US War Aims

Following the recent blogsite post ‘We are not trying to help Ukraine but rather to fight Russia’, which focussed on an analysis of the military situation in Ukraine provided by Col. Jacques Baud, the following questions were posed by my friend Andrew, a supportive onthebrynker:

‘I ask myself whether the west’s seeming provocation of Russia to the point of precipitating war was deliberate, reckless, or incompetent. It’s hard to think that such carnage and devastation is in anybody’s interests but perhaps it is.

And why are “we” (the west) wanting to fight Russia as opposed to helping Ukraine? I suppose I half know the answer to that given that western governments are in hock to big money and all that goes with it. But I still find myself wondering why!’

Good questions, as ever, Andrew, and particularly apposite now that our mainstream media are beginning to acknowledge that The West, led by the US, seems to be involved in a proxy war with Russia.

Col. Baud does not make it clear whether he thinks the West’s handling of the situation is reckless, incompetent, or deliberate – although he seems to suggest that all three might be contributory factors. The more I read the more I conclude that it is essentially the latter – for if it were the former, efforts would surely have been made by now to find a negotiated way out of the conflict. No, sadly and worryingly, I think the provocation is deliberate. The West (or more specifically the US) wanted to draw Russia into a conflict that would weaken it economically and militarily and is prepared to allow untold devastation, misery and death in Ukraine to continue to this end.

Which brings us on to the ‘why’ question.

Again, our mainstream media provides an easy answer; because Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine and its subsequent indiscriminate slaughter of civilians and commission of war crimes must be countered. Russia must be defeated in Ukraine to ensure that other eastern European countries do not suffer the same fate and it must be punished for this unprovoked attack and the poor management and discipline of its military forces.

Except there is plenty of evidence to suggest that things are not as simple as that:

– Russia’s invasion was provoked in many ways: through the gradual eastward expansion of NATO and its missiles following the collapse of the Soviet Union; through the refusal of NATO to engage in discussions about security and arms limitation issues; through the destabilisation of Ukraine through the 2014 Maiden coup and the subsequent training and arming of neo fascist forces to bolster its army; through Ukraine’s eight year bombardment of the Donbass Region, resulting in the deaths of 10 – 14,000 Russian speaking people and a flood of 100,000 refuges into Russia and; the decision to mobilise and concentrate the bulk of the Ukranian army in the south of the country with the expressed intention of ‘retaking’ The Crimea.

– Russia’s military, although a substantial and well-equipped force, simply lacks the capacity to mount similar invasions of other eastern European countries and, like its US adversary, is wary of initiating a direct confrontation that would almost certainly lead to much, much worse things.

– Russia’s stated war aims do not include regime change in Ukraine or turning it into a satellite. They are focussed on negotiating the implementation of the Minsk agreements and for Ukraine neutrality. Russia wants to stop the attacks on Russian speaking people in the Donbass by neo fascist units, remove the threat of military incursion into The Crimea and for NATO missiles not to be deployed with a five-minute flight time to target.

– That the invasion has caused horrors for the Ukranian people is indisputable. Millions have been displaced, many thousands killed and injured, and atrocities committed against civilians. Given the difficulties of reporting in war situations and the undoubted bias of the media on both sides it is difficult to ascertain the true nature of what is going on and, given the internal repression exacted by neo fascist forces, who is precisely culpable for what. My view is that civilian casualties and atrocities are an inevitable consequence of war, through military necessity, miscalculation, and the brutalisation of individual combatants. Better to find a way to stop the war and stop the killing than use evidence of atrocities to fuel more outrage and hatred that legitimises pouring vast quantities of weaponry into Ukraine that result in even more death and destruction.

So why are ‘we’ so intent on fighting Russia?

Firstly, I think some clarification of the term ‘we’ is required. I, and I am sure many others in the West don’t want to fight Russia and many more would be equally appalled if the western propaganda machine was less successful in portraying Russia as the number one global threat to peace, prosperity and life as we in the West know it. I think we have to acknowledge that it is the elites in the West, the ones who hold and manipulate power who must see war with Russia as a good thing. More specifically I think it is the elites in the US who are the drivers, for as we will see, the elites of other NATO countries would appear to have little to gain and much to lose.

