalism, industrial production and consumerism expand. Greenhouse gases increase, the climate changes, and people die. U.S. imperialism leads to wars and potentially nuclear war.

U.S. life expectancy has fallen. According to government statistics released in December, 2022, life expectancy at birth (LEB) for 2021 was 76.4 years. LEB was 77.0 years in 2020 and 78.8 years in 2019. Public health officials claimed this “was the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-1923.”

Mothers fare badly. In 2020,19.1 mothers in general and 55.3 Black mothers died per 100,000 live births. They died from illnesses related to childbearing, most of them preventable. In the Netherlands that year, the maternal mortality rate was 1.2 mothers per 100,000 live births. In 2018, 55 nations showed a rate more favorable than that of the United States. 

Americans, mostly working-age adults, die from “diseases of despair” – substance abuse, accidental drug overdose, alcoholism, and suicide. They also died of Covid 19 infection, the U.S. rate of 332.81 Covid deaths per 100,000 population being the 16th highest in the world.

During most of the pandemic, Black people died at two or more times the rate of infected white people. Now the cumulative death rates of each group are similar, with 355 deaths of whites and 369 deaths of Blacks per 100,000 population. Cumulative Covid deaths for American indigenous peoples register at 478 deaths per 100,000 population. Vaccine skepticism may account for increased vulnerability of whites. 

The pandemic aside, Blacks and American Indians live far shorter lives than white people do. As of October 2022, LEB for Hispanics was 77.7 years; white people, 76.6 years; Blacks, 70.8 years; and American Indians, 65.2 years. In 2020, 65 nations showed longer LEB than did the United States.

Healthcare failings may have contributed to the high U.S death rates. Proposals for reform, especially for universal healthcare, center on its financing. The United States is the top healthcare spender among all nations.

Paying  $12,914 per capita for healthcare in 2021, the United States outspent second-place spender Germany whose outlay was $7383 per capita. Total spending on health that year amounted to $4.3 trillion –18.3% of the U.S. GDP. The United States accounted for 42% of healthcare spending in the world in 2018.

Healthcare in the United States is a profit center. The pricing of drugs, medical equipment, medical insurance, and services provided by hospitals and outpatient facilities in general is exorbitant.  Executives of medical supply and pharmaceutical companies, specialty physicians, and administrators of hospitals and healthcare networks receive enormous salaries.

Profitmaking hospital chains, health insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies generate enough revenue to allow for stock buybacks and dividend payments. Over nine recent years 14 pharmaceutical companies spent $747 billion on stock buybacks. Payments to private insurance companies and private hospital networks are large enough to cover astronomically high administrative costs and profit-taking.

Some healthcare and health-promotion activities produce no revenue, or very little. They tend to receive relatively little support and skimpy funding.

  • The U.S. public health sector, charged with health education and illness prevention, is a low-priority item. Inadequate preparation and preventative measures largely accounted for the U.S. Covid-19 debacle. 
  • Insurance companies dedicate effort to denying coverage for particular diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.
  • Multi-hospital, multi-service conglomerates are cutting back on health services in rural and economical depressed areas because of decreased “productivity.” 
  • Many hospitals have recently dropped children’s hospital services as being less remunerative than care for hospitalized adults.
  • Small rural hospitals unable to pay bills have been closing down in droves throughout the nation, depriving area residents of care.
  • Specialty practitioners and hospitals often prioritize expensive medical procedures and high-technology diagnostic modes over care centering on provider – patient interaction and communication.
  • Many physicians during training opt for a specialty rather than a primary-care career, often because of income considerations. Primary care physicians now comprise only 20% of all U.S. physicians.
  • Diminished emphasis on a “medical home,” that hallmark of primary care, opens the door to inefficient, low-quality care.

Other capitalist countries have achieved long life expectancies.  The average life expectancy for 2021 in eight European countries plus Australia and Japan was 82.4 years. Their average per- capita health spending was $6,003. Japan spent $4,666 per capita on healthcare; LEB was 84.5 years.

Those countries protect healthcare as a public good, mainly because labor unions and social democratic or labor political parties apply pressure. Universal access to care is the norm. 

Universal care in the United States is but a dream. U.S. unions are weak and there is no working people’s political party. Some 25 million working age adults had no health insurance in 2021; insurance for 23% of them was inadequate. Too many have no care or fragmented care.

Reform efforts will continue in the United States, propelled perhaps by worsening life expectancy. But healthcare has its limitations. Steven Woolf, retired director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Society and Health, told an interviewer recently that better healthcare is “only a partial answer” to extending life expectancy, accounting “for about 10 to 20 percent of health outcomes.”

He explained: “Our health is really shaped by our living conditions, jobs, the wages we earn, our wealth accumulation, the education that enables us to get those jobs … The country that we live in is the richest in the world, but we have the highest level of income inequality. So, much of the resources that we need for a healthy population are not available to most of the population.”

Woolf is saying, in effect, that people die early because of inequalities, oppression, and organized greed. The United States appears as different from other rich capitalist counties. Social guarantees are fragile. The wealthy have few restraints on satisfying their wants. A besieged working class lacks voice and agency.

The prospect that reforms, alone, will restore justice and decent lives for working people is nil. They confront a voracious, extreme kind of capitalism.  Its rulers tolerate, promote, and seek out collaborators for actions and policies leading to die-offs. Think climate catastrophe, wars, and nuclear war.

In response to impending disaster, Americans desiring better and more secure lives for everyone would adjust their forward vision. Working for reforms, they would aim at something new, which is top-to-bottom social and political change. New motivation, determination and hope would be a shot in the arm.

