Natural gas billows up from beneath the sea at the site of the sabotaged Nord Stream pipelines. | Swedish Government video footage via AP
Russia clashed with the United States and its allies on Tuesday over the Kremlin’s call for an investigation of last September’s sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 natural gas pipelines.
Russia’s United Nations ambassador Vasily Nebenzia told the Security Council that Moscow has “no trust” in the separate investigations being carried out by Denmark, Sweden, and Germany, but it does “fully trust” secretary-general Antonio Guterres to establish an independent international investigation.
Britain, the U.S., France, and others said that the real reason Russia raised Nord Stream 1 and 2 now was to divert attention from the first anniversary of its invasion of Ukraine.
“Today’s meeting is a blatant attempt to distract from this,” U.S. Political Minister-Counsellor John Kelley told the Council.
“As the world unites this week to call for a just and secure peace in Ukraine consistent with the U.N. Charter, Russia desperately wants to change the subject.”
Ahead of the meeting, the ambassadors of Denmark, Sweden, and Germany sent a letter to Council members saying their investigations have established the pipelines were extensively damaged “by powerful explosions due to sabotage,” which they say endangered “international security and give cause for our deep concern.”
The letter said that further investigations are being conducted in all three countries and Russian authorities have been informed about the investigations.
But Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told reporters: “They are claiming that they are informing Russia about it which is not true. Any attempt for us to get any information was rejected by them or ignored.”
Russia circulated a draft resolution to council members late last week asking the UN secretary-general to urgently establish a commission to investigate the Nord Stream attacks.
Nebenzia said Moscow hasn’t been allowed to join investigations by any of the three countries, saying they “are not only not transparent, but it is quite clear that they seek just to cover the tracks and stick up for their U.S. brother.”
Russia has alleged that the U.S. was behind the sabotage, which its proposed resolution says “occurred after the repeated threats to the Nord Stream by the U.S. leadership.”
Kelley responded, telling the Council: “Accusations that the U.S. was involved in this act of sabotage are completely false. The U.S. was not involved in any way.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh—famous for exposing the My Lai Massacre, the secret bombing of Cambodia, and torture at Abu Ghraib in Iraq—alleges that U.S. forces, with the help of the Norwegian military, planted the explosives that disabled the two pipelines last fall. The U.S. government denies Hersh’s accusation.
People’s World has an enormous challenge ahead of it—to raise $200,000 from readers and supporters in 2023, including $125,000 during the Fund Drive, which runs from Feb. 1 to May 1.
Roger McKenzie is a journalist and general secretary of Liberation, a UK-based human rights organization which fights for economic and social justice, and opposes neo-colonialism, economic exploitation, and racism.
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.
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 . 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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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
Auschwitz-Birkenau | Photo credit: Marcin Czerniawski – Unsplash
THIS week, when atomic scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock 10 seconds closer to midnight, they were referring to the very real threat of nuclear war.
But as we mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2023, we must recognise that with nationalism, racism and Holocaust revisionism all on the rise, there are other senses in which Europe is edging closer to midnight.
January 27 marks Holocaust Memorial Day because it was the date of the liberation of the largest of the Nazi death camps, Auschwitz, by the Soviet Red Army in 1945.
But the Holocaust started well before the Nazis decided on industrialised mass murder in gas chambers. The slaughter began as the German war machine moved east in 1941.
Tsarist anti-semitism had confined Jews to a “pale of settlement” in the west of the Russian empire, precisely the areas — including Ukraine — that would be occupied by the Wehrmacht. More than a million Ukrainian Jews were killed in the second world war, most not gassed but shot by Einsatzgruppen SS paramilitary death squads that followed the German soldiers.
Ukraine is a battlefield again and accusations of fascist barbarism fly thick and fast.
For Western pundits like Simon Tisdall or Timothy Garton-Ash, Vladimir Putin is a fascist menace who, like Hitler, must be fought to the finish rather than appeased.
Western war propaganda has tended to portray every passing adversary as Hitler — any reluctance to wage war against Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein or Colonel Gadaffi was derided as an echo of Munich — but the stakes when it comes to Russia, the world’s largest country and possessor of its largest stock of nuclear weapons, are immeasurably higher.
But it isn’t the only one. Drawing the battle lines against Russia involves sanitising far-right regimes across Europe.
Poland’s pressure on Berlin to supply tanks to Ukraine sees it rehabilitated as a state of the democratic “front line” — as, distressingly, did its standoff with Belarus over refugees last winter, when it protected “European democracy” by forcing freezing asylum-seekers back across a barbed-wire border in the forest.
Italy’s prime minister comes from a group directly descended from Mussolini’s Fascist Party — yet again, liberals are happy to ignore this.
The Putin threat means we should not trouble ourselves that “some Italians take a lenient view of the Mussolini era,” Garton-Ash assures us.
But Europe’s march right has grim consequences for refugees drowning in the Mediterranean and black communities facing rising racist violence.
Britain is no outlier here. As Holocaust survivor Joan Salter pointed out in a courageous confrontation with Home Secretary Suella Braverman this month, the government’s language on refugees and asylum-seekers drips poison: and those urging we turn the boats away today are the heirs to those who closed the door to Jewish refugees as Hitler’s armies occupied Europe.
As we remember the millions of Jews and Roma murdered by the Nazis, the words “never again” could barely be more poignant. The fight against fascism is not ancient history. It is our urgent task today.
