The Russian president’s statement makes clear that we are nearer to great power nuclear confrontation than at any time for generations, writes Chris Nineham
Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a new mobilisation of reservists and his statement that Russia is prepared to use ‘various means of destruction’ if Russia is threatened, marks an alarming new escalation in the terrible war in Ukraine and must be condemned. It makes chillingly clear once again that we are nearer to great power nuclear confrontation than at any time for generations.
It is without doubt a recognition of major military setbacks for Russia as the Ukrainian’s autumn offensive has forced Russia into humiliating retreats, particularly in the north of the country.
It also shows in the starkest possible way that the current Western strategy of backing the Ukrainian army by pumping vast amounts of weapons into the country, huge numbers of troops into the region and by economically isolating Russia is inflaming the war and risking further catastrophe.
As the US Secretary of State Lloyd Austin said two months after the Russian invasion, the Nato alliance is using the war to try and inflict maximum damage to Russia, “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine” he said. The US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken agreed saying, “I think the secretary said it very well”.
The unprecedented military backing to Ukraine and the biggest mobilisation of Western troops in Europe since the Cold War underlines the fact that this has very deliberately become a proxy war between Russia and the West.
The outcome has been a disaster for the Ukrainians. 5 million have been displaced, tens of thousands killed, whole cities devastated, and the economy decimated. The situation is so bad that Kiev has resorted to both printing money and making drastic spending cuts to keep the economy afloat. As economist Adam Tooze commented recently, ‘It can only be a matter of months before Kyiv faces crippling choices between continuing to fight the war and upholding any semblance of normal economic life on the home front.’
Despite the multilevel disasters that the war is generating, the Western approach is to continue ramping up aggression. This week Liz Truss has been leading the calls for increased military spending across the Nato alliance to pay for a Western war against authoritarianism, “The free world needs this economic strength and resilience to push back against authoritarian aggression and win this new era”. She has launched a new review of British foreign policy and committed Britain to spending a record 3% of GDP on defence – more than any other European country – till the end of the decade. This of course at a time when many people will be facing the prospect of not being able to heat their homes or feed themselves this winter.
Ordinary people in Ukraine, Russia and the wider region cannot possibly benefit from this dreadful conflict. Whether the war grinds on for months or years more or whether it suddenly flares up into a terrifying wider confrontation, it will be they who suffer most.
But this war is blighting the lives of millions around the globe. It has caused life-threatening food shortages in countries across the global south. It is a major contributory factor to the inflationary crisis we are all facing. Now once again politicians and commentators are nonchalantly discussing in the media the possibilities it raises of nuclear conflagration.
It is up to all of us to do everything to try and end this madness and to challenge the idea that there can be any winners in this war.
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Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.
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