5 key questions to understand how far the war will go in Ukraine

27 April, 2022

Ruins of Novotoshkivske in Lugansk after the latest fighting.
Ruins of Novotoshkivske in Lugansk after the latest fighting.

The war in Ukraine is at a standstill. Not so the count of deaths and atrocities committed by both sides. And yet, the US bet, according to its leaders, is to prolong the war until Russia collapses and the whole South and East of Ukraine become nothing more than a gigantic wreck. But the war and its consequences are not confined to the Ukrainian borders. A great snowball of contradictory imperialist interests is underway. And only we workers have a real interest in stopping it.

Table of Contents

Why is the Ukrainian war at a standstill?

The Russian offensive in the Donbass is practically stalled. At each build-up of Russian forces, the equipment and resources of the Ukrainian army improve in record time to produce a fresh stalemate. The result: after the front line has moved on, all that remains are razed villages and towns.

The key: the US has turned what is left of the Ukrainian state into an effective machine for its particular war with Russia. According to the US representatives in the “support group” of 40 countries meeting at the US base in Ramstein, only 72 hours pass between Biden’s approval of a new shipment and its arrival at the front line. In less than two months, almost $5 billion in armaments were mobilized. Now this will be multiplied with shipments of heavy weaponry.

Meanwhile, British advisors are guiding the Ukrainian army to take the war to Russian territory. According to press agency reports, three Russian provinces were reportedly shelled overnight. And arsenals in both Belgorod and Kursk are said to have been hit.

Is a Russian defeat looming?

Ukrainian gunner on the Izyum front
Ukrainian gunner on the Izyum front

No. As stated by the Secretaries of Defense and State, the new US goal is to “weaken Russia” in the long run. And that means prolonging the war: from the South and East of Ukraine, the Russian-speaking region which was home to half of the population, nothing will be left but razed fields.

A hint: Ireland is organizing the accommodation of refugees three years ahead.

What does the U.S. gain from an eternal war in Ukraine?

German gas storage facilities at Halle
German gas storage facilities at Halle

This week both Germany and Hungary have lowered their opposition to the Russian oil blockade. Berlin has furthermore pledged to send Gepard tanks immediately to engage in combat in the Donbass plains.

On the surface these are concessions to the impetus of both the US and the countries that were part of the Russian empire and are now part of the EU (Poland, Finland and the Baltic republics) whose aim is to delay as long as they can the Russian gas blockade… which would spell disaster for German industry. But the fact is that Germany is quietly replenishing its gas reserves in an attempt to gain leeway and “hold out” in the worst-case scenario until the middle of next winter.

Read also: What would happen if Germany were to cut off gas imports from Russia, 4/15/2022

Germany is playing with only one trump card: Russia will not unilaterally cut off supplies because that would mean “no longer being a reliable source” and losing long-term contracts at the end of the conflict. And by the same token, the shorter the war horizon, the easier it will be for Russia to regain a foothold in the European energy market.

But BlackRock, the world’s leading US and global investment fund, is forecasting the opposite. Its analysts believe that the war will drag on because the US is going to do its best to stall it. Implicitly, the World Bank is playing the same scenario.

The reason is that the US seems to have found a form of war in Europe that is not only acceptable internally – there are no US casualties and the direct economic cost does not even require a drastic increase in budgets – but which, if sustained long enough, can provide it with direct strategic and commercial advantages, reinforcing its place as the hegemonic imperialist power.

That is why the Biden administration not only wants to aggravate the Russian economic disaster (8% drop in GDP and 20% inflation, its central bank acknowledged today) but also sees the door open to force Germany to “reinvent” its economic model: to become more dependent, not only energetically, on the US and to cease its export pressure. One less competitor in a much more manageable Europe.

They are aware, of course, that France, Germany and perhaps even Great Britain will sooner or later try to steer the course of the war towards an alternative solution more in line with their interests. But for the moment the initiative is theirs and everything seems to be heading towards a change with long-term consequences.

Moreover, prolonging the war in Ukraine seems to offer advantages to the US in what is its main “front”: the encirclement of China. While Beijing is seeing its outlet to Europe cut off by land, and India is taking advantage of the discount prices of Russian oil, the US is slowly increasing its trump cards in an increasingly tense Asian game.

On the industrial side, while forcing the Taiwanese chip industry to bring investments and technologies to US territory, it is encouraging the large Korean conglomerates to continue withdrawing capital from China. On the military side, it is rearming Japan while the new Korean president, much closer to Washington, is considering joining his country to AUKUS.

In other words, the sine die prolongation of the Ukrainian war also serves US strategic interests in Asia.

Is there any risk of Russia responding with an escalation?

Launch of an Iskander nuclear-capable ballistic missile in Russia
Launch of an Iskander nuclear-capable ballistic missile in Russia.

The risk is obvious. Russia, if militarily entrapped, may play “escalate to de-escalate” if it sees Crimea and the Black Sea Fleet in danger, if attacks on its territory continue to escalate, or simply if a military debacle that makes the carnage evident despite the tight information control occurs and, coupled with the economic crisis, mobilizes workers against the regime.

Read also: Will Russia Use Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine?, 4/20/2022

But to the multiple and never clearly defined Russian “red lines” is now joined one more: Transnistria. For Russia a strategic position with which to keep Moldova at bay in its Atlanticist temptations. Now, the scene of attacks that began with the firing of anti-tank weapons against the republic’s Ministry of the Interior (on a holiday) and which both blocs have been quick to attribute to the other side.

How will all this end?

Tanks paralyzed by the Greek railwaymen
Tanks paralyzed by the Greek railwaymen

The US and Russia have every incentive, in their imperialist logic, to prolong and push the war to the very brink of nuclear conflict. What happens when that point is reached remains to be determined.

In the short term, the development of the war is laying the groundwork for a global and prolonged recession. And this is not neutral to the world’s workers. Even in countries relatively distant from the war, such as Spain, extreme poverty rates are already at the levels of the worst of the last recession and a new attack on pensions is already on the immediate horizon. And we are only seeing the prologue.

Like a snowball, the imperialist game is producing ever greater contradictions and shifting the map of balances. There is only one force capable of stopping this accelerated march: the struggle of the workers against their own governments and in direct opposition to the war.

So far we have seen only glimmers. They are not enough. We cannot let the daily propaganda of the media, however overwhelming it may be, end up turning the war into a “background fixture”, into something distant and alien, into a “fact of Nature”, as they did with the pandemic.

But there is only one way to succeed in resisting the propagandistic and atomizing force of the media: to organize ourselves in the workplaces, in the neighborhoods, even among the ranks of conscripts who sooner than many think will be forcibly sent to war.

Such is the immediate task of conscious workers in Russia and Ukraine, but also in the rest of the world. The war only stops when workers organized and mobilized as such overthrow the governments that are pushing them to butchery and starving them. And there is no other way. Electoral or otherwise.

Read also: The "railroad war": workers of both blocs wage war against war, 19/4/2022

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