As Putin continues to be bogged down in Ukraine and Russian war crimes stack up, people are rightly applauding the resistance of the Ukrainian people. What is not being discussed, however, is how this war is no longer just a war of national defence against the Russian invasion, but that it has also become a proxy war between the United States and Russia. Kieran Allen looks at the staggering amounts of weaponry being sent by the Biden administration to Ukraine and explains the reasons behind this.
No one can doubt Putin’s crimes. He targeted cities in Syria to aid the dictator Assad and is now deploying the same tactics in Ukraine. His attacks on Mariupol have levelled the city and caused countless civilian deaths.
Against such a brutal invasion, Ukrainian people have every right to resist. And while Putin claims he is championing the right of Russian speakers, the harsh reality is that he is bombing these very people. His brutal war is creating a greater sense of a unified Ukrainian nation than ever before.
Putin’s war tactics are a symptom of the brutality that accompanies the latest phase of imperialism. The unevenness of the global economy encourages the big powers to seek advantages against each other through military might.
China and the US are already shaping up to each other by combining economic competition with greater military resources. The South China Sea, for example, is being militarized by both countries and both are dramatically increasing their military spending.
This type of imperialism arises directly from the nature of capitalism. Ruling elites who are terrified by economic losses seek to compensate with military advantages. The biggest corporations rally around their own states in the hope of new economic advantages after military victories.
Looked at from this vantage point, the war in the Ukraine is both a war of national defence against a Russian invasion and a proxy war between two imperial powers, the US and Russia. Those who seek to deny or minimise the latter aspect are blind to this reality.
Consider only the sheer scale of the US intervention in Ukraine. It cannot be construed as simply sending a few weapons to resistance fighters. The US has been involved in arms transfers and training of Ukrainian armed forces since 2014.
Since February 2022, it has sent $3.4 billion of weaponry. On March 16th, the White House produced a fact sheet on what it had supplied by that date. It included the following: 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems; 2,000 Javelin, 1,000 light anti-armour weapons, and 6,000 AT-4 anti-armour systems; 100 Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems; 100 grenade launchers, 5,000 rifles, 1,000 pistols, 400 machine guns, and 400 shotguns; over 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launcher and mortar rounds.
But that list was only the latest tranche it sent. In addition to the above, it had also previously sent over 600 Stinger anti-aircraft systems; 2,600 Javelin anti-armour systems; five Mi-17 helicopters; three patrol boats, four counter-artillery and counter-unmanned aerial system tracking radars; four counter-mortar radar systems; 200 grenade launchers and ammunition.
Then last Thursday Joe Biden announced yet another massive supply of weaponry. In a PR address to the American people and as a warning to Russia, he announced a further $800 package of weaponry. This time there were “dozens” of howitzers – a type of artillery that fires shells at targets on high trajectories – as well as 144,000 rounds of ammunition and tactical drones. He was also sending Stinger anti-aircraft systems, which were used to shoot down Soviet planes in Afghanistan. There were hundreds of Switch blade drones and “ghost drones” that “have been rapidly developed by the Air Force in response specifically to Ukrainian requirements”.
Biden said “We’re in a critical window now of time where they’re going to set the stage for the next phase of this war”. The use of the word “we” was significant. The US leader knows that his country is already in a proxy war with Russia. This is why it called in its main arms manufacturers last week to step up production of weaponry.
Behind the US military effort, there is a clear project of restoring US ‘leadership’ over Europe in days that are reminiscent of the Cold War. The main vehicle for asserting this leadership is NATO, and the US is working hard to push each country into showing a pledge of ‘loyalty’ by joining its war effort. Thus, a country like Czech Republic has sent T-72 tanks and BVP-1 infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine.
In Britain the Times reports that “Former British soldiers, marines and special forces commandos are also in Ukraine working as training contractors and volunteers, but the Ukrainian officers were adamant that their training this month was carried out by serving British soldiers.”
In addition, the US has taken charge in leading in the propaganda war. The Ukraine Crisis Media Centre, for example, is funded by the US Embassy and other NGOs. The central figure is Liubov Tsybulska, a graduate of the US State Department leadership programme who advises the Ukrainian foreign ministry and the general staff of its army.
None of this justifies what Putin has done. There is no ‘legitimate’ Russia security concern in Ukraine – just as there is no ‘legitimate’ US security concern in Cuba. We should reject entirely the carve up of our world between imperial powers who claim a divine right to spheres of influence.
But neither should we ignore the reality of what is happening Ukraine. Consider only this: Four million people died in bloody conflicts in Zaire and the mainstream media barely mentioned the conflict. Clearly, their reporting on the horrors of war is not motivated by purely humanitarian concerns.
Their double standards show that there is another consideration at play. They see this conflict as not just a defence against invasion but as a proxy war between the West and the Russia-China axis. They want us to cheer on ‘our side’ and give up on the tattered version of Irish neutrality.
We should not fall for their game.