Revolutionary change is a worldwide project, and not to be left to one people – except in special circumstances. One such was pre-1917 Czarist Russia and another would be that anomaly among capitalist nations which is the death-dealing U.S. nation.


W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

Biden’s reckless new provocation ratchets up risk of nuclear war with China / by Jeremy Kuzmarov

Originally published: CovertAction Magazine on July 7, 2022

On June 25, the U.S. Navy sent a warship, the USS Benfold, to the South China Sea, only one day after a U.S. spy plane provocatively flew over the Taiwan Strait under the close monitoring of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

According to CNN, the U.S. flyover came after China sent 29 planes into Taiwan’s self-declared air defense identification zone (ADIZ).

From China’s point of view, the U.S. spy plane mission on June 24 was especially provocative because it was the first U.S. military activity in the region after China made it clear that there are no “international waters” in the Taiwan Strait.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, China claims jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait.

| Source wikipediaorg | MR Online

[Source: wikipedia.org]

The PLA Eastern Theater Command organized aerial and ground forces and tracked the spy plane’s movements on high alert throughout its entire course on June 24 according to Senior Colonel Shi Yi, spokesperson of the PLA Eastern Theater Command.

Shi slammed the Biden administration’s move as being “intentional,” whose purpose was “to disrupt the regional situation and endanger the cross-Straits peace and stability. We firmly oppose this,” she said.

Turning Taiwan into a Porcupine

Ever since the Obama administration launched a “pivot to Asia,” the U.S. has expanded its military forces and provocative military maneuvers in an effort to encircle and intimidate China. The Biden administration, following Trump, has extended this policy, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan stockpiling the National Security Council (NSC) with China hawks.1

U.S. strategic planners consider Taiwan—which broke away from China in 1949 after the defeated Guomindang in China’s civil war took refuge there with U.S. backing—essential in blockading China and a key source for the manufacture of advanced computing chips essential to the U.S. military and industry.2

| Jake Sullivan Source theguardiancom | MR Online

Jake Sullivan [Source: theguardian.com]

When Biden made a commitment to backing Taiwan militarily, he effectively overturned the “One China Policy”— established when the U.S. resumed diplomatic relations with China in 1979—recognizing Beijing to be the legitimate government of all China, including Taiwan.3

Since 2019, the U.S. has sold more than $14 billion in weaponry to Taiwan and sent military advisers to train its Special Forces. A U.S. government official described the U.S. strategy as being designed to turn Taiwan into a “porcupine”— a territory bristling with armaments and other forms of U.S.-led support that makes it “appear too painful to attack.”

Rejecting China’s Claim of Sovereignty over the Taiwan Strait

| Source wsjcom | MR Online

[Source: wsj.com]

In line with this latter strategy, the Biden administration rejects China’s claims to sovereignty over the Taiwan Strait. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said that the spy plane’s transit demonstrates the United States’s “commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told Bloomberg News that “the Taiwan Strait is an international waterway” where freedom of navigation and overflight “are guaranteed under international law. The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and that includes transiting through the Taiwan Strait.”

According to Price, China’s assertion that “there are no international waters” in the Taiwan Strait is not legitimate but is intended to “deter the U.S. from sailing through the Strait,” something that Beijing says “harms stability and send[s] the wrong signal to ‘Taiwan independence forces.’”

| US Navys P8A Poseidon aircraft made by Boeingthe spy plane that provocatively flew over the Taiwan Strait in late June Source wionewscom | MR Online

U.S. Navy’s P-8A Poseidon aircraft made by Boeing—the spy plane that provocatively flew over the Taiwan Strait in late June. [Source: wionews.com]

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which China has ratified but the U.S. has not, nations are entitled to territorial waters stretching 12 nautical miles (22km) from their coast.

They may also claim an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) stretching another 200 nautical miles—beyond that are the high seas.

At its widest, the Taiwan Strait spans about 220 nautical miles; however, at its narrowest, it is 70 nautical miles—meaning recent U.S. actions are illegal.

If one accepts that Taiwan is part of China, as the U.S. nominally still does under the One China policy, then the entirety of the strait generally falls under Chinese jurisdiction—as China alleges.

A Habitual Aggressor

| Ned Price Source tnusembassygov | MR Online

Ned Price [Source: tn.usembassy.gov]

According to the Global Times, the USS Benfold—a guided missile destroyer built by Ingalls Shipbuilding—is a habitual aggressor in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.

In January 2022, the destroyer illegally entered the Chinese territorial waters off the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea without authorization from the Chinese government, leading the PLA Southern Theater Command to organize naval and air forces to warn it away.

U.S. Navy spokesmen referred to the USS Benfold’s operations as “freedom of navigation operations.”

| The US is a nonsignatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea It does whatever it wants as such Source hirharvardedu | MR Online

The U.S. is a non-signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. It does whatever it wants as such. [Source: hir.harvard.edu]

They accused China of violating international law by establishing baselines around dispersed islands like the Paracels in the South China Sea, which allows China to “claim more internal waters, territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, and continental shelf than it is entitled to under international law.”

China, however, accuses the U.S. of “infring[ing] on China’s sovereignty and security,” while “pursuing maritime hegemony and militarizing the South China Sea. Facts fully prove that the U.S. is a ‘risk-maker’ in the South China Sea and the ‘biggest destroyer’ of peace and stability in the South China Sea.