Today the conflict in Ukraine advances every day and intensifies with Russian destruction of the Ukrainian infrastructure, with the western gift to Ukraine of more and more sophisticated and destructive weapons, with provocations like the missile aimed at Poland, and the Ukrainian attacks within Russia. Presently, the conflict in Ukraine has brought the world closer to nuclear war than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
In 1962, U.S. leaders believed that Russian missiles in Cuba posed such a national security threat that they were willing to risk nuclear war to get them removed. Yet, the U.S. and NATO propose creating exactly this kind of threat to Russia. The gravity of the current situation is obvious if one can imagine the reaction of Russian leaders at the prospect of American/NATO nuclear missiles in Kiev two hours flight from Moscow. Thus, the lack of an outcry against the war in Ukraine and the almost complete absence of calls for a ceasefire and negotiations constitute one of the most glaring and dangerous aspects of the present moment.
Though Washington officials and the mainstream media always refer to this conflict as Putin’s “unprovoked war,” seldom has a conflict been so clearly provoked as this one. The expansion of NATO since 1991 and U.S. insistence that Ukraine be allowed to join NATO are the most obvious and proximate causes of this conflict. By increasing economic sanctions against Russia, by arming of Ukraine with ever more sophisticated weapons, and by saying that Putin is a “butcher” who “can no longer remain in power” (Biden in March 2022) and by insisting that Ukraine’s right to join NATO is non-negotiable, the United States continues to escalate the conflict and place a negotiated settlement further out of reach.
In spite of this situation in the United States and Europe, no movement for peace in Ukraine has emerged. Aside from a few right-wing outliers like Senator Rand Paul and a hastily withdrawn letter to Biden from the House Progressive Caucus calling for negotiations, no elected officials have denounced American behavior or called for peace. Almost no intelligent and informed discussion of the war occurs in the media and none at whatsoever in the recent electoral debates. The entire nation seems plunging into the unknown with blinders on.
This makes the current volume an island of facts and reason in a sea of insanity. Russia without Blinders was edited by Aymeric Monville, the head of Delga Editions, the main Marxist publishing house in France, Maxime Vivas, author of a recent book on the anti-Chinese “ravings” in France, and Jean-Pierre Page, a writer and past director of the International Department of the French General Confederation of Labor (CGT). It has seventeen contributors mostly scholars, writers and activists in France, whose contributions fall under three headings: Russophobia, the Origins of the Conflict, and Russia and the World. While exposing the phobia and propaganda that has completely obscured the meaning of this war, the book, in the words of the editors, aims to be not pro-Russian but pro-truth.
To the extent that the book’s many authors and subjects could be reduced to a simple argument it would be this: The war in Ukraine did not begin with the Russian invasion of February 23, 2022, but was rooted in events at least as far back as the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its meaning is far more serious than the simpleminded notion that this is an “unprovoked” war driven by a madman’s desire to restore the Czarist empire. Rather, this war is symbolic of a seismic change in international relations and balance of forces that has occurred since the collapse of the Soviet Union and which has intensified in recent years with the economic recovery of Russia, now the world’s eleventh largest economy and the rise of China, which has become the world’s second largest economy. The United States and its European vassals are determined to hold on to their superiority and even expand their economic, military, and ideological dominance. The authors further argue that these imperial ambitions are doomed to fail and that the war is actually showing the limits of American power and the emergence of a multipolar world. That is, the machinations of American imperialism are giving rise to its opposite, a growing resistance to American dominance not only by Russia and China and but also by much of Africa, Asia and Latin America. This resistance manifests itself by the rejection of American hypocritical espousal of democracy, sovereignty, and the rule of law, as well as the rebellion against the domination of the American dollar, American sanctions, and American neoliberal policies.
It is impossible for a short review to do justice to the array of topics and the wealth of information and the high quality of research contained in these articles, which unfortunately are only available in French. Therefore, I will focus on the book’s main arguments as to the origin of the war and the increasing isolation and weakness of the U.S. revealed by the war.
Bombarded as we are by daily horror stories of Putin’s madness and authoritarianism and Russian war atrocities, torture, executions, mass graves, kidnappings, and civilian bombings, it is hard to focus on the causes of the conflict. Yet, without some factual understanding, it is easy to be swept up by war hysteria. The history reveals that far from this being an “unprovoked war,” it was provoked by the expansion of NATO and the longstanding designs on Ukraine by American policy-makers.
Several aspects of this “hidden history” of the war stand out. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, central Asia, especially Ukraine, has assumed major importance in the thinking of strategists concerned with preserving American world dominance. In The Grand Chessboard (1997), Zbigniew Brzezinski said, “For America, the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia…. and America’s global primacy is directly dependent on how long and how effectively its preponderance on the Eurasian continent is sustained.” According to Brzezinski, on this international chessboard, Ukraine is the “geopolitical pivot.” Ukraine is a vast territory rich in gas, oil, wheat, rare minerals, and nuclear power. If “Russia regains control over Ukraine,” it automatically acquires the potential to become “a powerful imperial state,” and a challenge to the U.S.
Since 1990, the U.S. has tried to drive a wedge between Ukraine and Russia. In 1990, as the Soviet Union dissolved, the Ukrainians participated in a referendum in which some 90 percent voted to remain in a union with Russia. The United States, however, promoted Ukrainian leaders hostile to Russia. In 2010 Viktor Yanoukovitch was elected president. Yanoukovitch tried to weave a course friendly both to Russia and European Union. In the legislative election of 2012, Yanoukovitch’s party won more seats than the other three parties combined. The next year, however, when he refused to sign an agreement of association with the European Union, mass demonstrations encouraged by the U.S. broke out in what became known as the Euromaidan movement. The administration of President Barack Obama supported, financed and coached this movement, which was taken over by right-wing nationalists including neofascists and which eventually forced the president to flee the country. On December 13, 2013, the U.S. State Department’s Undersecretary for Europe, Victoria Nuland, said that the U.S. had invested over five billion dollars in promoting democracy in Ukraine, that is to say in promoting the movement that ousted the democratically elected president. Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt, the American ambassador to Ukraine, played an active role in choosing the new government of Ukraine that included neo-fascists.
