Kieran Allen explains how the world is a much more dangerous place a year on from Russia’s illegal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.
In the days before the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Biden gathered the most-hard line Eastern European members of NATO and told them they were fighting for freedom and democracy. Co-incidentally, many of these countries were part of George Bush’s ‘coalition of the willing’ backing the brutal, illegal invasion of Iraq twenty years ago in March 2003.
Meanwhile, China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, travelled to Moscow to talk about how China and Russia will ‘enhance strategic coordination’ and will not ‘accept duress from any third party, a clear reference to the US.
Every country has a right to defend itself against foreign invasion and occupation. But this right applies as much to the Palestinians or the Yemenis as to the Ukrainians. On the same day that Biden was denouncing Putin’s invasion, Israel launched yet another raid on the West Bank, murdering ten people. Far from supplying Palestinians with weapons to resist, the US is one of the biggest funders of the Israeli army. The EU also provides significant supplies of arms to Israel.
The incident brings out in the starkest way the geopolitical realities that lie behind rhetoric about freedom. The defence of Ukraine’s national rights has been more and more subordinated to the geostrategic aims of the Western imperialist powers. According to the Kiel Institute, the US and EU have supplied nearly €130 billion in military, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. It has provided the most advanced weaponry to fight a proxy war. To put that figure in perspective, let’s note that Oxfam estimates that it would take €37 billion a year until 2030 to eliminate world hunger. The war aims of NATO’s proxy war could not be clearer. It is to weaken Russia and send a message to China that they will not be allowed to overtake Western capitalism.
The only debate in ruling circles in the West is about the scale of Russia’s potential defeat. The European Conservative and Reformist bloc in the European parliament think the aim must be the break up of the Russian Federation. They have declared that, “Taking into account the national and ethnic map of the territories of the Russian Federation, we should discuss the prospects for the creation of free and independent states in the post-Russian space”. Others take a more sanguine view suggesting that a long war will substantially degrade Russia military capacity.
Whatever the outcome, the war has been a disaster. Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has suggested that there have been 100,000 casualties on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides. Eight million people have become refugees. Food prices have increased. It has brought untold suffering while generals on either side fantasise about victories.
In the Western world, we have been subjected to wall to wall propaganda that makes two central claims about the war.
The first is that Russia is aggressive and is about to march through Europe to trample on democratic rights. This line of argument is orchestrated by the US, a country with an unsurpassed record when it comes to toppling both democratic and undemocratic regimes that opposed their interests. The notion that a weakened Russia, which has difficulty even holding parts of Ukraine, poses a threat to the rest of Europe is simply a scare story.
The second propaganda argument is this NATO is protecting our freedom and democracy. But NATO was founded with the participation of the Portuguese dictator, Salazar. It has included amongst its membership both the Greek and Turkish generals who staged coups against their governments. The US, which proclaims its leadership of the alliance, regards such freedom loving countries as Saudi Arabia as its partner.
Anyone who thinks this war is about freedom and democracy should look at the relationship between China and the United States. In the 1990s, the US and China defined themselves as ‘strategic partners’. Up to this point, the GDP of China represented just one eight of that of the US and appeared as a co-operative partner that accepted US hegemony. As long as China remained a weak competitor, the US was willing to see it as a ‘strategic partner’. But as the Chinese economy expanded at a dramatic rate this led to a change in rhetoric. According to estimates from the World Bank, the Chinese GDP was approximately 11% of the US in 1960, but in 2019 it is 67%. In response to this dramatic growth, the US shifted to a new rhetoric that defines China as a threat.
What we are witnessing is an old style clash of empires, dressed up in a political rhetoric about freedom versus authoritarianism. The only winner of this new Cold War is the arms industry. Shares in the arms industry have shot up by 30% in the last year. One analyst claimed that “2022 was the best year of defence stock over the last 40 years”.
It is high time that a neutral country like Ireland called for a halt to this madness. Let’s call for a ceasefire and negotiations.