The South China Sea Is Not the Gulf of Mexico

| USS Benfold Source theguardiancom | MR Online

USS Benfold [Source: theguardian.com]

We should remember that the name of the Sea where the U.S. is sending its naval vessels and spy planes is the South China Sea—and not the Gulf of Mexico.

If China were sending its warships on provocative missions off the coast of Mexico or Canada, U.S. leaders would respond with hysterics and probably immediately begin bombing.

Rising Specter of Nuclear War

Mark Selden, the editor of The Asia-Pacific Journal and academic expert on China, raised concern in an interview about “the rising specter of nuclear war,” particularly “in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine” and “at a time when [the] U.S. calculus has shifted from welcoming growing Chinese economic and geopolitical strength, notably in the Nixon era, to across-the-board pressures on China.”

| Source nytimescom | MR Online

[Source: nytimes.com]

According to Selden, the shifting U.S. calculus “includes mounting U.S. military support for Taiwan and stepping back from its position of calculated ambiguity on the future of the island in favor of direct and indirect challenges of China’s claims. The result is the largest increase in U.S. military spending since World War II in the form of $70 billion in aid…at a time when U.S.-China conflict again centers on Taiwan.”

Tally of Provocative Military Maneuvers

The Committee for a SANE U.S.-China Policy, an activist group that aims to prevent war, has compiled a tally of provocative military maneuvers and close encounters between the U.S. and China since January 2021 in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.

| Source apjjforg | MR Online

[Source: apjjf.org]

According to their findings, the U.S. in that time initiated 45 incidents, and the Chinese 53.

Joseph Gerson and Michael T. Klare, the founders of the committee, write that “almost every day, China and/or the United States deploy their ships and warplanes in a menacing (“muscle-flexing”) fashion to demonstrate resolve and to throw the other side off balance….While officials on both sides claim that their forces are merely conducting military drills that pose no threat to their rival, these mock combat operations in the vicinity of opposing forces send an unmistakable signal of hostile intent. It is not unusual, moreover, for ships and planes of one side to monitor the operations of the other, and even, on occasion, to interfere with them. When this occurs, there is always the risk of a collision or unintended shooting incident, leading to further military action and full-scale conflict.”

In short, the specter of war between the U.S. and China has never been greater. It is up to us, consequently, to try to avert conflict and restore legality and sanity to U.S. foreign policy through concerted political activism.

Notes:
  1. One of the hawks was Kurt Campbell, an architect of Obama’s pivot who declared that “the period that was broadly described as engagement [with China] has come to an end.”
  2. Peter Symonds, “U.S.-China tensions flare over Taiwan Strait,” World Socialist Website, June 24, 2022, www.wsws.org. The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company produces more than 90% of the world’s most advanced computing chips.
  3. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have introduced the bipartisan Taiwan Policy Act into Congress that, according to Peter Symonds, “w ould drop any pretense of ‘strategic ambiguity’ and commit the U.S. to a war with China over Taiwan. As well as providing almost $4.5 billion in military assistance to Taiwan, the bill would designate Taiwan as a Major Non-NATO ally.”

Jeremy Kuzmarov (https://jeremykuzmarov.com) is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine and author of The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018).

MR Online, July 9, 2022, https://mronline.org/

The U.S. proxy war in Ukraine / by John Bellamy Foster

Olga Chernysheva (Russia) Kind People, 2004.

The following is the text of a presentation by John Bellamy Foster given on March 31, 2022 to the advisory board of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. —Eds

Thanks for inviting me to make this presentation. In talking about the Ukraine war, the essential thing to recognize at the outset is that this is a proxy war. In this regard, none other than Leon Panetta, who was CIA director and then secretary of defense under the Barack Obama administration, acknowledged recently that the war in Ukraine is a U.S. “proxy war,” though seldom admitted. To be explicit, the United States (backed by the whole of NATO) is in a long proxy war with Russia, with Ukraine as the battlefield. The U.S. role in this conception, as Panetta insisted, is to provide more and more weapons faster and faster with Ukraine doing the fighting, bolstered by foreign mercenaries.

So how did this proxy war come about? In order to understand that we have to look at the U.S. imperial grand strategy. Here we have to go back to 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved or even further to the 1980s. There are two prongs to this imperial grand strategy, one as geopolitical expansion and positioning, including the enlargement of NATO, the other as the U.S. drive for nuclear primacy. A third prong involves the economy but won’t be considered here.

The First Prong: Geopolitical Expansion

The first prong was enunciated in Paul Wolfowitz’s Defense Policy Guideline for the United States in February 1992, just months after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The grand imperial strategy adopted at the time and followed ever since had to do with the United States advancing geopolitically into the terrain of the former Soviet Union as well as what had been the Soviet sphere of influence. The idea was to prevent Russia from reemerging as a great power. This process of U.S./NATO geopolitical expansion commenced immediately, visible in all the U.S./NATO wars in Asia, Africa, and Europe that have taken place in the last three decades. NATO’s war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s was particularly important in this respect. Even while the dismemberment of Yugoslavia was going on, the United States began the process of enlarging NATO by moving it further and further East to encompass all of the former Warsaw Pact countries as well as parts of the former USSR. Bill Clinton in his 1996 election campaign made the enlargement of NATO part of his platform. Washington started to implement that in 1997, eventually adding 15 additional countries to NATO doubling its size and creating a 30-nation Atlantic Alliance targeting Russia, while also giving NATO a more global interventionist role, as in Yugoslavia, Syria, and Libya.

