Ukraine crisis nears cracking point: New NATO escalation?

January 2023 protest against U.S. proxy war in Ukraine, Times Square, New York City.

Recent gains by the Russian military on the battlefield in Ukraine have sharpened the possibility of a new escalation of U.S.-NATO aggression, designed to prevent a collapse of the dependent Kiev regime and continue the proxy war against Russia. Leading U.S. and European Union officials threaten to expand the war in Ukraine, urging rocket strikes inside Russian territory and even the use of NATO troops. 

With such aggressive military steps — impossible without U.S. approval — the Western officials risk a direct confrontation between NATO and the Russian military, both armed with nuclear weapons. They threaten a much wider conflagration, already a risk from the Israeli genocide in Gaza and the Pentagon’s moves to surround China with military bases in the Pacific.

That such steps are even discussed means that the economic and political problems of the U.S.-led imperialist system have reached an acute crisis stage. Only the intervention of the masses can prevent this crisis from leading to a calamity, as it did 110 years ago. Then two hostile imperialist alliances, each controlling empires that they built through plunder, laid waste to Europe in World War I.

Regarding Ukraine, the current pressures pushing toward escalation include: (1) failure of the U.S. State Department and CIA neocons to eliminate Russia as a geopolitical rival, their last major success being the 2013-14 Maidan coup in Kiev; (2) failure of U.S. and E.U. sanctions against Russia to isolate the Russian economy from countries in the Global South and especially from China;  (3) strong interest in ruling sectors of Western capitalism to continue the war in Ukraine; (4) ascendance of  E.U. politicians who adopt policies completely in line with Washington. 

Threats against Russia

The Ukraine war flowed from the 2014 Maidan coup that expelled an elected Ukrainian president, friendly to Russia, and replaced him with a president hostile to Moscow and allied with pro-fascist forces in Ukraine. This opened eight years of war that the Kiev regime waged against the ethnic Russian and anti-fascist populations in Ukraine’s Donbass region who had founded the Luhansk and Donetsk Peoples Republics in response to the coup. 

Along with the festering civil war in Ukraine, Russia was threatened by the continual expansion of NATO closer to its western and northern borders. With 16 members as 1999 began, NATO expanded to 30 by the end of 2021, some of them former Soviet republics or members of the Soviet Union-led Warsaw Pact. 

NATO has been holding annual military exercises, drawing ever closer to the Russian borders, while the U.S. puts air bases capable of strikes on Russian cities within a half-hour of their targets. These steps finally provoked Moscow to send its military into Ukraine in February 2022. 

Since then, Washington has used Russia’s intervention to line up European politicians behind its policies or to use those politicians who have always served U.S. interests, whatever their reason. French President Emmanuel Macron, E.U. President Ursula von der Leyen, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and British Chief of the Defense Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin provide a few examples. 

Baerbock (Green Party) pushes to send long-range missiles to Ukraine, those capable of striking inside Russia. Radakin told the April 25 Financial Times that attacks against civilian targets deep inside Russia must be intensified. Von der Leyen pushed for unwavering support for Ukraine against Russia. 

Macron has been speaking openly of sending forces “on the ground” from NATO countries to Ukraine. “If Russia were to win,” he said on prime-time TV on March 14, “we would no longer have security in Europe.” (politico.eu) The threats to send in NATO troops have continued. Now these pro-U.S. politicians all have a stake in preventing a defeat of the Kiev regime in Ukraine.

Capitalists profit from war

More important than the politicians are those in the imperialist ruling class who profit directly from the war and those who have invested in rebuilding Ukraine post-war. 

The military capitalists flourish as the war drags on. They will fight to the last Ukrainian, Russian or anyone else. The investors profit best if the Kiev regime exists when the war ends and if it can keep paying interest on its debt. The investment funds BlackRock and J. P. Morgan have approached these investors and taken their money. They will take what they can from Ukraine as collateral.

While the media reports describe the weapons for Ukraine as “aid,” Kiev must finance the war by incurring foreign debt, which as of the end of 2023 totaled $161.5 billion. There is a lot of money riding on that government continuing to exist and pay its debts.

Since elements of the imperialist ruling class are guided by these irrational drives for profit, there is no way to appeal to their reason. Everyone else, however, must take seriously the imperialist politicians’ reckless calls to put NATO troops on the ground or to fire rockets on Russian cities. The Russian government has said it takes them seriously and will counter them. 

Those who oppose imperialism must mobilize to stop the war in Ukraine from escalating. No other steps can stop it. 

John Catalinotto

John.Catalinotto@workers.org

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John Catalinotto

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