In 2019, during the administration of Donald Trump, Vladimir Zelenskyy was elected president of Ukraine. The millionaire comedian, who is now lauded as the heroic defender of democracy, had a sordid past completely overlooked by the American media. The Pandora Papers exposed him as one of the corrupt world leaders with vast wealth stored in offshore accounts. Moreover, Zelenskyy was closely connected to the corrupt oligarch, Igor Kolomoisky, the owner of the TV station where Zelenskyy’s show appeared and the owner of a major bank, Privat Bank, whose assets the government seized for corruption in 2016. In power, Zelenskyy made a leader of the neo-nazis the governor of Odessa. He also outlawed trade unions and a dozen political groups, including the Communist Party. Also, Zelenskyy pursued military action against the separatists in the Donbas, a pro-Russian and largely working class area of Ukraine. Since 2014, military strikes on the Donbas have killed 14,000 and wounded 40,000 citizens. The worst atrocities were linked to the neo-fascist army unit the Azov Battalion. Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who served as the American-picked Prime Minister between 2014 and 2016, referred to the citizens of Donetsk and Lugansk as “non-humans.”
According to Page, under Zelenskyy, the U.S. completely “colonized” Ukraine. It sent billions of dollars of military aid and advisors, built 26 laboratories for biological research, seized a big role in Ukrainian industry and media, allowed American agribusiness to buy huge tracts of farmland, and proposed Ukraine joining NATO. Zelenskyy in turn ended all relations with Russia and suppressed all political opposition.
This was the background to the Russian intervention of February 2022. Putin gave three objectives for this action: to de-nazify Ukraine, to de-militarize Ukraine, and to stop the massacre of citizens in the Donbas.
When NATO met on March 24, 2022, Biden said that the conflict in Ukraine meant that there was going to be a “new world order” and “we must direct it.” Biden also said that Putin was a butcher. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: “Our special military operation is designed to put an end to the rash expansion and rash course toward the complete international domination by the United States and other western countries.”
The book’s argument that the imperial designs of the United States is important and incontestable. The other thrust of the argument–that the war symbolizes the decline of American power and a realignment of global forces–is equally important though more debatable. Jean-Pierre Page and other of the book’s contributors contend that the U.S. attempt to isolate Russia politically and weaken it economically is doomed to fail. In the first place, Russia is one of the most economically self-sufficient nations of the world. The Russian economy has rebounded from the Soviet collapse and privatization and represents one the world’s largest economies. Moreover, it is rich in natural resources — gas, oil, coal, gold, wheat, nickel, aluminum, uranium, neon, lumber among other things. The idea that economic sanctions, which have never proved an effective instrument of international policy (witness the Cuban blockade), are going to force Russia to relent in the face of NATO expansion, which it sees as an existential threat, is simply delusional.
Furthermore, the expectation that the rest of the world would go along with the unilateral economic sanctions, which are illegal under the United Nations charter, has proven to be phantasmagorical. In spite of a tremendous campaign of cajoling, pressure, and threats, the United States has not managed to win the backing of any countries outside of Europe. The countries constituting BRICS–Brazil, India, China and South Africa have rejected sanctions, but so have such other large regional economies as Mexico, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia, Algeria and Egypt. The resistance to U.S. sanctions is part of a larger resistance to the domination of American neoliberal policies and the U.S. dollar. More and more countries have agreed to buy oil and other commodities with rubles, yuans and gold in place of the once mighty dollar. In the words quoted by of one of the book’s contributors, Tamara Kunanayakam, the resistance to sanctions is the sign or a new more fragmented global order in which states are avoiding the geopolitical objectives of the grand powers to pursue their own economic needs.
For all of its merits, the book is not without limitations. For all its strengths in exposing the imperialist ambitions and machinations of the U.S., the book ignores the fact that Russia also has its monopoly capitalists with designs on expanding to Ukraine and elsewhere, and Russia, too, is also part of the imperialist stage of world history. For a book looking at Russia “without blinders,” the authors are strangely blind to Russian imperialism. Lenin argued that is not just a policy but a stage in the development of capitalism dominated by monopolies and finance. As Andrew Murray has pointed out (Communist Review Autumn 2022), Russia ticks off many of the boxes of Lenin’s description of imperialism. It present “an astonishing degree of economic monopolization” with 22 oligarchic groups accounting for 42 percent of employment and 39 percent of sales. In finance, Sberbank provides banking for 70 percent of Russians, controls a third of all bank assets, and operates in twenty-two countries. Moreover, Russia has repeatedly used military interventions in Chechnya, Kazakhstan and other former Soviet republics as well as in Syria and (with the mercenary Wagner Group) west Africa. Simply put, in Murray’s words Russia “is an imperialist power.”
