The war in Ukraine, military escalation and NATO

For NATO the war in Ukraine meant a revival in its fortunes. It meant a return to the Cold War. All thanks to the Putin regime’s invasion of Ukraine. In fact, Emmanuel Macron, President of France, described NATO as ‘brain dead’ in 2019.

Above all, it is the USA that most profits from the war. NATO has renewed itself and re-united under American tutelage. Many countries in Europe have announced their determination to increase military spending and to buy arms from America. This was always one of the hidden functions of NATO.  The defence budget of the USA stands at a staggering $800 million a year.

In addition, the USA is looking for markets for its gas, wheat and maize, ready to supply it to countries previously reliant on Russia or the Ukraine. This has now been facilitated by economic sanctions on Russia.

The United States wants western European countries to share the burden of military expenditure. They already have 70,000 troops on the European continent, which are ready to be raised to 100,000 if the situation in Ukraine worsens. There is a common command between the American forces and NATO, with an American general at the top, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). This is currently General Christopher G. Cavoli. The Americans have medium range nuclear weapons stored in Germany under American control.

NATO increased its rapid reaction troops from 40,000 to 300,000 in June 2022. This was justified by NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg as Russia ‘poses a direct threat to our security, to our values, to the rules-based international order’.

Combat units based in the countries nearest to Russia, especially the Baltic states, have been boosted, with thousands of troops on standby further west. NATO has reinforced its eight international battalions, from the Baltic states to Romania. France, as part of NATO, has taken responsibility for ‘enhanced forward presence’ in Romania, with a Franco-Belgian battalion with armoured vehicles. Romania is now seen by the French state as a new theatre of operations. Incidentally, the journalists of the Disclose group have shown that France is selling arms to both sides in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

It is now no longer easy to talk about reductions in defence budgets, nor for total or partial withdrawal from NATO, nor to criticise the arms industries. France, previously aloof from NATO under De Gaulle, is now an active partner within NATO. Germany has poured a staggering 100 billion euros into its defence budget and could end up with the biggest army in western Europe. Historically neutral countries like Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Ireland and Austria are now vocally taking sides.

NATO is now supplying Ukraine with armaments, going from missile launchers and drones to tanks and armoured cars in an increasing escalation. Neither Russia nor NATO are willing to give way and this threatens further escalation.

Countries in the South are more sceptical about the conflict, seeing a failure to put the wars in Yemen and Tigre on the same footing as the war in Ukraine. India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey and Indonesia are among the most sceptical.

In Western Europe and the USA, public opinion is being shaped by an unrelenting barrage of propaganda in the media in order to create an acceptance of military escalation. King Charles has been wheeled out on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion to reinforce the message of Sunak and co.

The USA and NATO want to bring about regime change in Russia through increasing economic sanctions, in tandem with a proxy war with Russia in the Ukraine, as a result of which both the Ukrainian and Russian working classes are the main casualties. Ukraine will be supplied with just enough military equipment not to lose the war.

The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his leading aide, Andriy Yermak, have pledged that all territory taken by Russia must be retaken. This includes Crimea and Donbas. The USA knows full well that this is beyond the capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces. The USA and its allies do not want to be too deeply enmired in Ukraine, particularly given the unfavourable global economic situation. They are prepared to let Ukraine retake more territory, but then force it to go to the negotiating table with Russia.

The aim is to weaken Russia as much as possible, and to send out warnings to China, Russia’s equivocal ally. They do not want the conflict to drag on too long as this risks destabilising Europe. They need to concentrate on countering China, seen as the ascending super power and major contender of the USA. Already Biden has increased the number of US troops training Taiwanese forces.

However, US and NATO strategy in relation to Ukraine is extremely risky and the threat of World War Three has come a lot closer.

Nevertheless, US/NATO strategy has considerably weakened Russia, with as many as 60,000 Russian troops killed, 160,000 wounded and 2,000 tanks destroyed. 500,000 Russians have fled aboard to avoid fighting in the war. In addition, NATO has been revived, and Germany, France and Italy have been drawn ever more closely into NATO.

Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine has turned out to be a ghastly miscalculation.

In the UK, both the Tories and Starmer’s Labour are firmly in favour of supplying arms to Ukraine. On the left, war fever has split the Labour left, causing a rift within the Campaign group of Labour MPs. So called left Labour MPs like Clive Lewis and John McDonnell are calling for the arming of Ukraine, breaking with Jeremy Corbyn. Various Trotskyist groups are also following this line, like Anticapitalist Resistance and Alliance for Workers Liberty.

On the other hand, we have the British cheerleaders for the Putin regime like the Young Communist League, New Communist Party, the Workers Party led by George Galloway, and other nasty little Stalinist outfits.

Even among what passes for the anarchist movement in Britain, support for arming Ukraine is fairly widespread. Considering previous haemorrhaging of anarchists towards the Labour Party during the Corbyn frenzy, and the totally uncritical support for the Kurdish PKK, this is not surprising. But a publication like Freedom, which maintained an internationalist approach during two World Wars, is now an enthusiast for the arming of Ukraine. As is the Anarchist Federation, one of whose leading members ranted about “the mass betrayal of anti-authoritarian warfighters in Ukraine by the apologists for Russian imperial aggression, “revolutionary defeatists” and the pro-capitulation pacifists.”

As Alex Alder notes in his article British Anarchism Succumbs to War Fever “In supporting Ukraine, British anarchists have found themselves on the side of NATO, an imperialist military alliance that defends the interests of the core capitalist nations in Europe and North America. But rather than take this as an opportunity to repudiate NATO, acknowledging a mere coincidence of interests in this particular situation, anarchists in Britain have wavered in their opposition, sympathising with Western imperialism as a check on Russian imperialism.”

For us, it is not a question of taking sides, either with the heinous and kleptocratic regime in Russia or with the USA and its allies. We should encourage all actions against the arms industries, including support for Campaign Against the Arms Trade and protests at arms fairs, as well as boycotts, strikes and direct action against the arms industries. Anti-militarist propaganda must be supported and encouraged as should the No War but the Class War groups. We should support and publicise the actions of anti-militarists, war resisters, draft dodgers, conscientious objectors and deserters in the war zones, in both Russia and Ukraine. We should attempt to link the burgeoning class struggle in Britain to the struggles of the working class in Russia and Ukraine. We should not fall victim to the war fever, countering it with internationalism and the need to fight the enemy, the boss class, both globally and at home.