Putin told us what Russia’s war aims were on invading Ukraine. The US of course does not have ‘war aims’ because it is not at war …………..  just paying and arming others to do the fighting and imposing the sanctions on its behalf. The nearest we have to statements of aims comes from side remarks from senior US politicians; for there to be regime change and for Russia to be weakened militarily and economically.

So why is Russia such a threat to the US?

Capitalism relies on economic growth to maintain not only healthy economies but also the civil, cultural, and political structures (Marx’s ‘superstructure’) that maintain its working people and the continuance of the economic model itself (Marx’s ‘base’). The current US led imperialism is in crisis, with minimal / negative growth rates and rapidly increasing inequality. It is also now being challenged by other ‘capitalisms,’ notably Russia and most obviously China. US elites are feeling under ever mounting pressure to reassert its global dominance – by weakening / taking down its competitors.

Russia, although arguably the less of the two threats, is problematic to the US in three key ways:

(i) Its increasing economic and military links with China – with the potential to form a powerful anti US block (and one which could provide a focal point for other unaligned countries unhappy with an US dominated global economy).

(ii) Its military capability and threat. It has a large standing army and has been equipped with weapons that are reportedly currently superior to many of those of the US and NATO (both battlefield and strategic). It seems that the bloated money-making machine that is the US military / industrial complex has been developing and building weapons that are simply not up to scratch. It is interesting to see how this disparity is being reported in the West; on the one hand we are told how dangerous and threatening the Russian military is – and on the other, through incompetence and poor morale of its troops, that it is taking a severe beating at the hands of tiny Ukraine.

(iii) Its trade of raw materials (particularly energy) with the European Union – which has the potential to pull the latter economically away from the US sphere and seriously weaken US imperialism. The imposition of sanctions since the Maiden Coup in Ukraine in 2014 had restricted what was becoming a burgeoning economic relationship and those imposed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine have brought this to a juddering halt.

So, I think US elites have every incentive to ‘fight Russia’ and have set up Ukraine to be the trigger and focus of a conflict designed to weaken Russia (both economically and militarily) and to wrench EU allegiance firmly back to the US global economic order.

This analysis exposes the vulnerability of the EU as the proxy war in Ukraine is allowed to continue without any attempts being made to negotiate a ceasefire or broker a long-term solution.

Is it in the EU’s best interests (militarily or economically) to throw its hat back so emphatically into the US’s NATO ring? Russia offers a relatively cheap and reliable source of energy and sanctions designed to hurt Russia will also hurt the EU – particularly at a time of developing economic difficulties. My understanding is that should Russian gas exports to Germany (the economic powerhouse of the EU) be stopped (either through Western sanctions or through Russian retaliation) then the German economy would tank. History suggests how this might end – and at the very least I would think it would initiate the unravelling of the European project.

So once again we have to ask, ‘What is to be done?’ How can the devastation of large swathes of Ukraine, the killing, injuring and displacement of so many of its people be stopped and the threat to the livelihoods of so many in Russia and Europe be addressed?

onthebrynk sees little need to amend the proposal for a peace process suggested on 23.03.22:

1. The US government and NATO allies to engage The Kremlin in immediate talks to set out the conditions for a cease fire, the outline of a long-term peace settlement and the withdrawal of Russian forces. To include a commitment to Ukraine independence and neutrality, for no NATO forces and missiles to be stationed in the country and for the disbanding of neo fascist units. US to agree a programme of negotiations with Russia re International arms limitations and mutual security.

2. US & NATO to make clear to the Ukrainian government that no more military support will be provided, and that Russia will agree a planned withdrawal of its forces as part of a negotiated settlement.

3. US & NATO to encourage the Ukrainian government to progress talks with Russia about an immediate ceasefire and a longer-term framework for peace and the normalisation of relations.

4. The Ukraine government to agree to disband its neo fascist units and to return to the implementation of the Minsk agreements re a federal structure for the country.