At the Ideological Seminar in Caracas, Venezuela, in the fall of 2022, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) put forward a similar analysis (see MLToday.com, November 6, 2022): “Recently, in the face of developments and especially the imperialist war in Ukraine, other CPs have focused only on the obvious responsibilities of the US, the EU, and NATO, which has been advancing and encircling Russia for years. In fact, this was combined with the approach that Russia is a capitalist but not an imperialist power. This approach is detached from the fact that imperialism is not just an aggressive policy but capitalism in its modern stage, the monopoly stage. Today, large monopolies prevail in the entire world and in Russia. The plans of NATO, the US, and the EU in the past 30 years have clearly been a powder keg for this conflict, but when did this powder keg begin filling up? Did it not begin with the overthrow of socialism, the dissolution of the USSR —in fact through a coup d’état— against the will of the majority of its peoples? Wasn’t it then when factories, mines, oil, natural gas, precious metals, and labour power became a commodity once again? Wasn’t it then when, after 7 decades of socialist construction, all of the above became once again a bone of contention for the capitalists, for the big monopoly enterprises?”
If the authors of this volume are still wearing blinders with regard to Russia, some are also wearing rose tinted lenses with respect to the emergence of a “fragmented global order” or a “multipolar world.” Of course, the authors are right to point out the decline of American influence as represented by resistance to American sanctions against Russia and the domination of the American dollar and influence. Nevertheless, without actually saying so, some of the authors suggest that this shift in the global balance of forces represents something new and fundamental, and that it might provide a check on imperial expansion and imperial wars. Whether the authors really believe this and whether this idea has any validity remains to be seen, but it is helpful to recall the ideas of Lenin.
In 1916 Lenin wrote his classic analysis of imperialism, Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism. Lenin distinguished his view of imperialism from the leading competing view, that of the social-democrat Karl Kautsky. On the surface both Lenin and Kautsky had similar views of imperialism. They both recognized the development of monopoly capital and finance capital, and saw it leading to expansion, exploitation and war. For Lenin, however, imperialism was a stage, the latest stage, of capitalist development, the stage of monopoly capital that succeeded competitive capital. For Kautsky, imperialism represented a policy adopted by the monopolists. The implications of these different points of view were monumental. For Lenin, only revolutionary struggle against monopoly capital could end imperialism and end imperialist wars. Kautsky, however, thought it was possible to replace imperialist policies by other pacifist policies. Kautsky insisted that it was possible to imagine a new stage of economic development, “ultra-imperialism,” where the world would be divided up among a few great monopolies among whom peace would be possible. The First World War and the Second World War effectively swept Kautsky’s ideas about ultra-imperialism and a pacific imperialist world into the dustbin. Kautsky is barely known let alone read today.
I would suggest that some of Kautsky’s ideas have been picked up or reinvented by contemporaries. The idea of an emerging new stage of multipolarity resembles Kautsky’s stage of super-imperialism. Some of those enamored by the emergence of multipolarity think that it represents a fundamental change in the global balance of forces and seem to think it can countervail the imperialist drive for expansion and war and thus provide a basis for peace within the framework of imperialism. Two of the writers of this volume even say that the time is coming when an alliance of Russia, China, India, Latin America and the Arab world can “prevent” the financial oligarchs of the world from “launching the third world war.” The problem is that such thinking, however beguiling, avoids a tough-minded understanding of the fundamental nature of imperialism rooted in capitalism’s insatiable drive for profit, exploitation, and expansion. It may not be necessary for worldwide socialist revolution in order to stop any particular imperialist conflict, but under the imperialist stage of capitalism war is omnipresent and unavoidable. This understanding imperialism provides a better basis for struggle against it than social democratic illusions about the efficacy of multipolarity. Let’s hope that it will not take another world war to banish these illusions.
Late on Christmas Eve 1914, during World War I, British soldiers heard German troops in the trenches opposite them singing carols and saw lanterns and small fir trees along their trenches. Messages began to be shouted between the two sides. The following day, on Christmas, British and German soldiers met in ‘no man’s land’ and exchanged gifts, took photographs, and played impromptu games of football. They also buried casualties and repaired trenches and dugouts. After the short truce, fighting unfortunately carried on. Today, U.S. faith and peace leaders are calling for a Christmas ceasefire in Ukraine and demanding negotiations to end the war. | Imperial War Museum
Activists and faith leaders in the United States are calling for an immediate Christmas season truce, a ceasefire, and talks to end the Ukraine-Russia conflict. They issued their call in the wake of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to the Congress on Wednesday.
Zelensky called for continued flows of U.S. arms into his country to fight the Russians and promised that the weapons would be put to use. “We are alive and kicking and will never surrender,” he declared. He said that U.S. military aid to Ukraine was not charity but an investment in security for the future.
At a meeting with Zelensky just prior to the Capitol speech, President Joe Biden vowed to back Ukraine with arms “for as long as it takes.” He also pledged to send new Patriot missiles, the most advanced in the U.S. military arsenal, to Ukraine.
This was coupled with approval in the Senate on Thursday of an unprecedented $850-billion military budget, swollen to historic levels by billions more for the Ukraine war and multi-billion-dollar guarantees to the U.S. armaments makers that if any decision they make to increase armament production causes them to lose money, the U.S. treasury will jump in with “socialism for the rich” and cover their losses.
Completely under the radar is this week’s call by more than 1,000 faith leaders demanding the Christmas season truce in Ukraine. Almost all of those leaders have, since the war began, strongly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting death and suffering of the Ukrainian people. They are also concerned, however, about U.S. culpability in the war and the refusal thus far in Washington to push for a ceasefire and negotiations to end the fighting.
Led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Bishop William Barber, who leads the Poor People’s Campaign, they recalled the Christmas truce in 1914 during the First World War. They declared: “We urge our government to take a leadership role in bringing the war in Ukraine to an end through supporting calls for a ceasefire and negotiated settlement, before the conflict results in a nuclear war that could devastate the world’s ecosystems and annihilate all of God’s creation.”