But the goal was the Ukraine. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was the most important strategist of all of this and had been Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor said in his 1997 Grand Chessboard that Ukraine was the “geopolitical pivot,” particularly in the West, which if it were brought into NATO and under Western control, would weaken Russia so much that it could be tethered, if not dismembered. This has been the goal all along and U.S. strategic planners and Washington officials, along with the NATO allies, have stated over and over that they wanted to bring the Ukraine into NATO. NATO made this goal official in 2008. Only a few months ago, in November 2021 in the new strategic charter between the Biden administration in Washington and Zelensky government in Kyiv, it was agreed that the immediate aim was bring Ukraine into NATO. But this has also been NATO’s policy for a long time now. The United States in the final months of 2021 and at the beginning of 2022 was moving very fast to militarize the Ukraine and accomplish that as a fait accompli.

The idea, articulated by Brzezinski and others, was that once the Ukraine was secured for NATO, Russia was finished, the proximity to Moscow with Ukraine as the thirty-first nation in the NATO alliance, would give NATO a 1200-mile border with Russia, the same path through which Hitler’s armies had invaded the Soviet Union, but in this case with Russia facing the world’s greatest nuclear alliance. This would change the entire geopolitical map giving the West control of Eurasia west of China.

How this actually played out is important. The proxy war started in 2014 when the Maidan coup, engineered by the United States took place in Ukraine, removing the democratically elected president, and putting ultra-nationalists largely in control, with U.S./NATO sponsorship. The immediate result though was that Ukraine began to break apart. Crimea had been an independent, autonomous state from 1991 to 1995. In 1995 Ukraine illegally tore up the Crimean Constitution and annexed it against its will. The Crimean people didn’t consider themselves part of Ukraine, and were largely Russian speaking, with deep cultural connections to Russia. When the coup occurred, with Ukrainian ultra-nationalists in control, the Crimean population wanted out. Russia gave them an opportunity with a referendum to stay in the Ukraine or join with Russia. They chose the latter. However, in the eastern Ukraine the primarily Russian population was subjected to repression by ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi Kyiv forces. Russophobia and extreme repression of the Russian-speaking populations in the East set in—with the infamous case of the forty people blown up in a public building by neo-Nazis associated with the Azov Battalion. Originally there were a number of breakaway republics. Two survived in the Donbass region, with dominant Russian-speaking populations: the republics of Luhansk and Donetsk.

A civil war thus emerged in Ukraine between Kyiv in the West and Donbass in the East. But it was also a proxy war with the U.S./NATO supporting Kyiv and Russia supporting Donbass. The civil war started right after the coup, when the Russian language was basically outlawed, so that individuals could get fined for speaking Russian in a store. It was an attack on the Russian language and culture and a violent repression of the populations in the eastern parts of the Ukraine.

Initially, there were about 14,000 lives lost in the civil war. And these casualties were in the eastern part of the country, with something like 2.5 million refugees pouring into Russia. The Minsk Agreements in 2014 and 2015 led to a ceasefire, mediated by France and Germany, and supported by the United Nations Security Council. In these agreements the Luhansk and Donetsk Republics were given autonomous status within Ukraine. But Kyiv broke the Minsk agreements again and again, continuing to attack the breakaway republics in Donbass, though on a reduced scale, and the US continued to provide stepped-up military training and weapons.

Washington provided an enormous amount of military support to Kyiv between 1991 and 2021. The direct military aid to Kiev from the United States was $3.8 billion from 1991 to 2014. From 2014 to 2021, it was $2.4 billion, increasing in rate, and then finally skyrocketing once Joe Biden came into office Washington. The United States was militarizing the Ukraine very fast. The United Kingdom and the Canada trained around 50,000 Ukrainian troops, not counting those trained by the United States. The CIA actually trained the Azov Battalion and the rightwing paramilitaries. All of this was targeting Russia.

The Russians were concerned particularly about the nuclear aspect, since NATO is a nuclear alliance, and if Ukraine was brought into NATO and missiles were placed in Ukraine, a nuclear strike could occur before the Kremlin had time to respond. Already there are anti-ballistic missile defense facilities in Poland and Romania, crucial as counterforce weapons in a NATO first strike. Yet, it is important to understand that the Aegis missile defense systems placed there are also capable of launching nuclear offensive missiles. All of this factored into Russia’s entry into the Ukrainian civil war. In February 2022 Kyiv was preparing a major offensive, with 130,000 troops on the borders of Donbass in the East and South, with U.S./NATO, firing into Donbass, with continuing U.S./NATO support. This crossed Moscow’s clearly articulated red lines. In response, Russia first declared that the Minsk Agreements had failed and that the Donbass republics had to be regarded as independent and autonomous states. It then intervened in the Ukrainian civil war on the side of Donbass, and in line with what it considered its own national defense.

The result is a proxy war between the U.S./NATO and Russia being fought in Ukraine, developing out of a civil war in Ukraine itself, which had its inception in a U.S.-engineered coup. But unlike other proxy wars between capitalist states this one is occurring on the borders of one of the great nuclear powers and is brought on by the long-articulated grand imperial strategy in Washington aimed at capturing the Ukraine for NATO in order to destroy Russia as a great power, and establish, as Brzezinski stated, U.S. supremacy over the globe. Obviously, this particular proxy war carries grave dangers on a level not seen since the Cuban missile crisis. Following the Russian offensive, France declared that NATO was a nuclear power and immediately afterwards, on February 27, the Russians put their nuclear forces on high alert.