5. The US, Russia and NATO countries to jointly agree a reparations package that would enable the Ukraine government (using local capacity not western contractors) to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and provide meaningful compensation for bereaved families.

While there seems currently scant evidence of any motivation in the West to take some responsibility for sorting out a catastrophe that it has been and is continuing to be a party too, I have noted a slow trickle of articles in our mainstream media that are beginning to ask what a negotiated peace might look like. Too slow to have much immediate effect and too slow for those currently being killed, maimed and displaced – but a small sign that peace may gradually become a goal that can be properly discussed in the West. Let’s hope that any such progress is not too slow for the people of Ukraine, or to stop economic mayhem across Russia and Europe – or to prevent a slide into a global nuclear war.

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We are not trying to help The Ukraine but rather to fight Russia

3 Comments

  1. This is first rate Bryan. I suggest though that you check your figures for the death count in the civil war in Donbass. You may have decupled them by adding a zero to the upper and lower counts. You have 100-140,000 whereas the figures I’ve seen, I think based on UN estimates, are 10-14,000.

    • Bryan

      Thank you Phil – and thank you for spotting the unwarranted growth of zeros. I was, in fact conflating two statistics; the number of deaths and the number of refugees driven into Russia since 2014. I have amended the post accordingly.

      Thank you also for posting the piece by Dimitrius Konstantakopoulos, which provides a comprehensive rationale for putting aside issues of culpability in seeking an urgent negotiation of a ceasefire and subsequent peace treaty in Ukraine.

      http://steelcityscribblings.uk/wp/2022/05/12/ukraine-the-global-south-must-act/

  2. Bryan

    Eleri, a much valued onthebrynkster, responded to this post with the following questions (and has given me permission to post them and my response as a comment on the blogsite):

    1) Are you saying that people in power in US talk to people in big business and say hey let’s get Russia to go to war so that it weakens and doesn’t threaten our markets and our EU links ? I’m interested how those ideas become such destructive policy.

    2) Also .. where is Russian agency in this ? Why does it fall for these US wiles ? Why doesn’t it just keep building trade and accord ?

    Well, these are 2 big questions! I’m not sure any reply from me can do them full justice – but I’ll have a go:

    Let’s start with the second one.

    Bearing in mind that I’m not an expert on Russia and that we have been starved of much information from a Russian perspective prior to and following the invasion (an only too familiar shameful consequence of war, even in a liberal democracy) it is obviously difficult to get into the Kremlin’s mindset – although Putin has consistently laid out Russia’s concerns and redlines over a period of nearly 20 years now.

    I don’t think Russia has fallen for US wiles. Up to about 10 years ago I sense that Russian foreign policy was focussed on positive engagement with both NATO and the EU, seeking reciprocal trade expansion and mutual security agreements (and even exploring joining these two clubs). I think that the Maiden coup in the Ukraine in 2014, backed and expedited by the US, brought home to the Kremlin that the US was simply not prepared play ball – and the subsequent sanctions and inpouring of military hardware and mercenaries over the following 8 years just confirmed this. The threat of NATO missiles being placed with a flight time to target of 5 minutes, the escalation of the conflict in the Donbass and the mobilisation of Ukraine forces in the south of the country with the stated intention of ‘retaking’ the Crimea brought all this to a head and precipitated the decision to invade.

    So, Russia’s attempts to increase trade and accord have been systematically rebuffed over a long period of time and then recently direct conflict and threat has been escalated to the point where Russia’s red lines have been crossed. Of course, Russia has agency – but every country operates within global power dynamics and in this case the power of the US, EU and the West vastly outweighs that of Russia. My conjecture is that the Kremlin felt (feels) that it has no choice, if it is to retain a degree of economic and political independence, but to physically stop the military encroachment of the West in Ukraine. I think the Kremlin will have factored in the increasing economic sanctions against it and felt that (i) these would have to be borne and (ii) they would have an equally devastating impact on the EU and the West in general (which I think we are soon to experience).