Co-founder of Code Pink Medea Benjamin, one of the signers, said: “There is nothing glorious about the Ukraine war. It is a lose-lose for everyone except weapons makers. Zelensky should be calling for peace. So should Putin. And Biden. And everyone else. #ChristmasTruceNow.”
Benjamin said the war “must move from the battlefield to the negotiating table—no more dollars for war! Peace talks instead!” Supplies of more advanced weaponry would “only bring us closer to a direct war with Russia…and nuclear armageddon,” she added.
Zelensky essentially told the Congress this week, however, that no peace would be possible and no ceasefire was possible until Russia pulls out of Ukraine altogether. He said he has a 10-point peace plan that he discussed with Biden but gave no details. Biden has also not disclosed any specifics of the supposed plan.
A Biden administration spokesperson, retired Admiral John Kirby, said on MSNBC that the Zelensky plan was “not really a peace plan but rather a framework within which discussion between Ukraine and the U.S. can be held.”
The huge military budget is causing enormous problems in the U.S. already. First is the obvious diversion of funds away from programs to address social needs. In addition, existing critical funds are under threat. The trillion-dollar omnibus bill approved in the Senate this week does not specify what part of it can be used to provide more than $1.7 billion needed, for example, to keep Medicaid benefits flowing to those in need.
Federal money for states that have opted into Obamacare could be endangered if there are not adequate funds allocated for that in the federal budget. Millions who rely on these benefits could be harmed.
The conflict is increasingly looks like the proxy war between the U.S. and Russia that many peace activists say it is. They have been saying that Ukraine is caught in the middle of a long-term battle that the U.S. is waging against Russia.
While the U.S. announced billions in new weapons for the Ukraine war this week, Russia responded by announcing plans on Wednesday to increase the size of its army from one million to 1.5 million members, and government officials rolled out plans to create entirely new, “better trained” units.
Meanwhile, NATO which is under the control of Washington, continues its plans to expand—an expansion that is seen as a major cause of the war in the first place. Two countries are slated to soon become new members.
Russia’s Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, said his country needed to safeguard its security because of those NATO plans, which involve the incorporation of Finland and Sweden into the alliance.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov also responded this week to U.S. plans for sending more weapons into the conflict. He declared that the move would not “bode well” for Ukraine, as Russian bombardments continued to pound the country’s energy infrastructure.
This news analysis published here reflects the views of the authors.
John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and ’80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.
C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.
Ukraine is only one front in an all-round confrontation
The far-reaching war in Ukraine is only one phase of a world-wide conflict that began earlier. In international relations, the driving forces are often obscured by surface occurrences, such as immediate military events and the din of apologetic or denunciatory rhetoric. What is at stake in Ukraine is not Ukraine: it is the future of globalized, neoliberal, financialized, US-ruled capitalism, the model that has been in place since the 1980s. While the parties gear up for the next stage of the fighting, while moronic propaganda continues unabated, even as public attention has dwindled, it is important to get to the root causes.
Hierarchical global economy
Globalization was the expedient found as a way out of the impasse faced by the Western economy following the exhaustion of the postwar economic boom. Capitalism was restructured and its territorial base broadened. As productive activities became less profitable, they were relocated to the “developing” world. The West reserved for itself the command functions, military industries, high technology and the more profitable sectors of finance and services.
Neoliberal globalism is hierarchical. At the top, the United States rules the system, uses the dollar to drain the world’s resources for its own benefit, and retains the key role of military arm of the whole structure. At the second rung, Europe, Japan and Canada reproduce the US formula and are progressively deindustrialized, financialized and service-sector oriented, while their foreign and military policies are integrated into those of the United States. At the bottom of the ladder, the rest of the world, more than 80 percent of humanity, is expected to produce industrial goods and raw materials in subcontracting economies.
The elites of the second-tier countries are in a subordinate position and are expected to bite the bullet in disputes with the US, but they are nonetheless beneficiaries of globalized capitalism, and thus are self-interestedly loyal to the US leader, no matter what the cost to their people and to their countries’ independence. Under the effect of Americanization they tend to merge with their American counterparts. As for the elites of the lowest-ranking countries, their share in globalization is, with individual exceptions, the smallest, and their countries’ room for maneuver the most limited.
The tribulations of American-centric globalism
They are of two kinds, one economic, the other political. Hailed at the outset as a guarantee of limitless and endless prosperity, financialized neoliberal globalization revealed its nature as a casino economy in crises and bubble bursts with international repercussions, notably in 1987, 1994, 1997 and 2008. Moreover, as was to be expected, the economies that produce material goods did not take kindly to their subordinate status to the rentier economies at the top of the pyramid. Their interests were translated politically in a desire for autonomy expressed through their states.
But globalization requires the compliance of states, their openness to external intervention and the loss of whole components of their sovereignty. The unipolar world knows only the state of the American hegemon, the others being only local extensions. It is monolithic and cannot tolerate autonomous tendencies, let alone withdrawals or disconnections, the risk being that a successful case set an example and led to a chain reaction of imitations.
Herein lies the motive of regime change operations in Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen over the last 30 years: to destroy states so as to dislocate societies and set back economies in order to remove the means of possible autonomy.
Russia and China
The same method is being applied to Russia and China, with military pressure by means of Ukraine and Taiwan, economic threats, media campaigns and attempts at regime change. The strengthening of these two countries coincides with the relative weakening of the US, so much so that their submission becomes a precondition for continued US hegemony. Failure would expose American-centric globalism to eventual unraveling. Without disguise, Biden’s National Security Strategy, made public in October 2022, sets the sequence: put down Russia, then do the same to China.