Another thing to understand about the proxy war is that the Russians have been trying to with considerable success to avoid civilian casualties. The populations of Russia and Ukraine are interwoven, and Moscow has attempted to keep civilian casualties down. Figures in the US military and in the European militaries have been indicating that the civilian casualties are remarkably low, when compared to the standard of U.S. warfare. One indication of this is that the military casualties to the Russian troops are greater than the civilian casualties of Ukrainians, which is the reverse of the way it works in U.S. warfare. If you look at how the United States fights a war, as in Iraq, it attacks the electrical and water facilities and the entire civilian infrastructure on the grounds that this will create dissension in the population and a revolt against the government. But targeting civilian infrastructure naturally increases civilian casualties, as in Iraq where the civilian casualties from the U.S. invasion were in the hundreds of thousands. Russia, in contrast, has not sought to destroy the civilian infrastructure, which it would be easy for them to do. Even in the midst of the war they are still selling natural gas to the Kyiv, fulfilling their contracts. They have not destroyed Ukraine’s Internet.

Russia intervened mainly with the object of freeing up Donbass, much of which was occupied by Kyiv forces. A priority has been gaining control of Mariupol, the main port, which would make Donbass viable. Mariupol has been occupied by the neo-Nazi Azov battalion. The Azov battalion now controls less than 20% of the city. They are hiding out in the old Soviet bunkers in part of the city. The Donetsk People’s Militia and the Russians control the rest of it. There are about 100,000 paramilitary forces in Ukraine. Most of the paramilitaries within the Ukrainian forces that constituted the larger part of the 130,000 troops that were surrounding Donbass, have now been cut off by the Russian military. Besides gaining control of Donbass together with the people’s militias, Moscow seeks to compel the Ukraine to demilitarize and to accept a neutral status, remaining outside of NATO.

If you look at the situation from the standpoint of the peace agreements—and the Global Times had a good report on it on March 31—you can see what the war is all about. Kyiv has provisionally agreed to neutrality, to be overseen by certain guarantors from the West, such as Canada. But the sticking point in the negotiations is what Kyiv calls “sovereignty.” That is all about Donbass and the civil war. Ukraine insists that Donbass is part of its sovereign territory, irrespective of the wishes of the population in the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. The people in the Donbass republics and the Russians can’t accept that. In fact, the peoples’ militias and the Russians are still working at liberating parts of Donbass that are occupied by these paramilitary forces. It is there that the main sticking point in the negotiations lies, and this goes back to the reality of the civil war in Ukraine. The U.S. role in this has been to operate as a spoiler in the negotiations.

The Second Prong: The Drive to Nuclear Primacy

Here it is necessary to turn to the second prong of the U.S. Imperial Strategy. So far, I have discussed the grand imperial strategy in terms of geopolitics, the expansion into the territory of the former Soviet Union and the Soviet sphere of influence, which was articulated most effectively by Brzezinski. But there’s another prong to the U.S. grand imperial strategy that needs to be discussed in this context, and that is the drive to new nuclear primacy. If you read Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard, his book on U.S. geopolitical strategy, you won’t find a word on nuclear weapons. The word nuclear doesn’t appear at all in his book, I believe. Yet this is of course crucial to the overall U.S. strategy with respect to Russia. In 1979, under Jimmy Carter, while Brzezinski was his national security advisor, it was decided to move beyond Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) and for the United States to pursue a counterforce strategy of nuclear primacy. This involved placing nuclear missiles in Europe. In his “Letter to Americans,” which appears in Protest and Survive published by Monthly Review Press in 1981, Marxist historian and anti-nuclear activist E.P. Thompson actually quotes Brzezinski admitting that the U.S. strategy had shifted to a counterforce war.

To explain this, it is necessary to go back a little bit further. By the 1960s, the Soviet Union had achieved nuclear parity with the United States. There was a big debate within the Pentagon and security establishment about this, because nuclear parity meant MAD. It meant Mutually Assured Destruction. And whichever nation, it didn’t matter which, attacked the other, both would be utterly destroyed. Robert McNamara, John F. Kennedy’s secretary of defense, started promoting the notion of counterforce to get around MAD. Essentially, there are two types of nuclear attacks. One is a countervalue which targets the cities, the population, and the economy of the adversary. That’s what MAD is based on. The other kind of attack is a counterforce war aimed at destroying the enemy’s nuclear forces before they can be launched. And, of course, a counterforce strategy is the same thing as a first strike strategy. The United States under McNamara, started to explore counterforce. McNamara then decided was such an approach was insane, and he decided to make MAD the deterrence policy of the United States. That lasted through most of the 1960s and seventies. But in 1979, in the Carter administration, when Brzezinski was the national security adviser, they decided to implement a counterforce strategy. The United States at that time decided to locate Pershing II missiles and nuclear-armed cruise missiles in Europe. That led to the rise of the European Nuclear Disarmament movement, the great European peace movement.

Washington initially put Pershing II intermediate nuclear missiles, as well as cruise missiles, in Europe. This became a huge issue for the peace movement in both Europe and the United States. The dangers of a nuclear war were enormously enhanced. The Ronald Reagan administration heavily promoted the counterforce strategy and added their sci-fi Strategic Defense Initiative (better known by its nickname of Star Wars), which envisioned a system that would shoot down all of the enemy missiles altogether. This was largely a fantasy. Eventually, the nuclear arms race in this period was stopped as a result of the massive peace movements in Europe on both sides of the Berlin Wall and the nuclear freeze movement in the United States, as well as the rise of Gorbachev in the Soviet Union. But after the dissolution of the USSR, Washington decided to go forward with the counterforce strategy, its drive towards nuclear primacy.