    I don’t know how to comment on the war. We are told that Russian forces are struggling but that it’s imperative that the West increases its arming of what seems to me to be as much the formation of neo nazi mercenary units as a popular resistance. I don’t trust the information that our mainstream media are providing us – particularly given the ban on Russian perspectives. I think it quite possible that things are not going smoothly for Russian forces (as Foch said ‘plans don’t survive the first contact with the enemy’) but equally possible that they are prepared for a lengthy conflict with many setbacks. Having started, I think it unlikely that Russia will be easily persuaded to stop the conflict – until its original security demands are met.

    Your first question is a bigster – one that would, I suspect, require a full cannon of political and economic theory to bottom. Nevertheless ……

    Firstly, I think it is important to identify who has power in the West – and I don’t think it’s the elected politicians (a conceit of ‘capitalist democracy’). Politicians can only operate within very narrow spaces allowed to them by those who own the majority of stuff and the means of production – call them ‘ruling elites’ or even a ‘ruling class’. The latter have the economic power as a class to shape public, political discourse (Marx – the dominant ideas in any epoch are always those of its ruling class) and to proscribe what is acceptable to be discussed and debated. This ‘Overton Window’ changes over time in response to variations in class dynamics – hence post WW2 when politicians of the centre left were able to push through welfare reforms that provided more support to workers at the expense of capital – which then changed through Nixon, Regan and Thatcher to a push for more minimalist state intervention (neo liberalism) as profit margins began to shrink following the end of the post war boom. The stagnation of economic growth and widening inequality in the West has precipitated fairly predictable demands to blame others for ‘unfair competition’ and underlined the go to goal for capitalism’s survival – expansion into new markets.

    So, I don’t think it’s a case of ‘people in power’ – for whom I take you to mean politicians – talking to big business but rather the latter talking to the former. I am sure there are many direct conversations with politicians instigated by members of the ruling class setting out the needs of Western business, both internally and globally – but I am not at heart a ‘conspiracy theorist’ – I think this is essentially a systemic issue. The ruling class and big business influence and shape political realities in a number of ways eg:

    – Through direct funding of (or not) of political campaigns. This is less obvious in the UK, but in the US it is grossly front and centre. Money buys power. No money no power.
    – A lobby industry has grown up to promote the needs / aspirations of specific industries and is particularly effective in shaping legislative agendas.
    – Similarly a think tank industry has blossomed to provide ‘independent’ informed opinion on national and international issues. Most of these are right of centre and are funded by big business / individuals from the ruling class.
    – The mainstream media in the West is careful to operate within the extant Overton Window – operating on a continuum from right of centre cheer leaders to liberal platforms that avoid proper examination of core issues around economic exploitation and inequality. The media in the West, of whatever stripe, always, always, swings behind the government in times of war – as do left of centre political parties.

    So, I suspect that in the US the all-powerful military / industrial complex has long been talking up the threat from Russia and the need to ‘adequately defend’ America. It will not be lost on legislators that increasing arms expenditures is a sure way to boost flagging economies and that Western construction companies will be very happy to ‘do their bit’ for reconstruction once the destruction in Ukraine has been brought to an end.

    Much of US industry will have been worried about the incursion into their markets by both Russia and China and will no doubt have been pointing out that the EU, as an ally, should not be encouraging this. The Right continues to talk up the threat(s) of competing types of capitalism (Russia and China) and conveniently portrays these countries as run by despots and kleptocrats where human rights abuses are legion. The mainstream media, mindful of its need to retain access to government and industry sources, rather than investigating and examining these views seems happy to parrot and amplify them. In this way adversaries are ‘othered’ in a way that delegitimises their humanity and their right to hold differing opinions to those of the mainstream in the West.

    So, there you go – I think that Russia knew the risks and consequences of invasion but felt it had no choice but to proceed and the drive to war that I see as being led by the US is a function of capitalism’s need for continuous growth. Admittedly the latter is a bit of a deterministic analysis – but justified in my view in the current circumstances where the discourse in the West is stuck on emphasising the evil of Vladimir Putin.

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