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Stop the War in Ukraine demonstration, London, March 2022

Stop the War in Ukraine demonstration, London, March 2022. Photo: Jim Aindow

Escalating the Ukraine war is a recipe for disaster — and we are already paying the price, argues Chris Nineham

Russia has launched a series of rocket attacks on Ukrainian cities in the last week, killing and wounding hundreds of civilians.

This is further evidence of the brutality of the war they are conducting. Vital civilian infrastructure has also been hit. The Russian army has also launched new offensives in the Donetsk.

These attacks are Vladimir Putin’s response to serious setbacks in the last month including the loss key city of Lyman in the Donbass and the humiliating attack on the vital Kerch Bridge, key communication between Crimea and Ukraine.

Russian forces in the south have been pushed back in the last few weeks. The Russian position has been significantly weakened and Putin faces discontent at home. But the recent attacks attacks show that, if anyone had any doubt, Russia still has enormous military capacity.

If nothing changes, the conflict will continue as a terrible war of attrition, bringing endless death and misery to the Ukrainian people, and spreading instability through the region. Already tension is rising in countries in the wider region from Georgia to Azerbaijan.

With the Western powers playing a central role, such an entrenched war is also taking us to the brink of nuclear escalation. Putin has threatened nuclear attacks. US President Biden himself admitted recently that “the risk of a nuclear ‘Armageddon’ is at its highest level since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.”

We in Stop the War have opposed the Russian invasion of Ukraine from the start.

Unfortunately the Western response made the situation more deadly and dangerous. As US Secretary of State Lloyd Austin admitted in the spring the US’s strategy is to use the war to weaken the Putin regime as decisively as it can.

Despite the terrible risks, the West is now doubling down on its strategy of pushing for the maximum military gain from the situation. Last week Nato head Jens Stoltenberg promised to step up military support to Ukraine by supplying hundreds of new hi-tech weapons. A new Nato command centre for the war is being set up in Germany, further evidence that the Western powers are in it for the long haul.

As Stoltenberg said, the Nato allies “will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.” Nato now even seems to be including a retake of Crimea in its war aims.

This approach is disastrous. It can only serve to prolong and deepen the war. An attempt to seize Crimea would be seen as an existential threat to the Russian state and would risk catastrophic escalation or making the war virtually permanent.

As the Western intelligence services know, the growing voices of opposition to Putin in the Russian establishment are not against the war, they are ultra-nationalists, attacking Putin for not being effective or decisive enough militarily.

As well as causing carnage in Ukraine and threatening to spread conflict, the war in Ukraine is helping to cause chaos in the world economy. The cost-of-living crisis has deeper roots, but sanctions against Russia and the dislocation caused by the fighting have been a major driver of fuel and food inflation that is devastating lives here and around the world.

As the latest Chancellor Jeremy Hunt signals a new round of austerity cuts, Liz Truss’s promise to increase military spending by 50 per cent is a disgrace. Over the last two decades and more the British military have been sent to fight in a series of wars in the former Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. All of them have been disasters for the people of those countries, and together, they have served to make the world a much more dangerous and frightening place.

The current backing for the war in Ukraine is not fundamentally different.

Given their record of foreign wars it would be beyond naive to believe that the Tories or the wider British establishment have the interests of the Ukrainian people at heart. They are supporting the US in a proxy war against Russia in the hope that it will strengthen Britain’s position globally. In the context of a frightening rise in tensions between the great powers, this is a war that is making the world more unstable, not safer.

In these circumstances it is crucial that the labour movement opposes the government’s war policy. It is working people who will pay for any increase in defence spending.

Professor Malcolm Chalmers from the Royal United Services Institute estimates Truss’s plans would lead to an additional £157 billion of arms spending at current prices. As he points out this would mean massive spending cuts or a 5 per cent increase in income tax. In any case spending on arms manufacture creates less jobs per pound than investment in any other area.

In the interests of the Ukrainian people, of stopping wider war and nuclear confrontation, and of fighting for sane economic priorities we must oppose our government’s war drive and step up our campaign for peace.

Stop the War is urging delegates at the TUC conference to vote against the Defending Manufacturing Jobs motion.

It is also organising a trade union conference, The World At War: A Trade Union Issue, on Saturday January 21 at the Mander Hall in Euston, London.

Reposted from Morning Star

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Chris Nineham

Chris Nineham

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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