Over the next three decades, Washington kept on developing counterforce weapons and strategies, enhancing US abilities in that respect, to the point that in 2006 it was declared that the United States was near nuclear primacy, as explained at the time in Foreign Affairs, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, the main center for U.S. grand strategy. The Foreign Affairs article declared that China didn’t have a nuclear deterrent against a U.S. first strike, given the improvements in U.S. targeting and sensing technology, and that even the Russians couldn’t count on the survivability their nuclear deterrent anymore. Washington was pushing forward to achieve complete nuclear primacy. This went hand in hand with the enlargement of NATO in Europe because part of the counterforce strategy was to get counterforce weapons closer and closer to Russia to decrease the time with which Moscow could respond.

Russia was the primary target in the strategy. While China was clearly intended to be the later target.  But Trump coming in decided to pursue detente with Russia and concentrate on China. That threw things off for a while, destabilizing the U.S./NATO grand strategy since the enlargement of NATO was an essential part of the nuclear primacy strategy. Once the Biden administration came into office, attempts were made to make up for lost time in tightening the Ukraine noose in Russia.

In all of this, the Russians, now a capitalist state and regaining great power status, were not fooled. They saw this coming. In 2007 Vladimir Putin declared that the unipolar world was impossible, that the United States wouldn’t be able to achieve nuclear primacy. Both Russia and China started to develop weapons that would get around the counterforce, strategy of the United States. The idea of a first strike is that the attacker—and only the United States has anything near this capability—strikes the land-based missiles, whether in hardened silos or mobile, and by tracking the submarines is in a position to eliminate them as well. The role of anti-ballistic missile systems is then to pick off whatever retaliatory strike remains. Naturally, the other side, namely Russia and China among the great nuclear powers, know all of this, so they do everything they can to protect their nuclear deterrent or retaliatory strike capability. In the last few years Russia and China developed hypersonic missiles. These missiles move extraordinarily fast, above Mach 5 and at the same time are maneuverable, so they cannot be stopped by anti-ballistic missile systems, weakening the U.S. counterforce capability. The United States itself has not yet developed hypersonic missile technologies of this kind. This type of weapon is what China calls an “assassin’s mace,” meaning that it can be used by a lesser power to counter an overwhelming advantage in the military power of the opponent. This then increases the basic deterrent of Russia and China by protecting their retaliatory capabilities in the event of a first strike against them. It is one of the major factors that that is countering U.S. first strike capabilities.

Another aspect in this game of nuclear chicken is the U.S./NATO dominance in satellites. It is largely because of this that Pentagon targeting is now so accurate that they can conceive of the possibility of destroying the hardened missile silos with smaller warheads because of the absolute accuracy of their targeting, while also targeting submarines. All of this has to do with the satellite systems. This gives the United States, it is widely believed, the capability of destroying hardened missile silos or at least command and control centers with weapons that aren’t nuclear, or with smaller nuclear warheads, because of the increased accuracy. The Russian and Chinese militaries have been focusing therefore a lot on anti-satellite weapons in order to take this advantage away.

Nuclear Winter and Omnicide

All of this may sound bad enough, but it is necessary to say something about nuclear winter. The U.S. military—and I imagine it’s true of the Russian military as well—have, if you read their declassified documents, completely walked away from the science on nuclear war. In the declassified document on nuclear armaments and nuclear war there is no mention of firestorms anywhere in the discussion of nuclear war. But firestorms are actually what result in the largest number of deaths in a nuclear attack. The firestorms can spread out in a thermonuclear attack on a city to as much as 150 square miles. The military establishments, which are all about fighting and prevailing in a nuclear war, leave the firestorms out of account in their analyses even in calculations of MAD. But there is another reason for this as well since the firestorms are what generate nuclear winter.

In 1983, when counterforce when weapons were being placed in Europe, Soviet and American atmospheric scientists, working together, created the first models of nuclear winter. A number of the key scientists, in both the Soviet Union and the United States, were involved in climate change research, which is essentially the inverse of nuclear winter, though not nearly as abrupt. These scientists discovered that in a nuclear war with firestorms in 100 cities, the effect would be a drop in an average global temperature by what Carl Sagan said at the time was up to “several tens of degrees” Celsius. They later backed off from that with further studies and said it was that the drop would be up to twenty degrees Celsius. But you can imagine what that means. The firestorms would loft the soot and the smoke into the stratosphere. This would block to 70% of the solar energy reaching the earth, which would mean all harvests on Earth would end. This would destroy nearly all vegetative life, so that the direct nuclear effects in the northern hemisphere would be accompanied by the death of almost everyone in the southern hemisphere as well. Only a few people would survive on the planet.