Bleeding Russia white and inducing it to crumble is the proclaimed policy of the US. The objective is destabilization and internal collapse. This amounts to posing an existential threat to the Russian state and to Russia as a country, a situation explicitly provided for in its doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons. A Third World War looms as the outcome of this strategy.
In the event that nuclear war is avoided, an American success against Russia would prolong US hegemony and weaken China, itself destined for the same treatment. A breakup of Russia would represent the worst calamity in that country’s history, already strewn with disasters overcome at great cost. The Yeltsin years would look blessed by comparison. On the sidelines, disoriented and adrift, Europe will have its hands full rescuing its economy jeopardized by anti-Russian sanctions. It would be an understatement to qualify these stakes as enormous.
The conflict between the US and Russia is fought out in Ukraine but its scope is much wider. Can US-defined globalization continue? Can another form of globalization replace it? Can globalization be non-hierarchical? At the same time, Ukraine is only one front in an all-round confrontation pitting a dominant power, the US, and two other powers standing in its way, Russia and China. In Taiwan, a similar scenario is taking shape. Moreover, Ukraine and Taiwan are not the sole bones of contention between Washington, Moscow and Beijing. There are and will be others as Russia and China close the gap with the US and the latter strives to enlarge it by all means available, including force.
Samir Saul is a professor of history at the University of Montreal. Michel Seymour is a retired professor at the same university.
A different version of this article first appeared in Le Devoir.
The only way Ukrainians will see anything approximating a holiday season is if a ceasefire can be arranged by New Year’s Day, and it just might happen, regardless of President Volodomyr Zelenskiy’s repeated assertions that there will be no negotiations with Russia until it withdraws all its troops from all occupied territories, including Crimea. There are several reasons for the possible ceasefire.
First, the Russian hammer is about to fall on Ukraine. The gloves are coming off; electric energy stations, bridges, and even ‘decision centers’ such as central Kiev’s government buildings are being targeted. Russia is one or two more massive bombing attacks on Ukraine’s energy and transport infrastructure from permanently disabling Ukraine’s electricity, water, and railroad systems. With ‘only’ 50 percent of Ukrainian electricity infrastructure knocked out by the first three widespread bombings of electricity grid components, demonstrations are already breaking out in Odessa and other places over the deteriorating humanitarian situation, with Zelenskiy sending the Ukrainian KGB, the SBU, in to break up the protests and banning coverage in media. The Office of the President was reportedly recently informed by technicians that the electricity system has entered the stage of ‘arbitrary and uncontrolled imbalance,” and one official has urged Ukrainians to be prepared to leave the country in winter. What will the sociopolitical situation be like when these critical infrastructures are in complete collapse and temperatures are 20 degrees colder? Russia will be moving closer to the strategy of ‘shock and awe’, fully destroying all infrastructure—military or otherwise—as the U.S. did in Serbia and Iraq and will likely take less care now to avoid civilian casualties.
After the infrastructures are completely destroyed or incapacitated, Russia’s reinforcements of 380,000 regular and newly mobilized troops will have been fully added into Russia’s forces across southeastern Ukraine. Even without these reinforcements, Russian forces continue to make small gains in Donbass around Ugledar, Bakhmut (Artemevsk), as withdrawals from and stabilization of the fronts in Kharkiv and Kherson have led to a redeployment and thus concentration of forces in Zaporozhe, Donetsk, and Luhansk. A winter offensive by some half a million troops will make substantial gains on those three fronts and multiply Ukrainian losses in personnel and materiel`, which are already high. This could lead easily to a collapse of Ukrainian forces on one or more front. On the backs of such a success Russian President Putin might also make another attempt to threaten Kiev by moving a much larger force in from Belarus than the small 30-40,000 force that advanced and then withdrew from Kiev’s surrounding districts in the first months of the war.
Second, the West is suffering from Ukraine fatigue. NATO countries’ arms supplies have been depleted beyond what is tolerable, and social cohesion is collapsing in the face of double-digit inflation and economic recession. All this makes Russia the winner on the strategic level and is forcing Washington and Brussels to seek at least a breathing spell by way of a ceasefire. This is evidenced by the plethora of Western leaders calling on Zelenskiy to resume talks with Putin and the emergence of the ‘Sullivan plan’. Most recently, rumors have it that new British PM Rishi Sunak used a package of military and financial aide he announced during his recent trip to Kiev to cover up his message to Zelenskiy that London could no longer bear the burden of leading the European support for Kiev and that Kiev should reengage wirh Moscow. There has been a several day delay in the fourth round of rocket sorties against Ukrainian infrastructure, suggesting Putin is waiting to to see if Zelenskiy will cave and offer talks before unleashing the major assaults on Ukrainian infrastructure and the Russian winter offensive.