The nuclear winters studies were criticized by the military and by the establishment in the United States, as exaggerated. But in the 21st century, beginning in 2007, the nuclear winter studies were expanded, replicated, and validated numerous times. They showed that even in a war between India and Pakistan using Hiroshima-level atomic bombs, the result would a nuclear winter not as severe, but with the effect of reducing the solar energy reaching the planet enough to kill billions of people. In contrast, in a global thermonuclear war, as the news studies have shown, nuclear winter would be even would be as bad or worse as what the original studies in 1980s had determined. And this is the science. It’s accepted in the top peer-reviewed scientific publications and the findings have been repeatedly validated. It is very clear in terms of the science that if we have a global thermonuclear exchange, it will kill off the entire population of the earth with maybe a few remnants of the human species surviving somewhere in the southern hemisphere. The result will be planetary omnicide

At first McNamara thought that counterforce was a good idea, because it was seen as a No Cities strategy. The United States could just destroy the nuclear weapons on the other side and leave the cities untouched. But that quickly dissolved, and nobody believes that anymore because most the command-and-control centers are in or near the cities. There’s no way that these can all be destroyed in a first strike without attacking the cities. Moreover, there’s no way that the nuclear deterrent on the other side can be completely destroyed, where the major nuclear powers are concerned, and only a relatively small part of the nuclear arsenals of the major powers can destroy all the major cities on the other side. To think otherwise is to pursue a dangerous fantasy that increases the chance of a global thermonuclear war that will destroy humanity. This means that the major nuclear analysts, who are deeply engaged in counterforce doctrines, are promoting total madness. The nuclear war planners pretend that they can prevail in a nuclear war. Yet, we now know that MAD, mutually assured destruction, as it was originally envisioned, is less extreme than what a global thermonuclear war means today. Mutually assured destruction meant both sides were destroyed in their hundreds of millions. But nuclear winter means virtually the entire population of the planet is eliminated.

Counterforce strategy, the drive towards first strike capability or nuclear primacy means that the nuclear arms race keeps on increasing in the hope of eluding MAD, while actually threatening human extinction. Even if the numbers of nuclear weapons are limited, nuclear weapons, the so-called “modernization” of the nuclear arsenal, particularly on the U.S. side, is designed to make counterforce and thus a first strike thinkable. That’s why Washington withdrew from the nuclear treaties like the ABM Treaty and the intermediate-range nuclear missile treaty. These were seen as blocking counterforce weapons, interfering with the Pentagon’s drive to nuclear primacy. Washington walked out of all of those treaties and then while it was willing to accept a limit on the total number of nuclear weapons because the game was then being played in a different way. The U.S. strategy is focused on counterforce not countervalue now.

All of this is a lot to be absorbed in a short time. But I think it’s important to understand the two prongs of the U.S./NATO imperial grand strategy in order to understand why the Kremlin considers itself threatened, and why it acted as it did, and why this proxy war is so dangerous for the world as a whole. What we should keep in mind right now is that all of this maneuvering for absolute world supremacy has brought to us to the brink of a global thermonuclear war and global omnicide. The only answer is to create a massive world movement for peace, ecology, and socialism.

About John Bellamy Foster

John Bellamy Foster, professor of sociology at the University of Oregon, is editor of Monthly Review, an independent socialist magazine published monthly in New York City. His research is devoted to critical inquiries into theory and history, focusing primarily on the economic, political and ecological contradictions of capitalism, but also encompassing the wider realm of social theory as a whole. He has published numerous articles and books focusing on the political economy of capitalism and the economic crisis, ecology and the ecological crisis, and Marxist theory: (with Paul Burkett) Marx and the Earth: An Anti-Critique (2016); The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism: An Elaboration of Marxian Political Economy (New Edition, 2014); (with Robert W. McChesney) The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China (2012); (with Fred Magdoff) What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism: A Citizen’s Guide to Capitalism and the Environment (2011); (with Brett Clark and Richard York) The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth (2009); (with Fred Magdoff) The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences (2009); The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet (2009); (with Brett Clark and Richard York) Critique of Intelligent Design: Materialism versus Creationism from Antiquity to the Present (2008); Ecology Against Capitalism (2002); Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature (2000); (with Frederick H. Buttel and Fred Magdoff) Hungry for Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment (2000); The Vulnerable Planet: A Short Economic History of the Environment (1999); (with Ellen Meiksins Wood and Robert W. McChesney) Capitalism and the Information Age: The Political Economy of the Global Communication Revolution (1998); (with Ellen Meiksins Wood) In Defense of History: Marxism and the Postmodern Agenda (1997); The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism: An Elaboration of Marxian Political Economy (1986); (with Henryk Szlajfer) The Faltering Economy: The Problem of Accumulation Under Monopoly Capitalism (1984). His work is published in at least twenty-five languages. Visit johnbellamyfoster.org for a collection of most of Foster’s works currently available online.

MR Online, April 9, 2022, https://mronline.org/

The huge gap between how serious nuclear war is and how seriously it’s being taken / by Caitlin A. Johnstone

Sometimes I’m not sure what presents a greater threat to humanity, nuclear war or the colossal stupidity that has made it possible.

Due to the skyrocketing risk of a world-ending confrontation between the United States and Russia, World Socialist Website is re-releasing a series of interviews it conducted in 2017 with experts on the subject of nuclear war. One of them is with a senior scientist at Physicians for Social Responsibility named Steven Starr, which WSWS has titled “Nuclear winter—the long-suppressed reality of nuclear war”.

Starr discusses the research which has shown that in addition to the unthinkable horrors of flattened cities and nuclear fallout we’ve all been told about, “a war fought with existing U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals is predicted to make agriculture impossible for a decade or longer, dooming most people to die from a nuclear famine.”

Starr says a false narrative has been spun that the science behind nuclear winter theory is weak, a narrative I’ve had parroted at me from time to time in my commentary on this subject. He says the science is in fact peer-reviewed and robust, and actually makes very conservative estimates of the environmental havoc that would be unleashed by black carbon soot thrown into the stratosphere by a large nuclear exchange. But this science has been actively suppressed and marginalized by a junk science smear campaign and the slashing of research funding.

“After the success of the smear campaign against nuclear winter, most people eventually accepted this narrative and funding for new research dried up,” Starr said. “This had a big impact on the public, who got the impression that the nuclear winter theory had been disproven. As a result, this issue is hardly ever talked about now in the mainstream media.”

“One of the reasons for this is that over the years, trillions of dollars have been spent on nuclear weapons,” Starr adds. “If the conclusions of the nuclear winter research—that nuclear war is suicide for all peoples and nations—had gained widespread acceptance and understanding, it is likely that the whole nuclear weapons industry would have been shut down.”

Indeed, when you’re talking about the movement of trillions of dollars (Obama committed $1 trillion to modernizing America’s nuclear arsenal for the explicit purpose of better confronting Russia), you’re talking about the kind of money that any amount of underhanded gangster tactics would be employed to secure.

But I think another major part of it is the much more basic fact that if people truly understood how dangerous nuclear war is for everyone on this planet, nobody would consent to the kinds of cold war games that the drivers of empire have been intending to play with these weapons.

If people truly understood that their life and the lives of everyone they love are being gambled like poker chips in nuclear brinkmanship maneuvers geared toward securing unipolar planetary hegemony for an undeclared empire loosely centralized around the United States, those few empire architects would soon find themselves on the losing end of a tooth-and-claw fight against the entire human species. The ability to win cold war power struggles is dependent on the mainstream public not thinking too hard about what nuclear war is and why it is being risked.

So I think we’re seeing a broad lack of awareness among the general public of just how close to the precipice we are for the same reason nuclear winter theory has been suppressed: because if everyone deeply understood how dangerous these unipolarist grand chessboard power plays are, and how they deliver no real benefit to ordinary people, they wouldn’t permit them to happen.

A responsible news media would be educating the public about things like nuclear winter, and how easy it would be for a nuclear war to be triggered by a malfunction, miscommunication, misunderstanding, or miscalculation in the chaos and confusion of soaring cold war escalations as nearly happened many times during the last cold war. A “news” media whose job is not to report the news but to manufacture consent for imperial agendas will do everything it can to prevent people from paying attention to those things.

This is why, if you really understand nuclear war and what it means and how close we are to its emergence, it feels so surreal and dissonant looking around at the things people are talking about today. How ungrounded in reality it all is, how unseriously people are taking this thing, how willing they are to consent to things like no-fly zones and other direct military action against Russia. It’s because people are prevented from seeing and understanding this reality. You can’t have the riff raff interfering in the mechanics of the imperial machine. Unipolar hegemony is too important to be left to democratic processes. Keep the local fauna confused and distracted while you roll the dice on nuclear armageddon with the hope of ruling the world.

These people are like mobsters, knowing they’ll probably die a violent death but willing to risk it all for a chance at living the high life. There’s not the slightest iota of wisdom guiding their actions. Just the primitive impulse to dominate and control. They’re living their lives and making their decisions essentially on autopilot, guided by unconscious impulses they themselves don’t understand.

In the aforementioned interview Starr also touches on the ease with which a nuclear war could be set off by a technical malfunction, and what the earliest moments of a nuclear war will likely look like:

If the US early warning systems detect a missile launch, the President can order a launch of retaliatory nuclear strike before incoming nuclear warheads take out communication systems and weapons. Of course, if this is a false warning of attack, then the “retaliatory” strike becomes a first-strike and a nuclear war has started.

Moreover, if somebody has launched a nuclear strike against the silos in which your nuclear weapons are housed in, you don’t retaliate by targeting their empty silos. You target their cities. Russia only has about 230 cities with a population greater than 100,000 and the US has 312. So it’s not that hard to wipe out a couple hundred cities in an initial salvo.

Starr also discusses the insane belief that Russia will probably back down when threatened with the possibility of nuclear war, a line of thinking that’s becoming so common today that it’s almost its own genre of natsec punditry:

The strategists often say, “Oh, well, Russia will back down.” What if they don’t? And why would they back down on their own border? Any US/NATO-Russian direct military conflict will very likely lead to a full-scale nuclear war.

In another 2017 World Socialist Website interview, this one with Los Alamos Study Group secretary and executive director Greg Mello, we get some more insight into the reality of the nuclear threat:

To a first approximation, in a nuclear war between the US and Russia, everybody in the world would die. Some people in the southern hemisphere might survive, but probably not even them.

The imagination cannot encompass nuclear war. Nuclear war means nuclear winter. It means the collapse of very fragile electronic, financial, governmental, administrative systems that keep everyone alive. We’d be lucky to reboot in the early 19th century. And if enough weapons are detonated, the collapse of the Earth’s ozone layer would mean that every form of life that has eyes could be blinded. The combined effects of a US-Russian nuclear war would mean that pretty much every terrestrial mammal, and many plants, would become extinct. There would be a dramatic biological thinning.

The gulf between these expert analyses and what people are consuming in the news could not possibly be wider. People simply don’t understand what’s being done with their lives by powerful people who care only about imperial domination, and the powerful intend to keep it that way.

It doesn’t need to be like this. There’s no reason our planet needs to be dominated by any one single power structure, especially if doing so means risking complete annihilation. We should all be pushing for de-escalation, diplomacy and detente, and for the nations and peoples of this world to begin working together for the good of everyone.

Caitlin A. Johnstone is a rogue journalist; bogan socialist; anarcho-psychonaut; guerilla poet; utopia prepper. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to her mailing list.

MR Online, March 17, 2022, https://mronline.org/2022/03/17/the-huge-gap-between-how-serious-nuclear-war-is-and-how-seriously-its-being-taken/