Third, Ukraine’s greatest political asset—Zelenskiy himself—just got devalued, putting at even greater risk Ukraine’s political stability. The Ukrainian air defense strike on Poland (accidental or intentional) and the Ukrainian president’s insistence that it was a Russian air strike, despite the evidence and nearly unanimous opposing opinion among his Western backers, has hit Zelenskiy’s credulity hard. Zelenskiy’s insistence on the Russian origins of the missile and technical aspects of Ukrainian air defense suggests that the event may have been an intentional Ukrainian false flag strike on Polish/NATO territory designed to provoke NATO or Poland into entering the war. Some in the West are beginning to wake up to the dangers of Ukrainian ultranationalism and neofascism, not to mention the growing megalomania of Zelenskiy, who has appeared on ore than one occasion to be willing to risk the advent of a global nuclear winter in order to avoid sitting at the negotiating table across from Putin. Some may now come to understand that claims that Putin wants to seize all Ukraine and restore the USSR if not conquer Europe are yarns spun by Kiev to attract military and financial assistance and ultimately draw NATO forces into the war. There remains a danger that Kiev’s dream of a NATO intervention might come to fruition is the following temptation. NATO has declared that a defeat of Ukraine in the war is a defeat for NATO, and NATO cannot be allowed to lose a war to a Russia because that would accelerate the coming of the end to U.S. hegemony. It cannot be excluded and may even be likely that should Kiev appear to be losing the war that Polish forces, NATO or some ‘coalition of the willing’ will move military forces into western Ukraine up to the Dnepr but do so without attacking Russian forces. This would force Russia to cease much of its military activity or risk attacking NATO forces and a larger European-wide war. This or something like it is probably already being considered in Washington.
For now, in order to keep the West on board, Zelenskiy is rumored to be pushing Ukrainian armed forces commander Viktor Zalyuzhniy to start a last pre-winter offensive in northern Donetsk (Svatovo and Severodonetsk) or Zaporozhe in order to put a stop to the West’s ceasefire murmurs and reboost support. At the same time there is talk of continuing Zelenskiy-Zalyuzhniy tensions over the latter’s good press and star status in the West. Tensions first emerged over disagreements of previous offensives and Zalyuzhniy’s earlier entry on the Western media stage. On the background of the deteriorating battlefield and international strategic situation, such civil-military tensions are fraught with the potential for a coup. Much of Zelenskiy’s strategy and tactics is driven more by political than by military considerations. Not least among the former is Zelenskiy’s political survival, which any ceasefire or peace talks requiring Kiev to acquiesce in the loss of more territory certainly will doom. Neofascist, military, and much of public opinion will not brook the sacrifices made in blood and treasure bringing only additional ones in Ukrainian territory. Others will ask why was not all of this averted by way of agreeing to Ukrainian neutrality and fulfilling Minsk 2 could have avoided it all.
We may be reaching the watershed moment in the Ukrainian war. No electricity, no army, no society. But here, as with any Russian occupation of central or western Ukrainian lands (not planned but perhaps a necessity at some point down the road for Putin), a quagmire awaits the Kremlin. Russia can not allow complete societal breakdown and chaos to reign in Ukraine anymore than it could tolerate a NATO-member Ukraine with a large neofascist component next door. All of the above and the approaching presidential elections scheduled in Moscow, Kiev and Washington the year after next make this winter pivotal for all the war’s main parties.
On November 19, 300 activists, organizers, and working people gathered in New York City to listen to seven anti-war leaders speak out against U.S. and NATO involvement in the war in Ukraine. The event hosted at the Peoples Forum was titled “The Real Path to Peace in Ukraine,” and featured philosopher Noam Chomsky, historian Vijay Prashad, People’s Forum executive directors Manolo De Los Santos and Claudia De La Cruz, Brian Becker of the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition, Eugene Puryear of Breakthrough News, former U.S. presidential candidate for the Green Party, Jill Stein, and CODEPINK .
In Saturday’s event, speakers specifically underlined the need for negotiations to end the war in Ukraine and not escalation of violent conflict. Many pointed out that this war, like many before it, works directly against the interests of working people across the globe. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has sent over $80 billion to Ukraine in military and non-military aid.
Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, highlighted:
People who are working for things like healthcare for all in the United States, a free college education, all of those people have to recognize that as we are going to spend over $100 billion in less than a year on this war, we must make people understand that that money could be going for needs at home.
Despite this, voters in both the Democratic and Republican parties overwhelminglysupport sending weapons to Ukraine. However, a majority in the U.S. is becoming concerned with the growing possibility of direct confrontation between two nuclear powers.
Who benefits from this war?
In the very outset of the war, the stocks of the top war manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin skyrocketed. An October 2 headline in Barron’s read,
Russia’s War on Ukraine Is Escalating. It’s Time to Buy Defense Stocks.
“We see very clearly that the only group of people who benefit from this war—the only people who benefit from there not being peace negotiations—are the elites in Washington,” said De Los Santos.
We will not allow them to sacrifice the planet for their new war of greed!
De La Cruz highlighted that the people of the U.S. have a responsibility to stand against the war as it is their tax money that is funding the war. “We have a responsibility to say, shut down NATO, shut down AFRICOM, and shut down every instrument of war that [the U.S. has] across the globe,” said De La Cruz.
Not in our name!
The struggle for peace
While De La Cruz focused on collective responsibility in winning peace, others highlighted the enormous power that average working people have in ending the war. Stein quoted author Alice Walker when she said, “the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Eugene Puryear, who brought up the rich history of fightback against slavery, said “People power has defeated every terrible institution that you can imagine.”
ANSWER Coalition director Brian Becker touched upon the historic role of the U.S. anti-war movement during struggles in the cases of past wars, such as Vietnam.
“Whenever people have organized and fought for and mobilized for peace, they draw the wrath of the warmakers,” Becker said.
It doesn’t matter if their slogans are soft or mild, whether they talk about negotiations or overturning capitalism, just mobilizing the people against war is a great danger to the warmakers, because if the people finally say no to war, the wars end. The ruling class can’t do the wars without the people.
Between escalation and negotiation
The specter of nuclear war also hangs in the horizon as two nuclear superpowers inch closer and closer to direct conflict. This is especially true considering that when a missile hit Poland on November 15, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky immediately jumped to blame Russia. “Hitting NATO territory with missiles…This is a Russian missile attack on collective security! This is a really significant escalation. Action is needed,” Zelensky urged on the same day. This was a potentially catastrophic language, as Article 5 of NATO states that “an armed attack against one or more of [the members] in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.” Zelensky was advocating for a war between nuclear powers. The next day the truth came out: the missile was launched by accident by Ukrainian forces.
Despite the possibility of a world-ending nuclear war, NATO and the U.S. steadfastly refuse to move towards peace. “The central matter is the ghastly gamble,” said Chomsky.
The willingness to gamble that Russia will accept defeat and not react in the manner of the Western warrior states.
“The international committee of the Red Cross said that there would be a catastrophic humanitarian crisis from even a limited nuclear war, whatever that is,” said Eugene Puryear.
Nuclear winter. Crops destroyed. Water poisoned…talk about sowing salt in the soil, this is a million times worse than that.
Puryear drew attention to the often neglected consequences of the war: the calamitous impact on the Global South and among oppressed populations in the Global North. “From Sudan, to Sri Lanka, to São Paulo, to South Carolina, to the South Bronx, working class people and poor people on every corner of the globe are suffering from a massive cost of living crisis,” Puryear said, referring to the myriad crisis around the world, exacerbated by limited imports from Ukraine and sanctions on Russia.
“When do we have the right to speak?” Puryear asked.
Can the people in the Congo speak? How come no one is even talking about the Congo right now? War going on there. War has been going on for multiple decades. Maybe as many as ten million people have died. That never really makes the front page.
Historian and Tricontinental Institute director Vijay Prashad closed out the panel with a powerful statement: “No war but class war.” Prashad also called for the abolition of NATO and the CIA. “What has the CIA done that’s ever been good?” asked Prashad.
One of the reasons you need to build a massive peace movement, not only in the United States, but in all the Western warrior states, including Canada…it’s because you have to join the global movement. The mood is changing, friends. People are not interested in this anymore.
Peoples Dispatch, formerly The Dawn News, is an international media organization with the mission of bringing to you voices from people’s movements and organizations across the globe. Since its establishment three years ago, it has sought to ensure that the coverage of news from around the world is not restricted to the rhetoric of politicians and the fortunes of big companies but encompasses the richness and diversity of mobilizations from around the world. Peoples Dispatch also seeks to bring to you breaking news from a perspective widely different from that of the mainstream media. We invite people’s movements and political organizations everywhere to send us information and news from their countries. The information can be in Spanish, Portuguese, English or Hindi.
In a new 25-minute live broadcast devoted to the war, Iran’s Press TV showcases key issues from this week’s developments on the front lines, including the latest bombardments of the Zaporozhie nuclear power station and the missiles which fell on Polish territory, threatening to bring in NATO as full co-belligerents. The panelists were asked to comment on likely ‘end game’ scenarios for this war.
As we know, mainstream Western media is rock-solid in its predictions of ultimate Ukrainian victory, with the Russian evacuations of Kharkov and Kherson as their leading arguments. In the alternative media, opinion is divided over whether there will indeed be a new Russian offensive in coming weeks when the 220,000 recently mobilized reservists still in training are ready for action or whether the U.S. administration will push Zelensky into negotiations with the Russians that temporarily or even permanently put an end to the fighting.
A lot of attention is directed in world media to the resistance of Zelensky to entering into negotiations. That is explored as well on this Iran TV program. However, an issue which is not addressed there is the willingness and even the ability of the Russian President to enter into negotiations.
Ever since the October mobilization of reservists, the military operation in Ukraine has de facto become the war of a nation in arms about which everyone in Russia now has an opinion. The fact is that Russian society from top to bottom is very unhappy with the present state of the war—but their discontent is with what they see as the pusillanimity of their own government in not responding more resolutely to Ukrainian provocations in the form of continuing artillery strikes on the Kursk and Belgorod regions from the Kharkov oblast just across the border or through atrocities such as the just released video of the cold-blooded murder of Russian prisoners of war by gleeful Ukrainian soldiers. The withdrawal from the city of Kherson inflamed the passions of the Russian public who demand better explanations in their parliament and on their television than they have received so far.
The pressure on Mr. Putin is from his own patriotic supporters, and an untimely truce for negotiations right now could lead to civil disorder in Russia. This is not idle speculation: it was perfectly clear from the latest edition of yesterday’s talk show Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov in which a deputy speaker of the Duma from the ruling party United Russia and a Duma committee chairman from the Communists took an active part, meaning that the nation’s elites are moving with the popular current against Defense Minister Shoigu if not against those still higher in the Kremlin. Meanwhile, discredited Russian Liberalism is taking down with it the commitment to free markets for the sake of more effective war production. There is serious talk of reintroducing Five Year Plans. And the recent official approval of plans to proceed with traditional celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s in Russian cities was denounced as inappropriate for a country at war in an existential struggle with NATO.
We may conclude that the Special Military Operation is indeed a watershed in Russian domestic politics.
Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. He chose this third career of ‘public intellectual’ after finishing up a 25 year career as corporate executive and outside consultant to multinational corporations doing business in Russia and Eastern Europe which culminated in the position of Managing Director, Russia during the years 1995-2000. He is presently publishing his memoirs of his 25 years of doing business in and around the Soviet Union/Russia, 1975 – 2000. Memoirs of a Russianist, Volume I: From the Ground Up was published on 10 November 2020. Volume II: Russia in the Roaring 1990s will go to press in two months.