The United States and European NATO powers set off a chain of events that led to World War III.
In her famous book on the outbreak of World War I, The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman demonstrates how miscalculations, the prevailing belief in a short winnable conflict, and the irreversible tactical maneuvers – “things, mistakes, and obligations” – accumulated as imperial powers dragged European workers down To entangle the trenches and slaughter of the Great War.
A similar dynamic is developing in the struggle between the United States and NATO against Russia. Howitzers supplied by the United States and the massive proliferation of weapons in Ukraine knock the guns of April.
In mid-March, US President Joe Biden repeatedly said that he would not allow a direct conflict between the United States and Russia because it “would mean World War III.” A month later, the Biden government is doing just that.
On Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken chaired a meeting attended by representatives of forty nations on a war council that Washington held at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, the headquarters of the US Air Force in Europe and NATO Air Command.
The two senior American officials, after a visit to war-torn Kyiv, emphasized that the war in Ukraine was a war between the United States and NATO on one side and Russia on the other. Austin announced that Washington would hold a meeting of a similar international group of high-ranking military figures – dubbed the “Ukrainian Contact Group” – every month “with the aim of achieving victory” in the conflict with Russia.
The objectives of the war are now clear. The bloodshed in Ukraine was not provoked to defend its technical right to join NATO, but rather was largely planned, instigated and escalated in order to destroy Russia as a major military power and overthrow its government. Ukraine is a pawn in this conflict, and its people are fodder for cannons.
The Ramstein War Council was organized to prepare the next phase of this plan. Before and after the meeting, the United States and other NATO powers announced the deployment of advanced weapons in Ukraine, including anti-tank missiles, tanks and tactical drones.
Austin said the contact group should “move at war speed.” In line with that directive, Germany announced on Tuesday that it would deliver an unspecified number of Flakpanzer Gepard “anti-aircraft tanks,” while Canada indicated it would send M777 armored vehicles. “The distinction that limited the escalation of weapons,” which was present in the first weeks of the war, “seems to have melted like snow in the sun.”
And pretending that the United States and NATO are not at war with Russia “melted like snow in the sun.” US Army Europe Commander Ben Hodges said Sunday that the US goal in this conflict is to “defeat” Russia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded by accusing the United States of pressuring the Ukrainian government to sabotage peace talks and waging a proxy war in Ukraine. He warned of a “serious and real” danger of nuclear war. Austin dismissed Lavrov’s warning as “dangerous and unnecessary.”
What is this bullshit! Washington is gathering a war camp and declaring that it aims to “defeat” Russia. When Russia replies that such language and objectives increase the risk of nuclear war, Washington declares it…unnecessary.
The United States has made it clear that it aims to crush Russia and overthrow its government. In the face of such an existential threat, the use of nuclear weapons becomes a tactic that the Russian ruling class will consider. Washington is bent on winning the war, and the Putin government is determined to prevent that from happening. There is no other way out for either side but escalation. Lavrov is indeed right: nuclear war is a real and dangerous danger.
The real driving forces of war emerged during the conflict. US and NATO forces pushed Russia to invade Ukraine, refusing to negotiate Russia’s demand not to make Ukraine a member of NATO. Russia described its invasion as a special operation, indicating that it intended to perform a limited tactical maneuver to establish its position in the region.
However, the United States would not allow such an arrangement and would have sought either to push Russia into the quagmire of “painful occupation” or to plot its defeat. To this end, Washington has worked to undermine all efforts towards a negotiated settlement. Washington’s rhetoric justifying this policy has exacerbated the conflict. Biden accused Putin of war crimes, then genocide, and called for regime change in Moscow. Each new formulation has the character of an irreversible escalation, another degree of escalation of the war.
Despite the massive and growing leak of military equipment to Ukraine – Washington has shipped more than $3.7 billion in weapons since the war began – the Kyiv regime has not been able to orchestrate the decisive defeat of Russia. The danger, from the point of view of the United States and NATO, is that Russia may be able to consolidate its control over eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea coast. If the Ukrainian forces do not advance, then the advantage, at least from a military point of view, passes to Russia.
The development of the conflict, which began in the Oval Office and circulated in the Kremlin, is increasingly in the hands of the military and is reaching the point of no return. The decisive defeat of Russia in the conflict required a more direct participation of the NATO powers themselves, even the deployment of troops.
With weapons handed over, loud declarations and war councils, the United States staked all its credibility on Russia’s defeat in this conflict. “The risks go beyond Ukraine and even beyond Europe,” Austin said on Tuesday. The fate of American hegemony, including the credibility of its threats against China, is in the balance. Thus, the reckless decisions taken by Washington became the main starting point for the new logic of escalation.
Washington drags behind him the great powers of Europe, while he, proudly of the empire, assembles a war camp on the continent. Britain was deeply complicit in every step of the escalation, with Germany and France playing their part. Washington gathered military conspirators on an American air base in Germany, the country that launched Operation Barbarossa, and the Germans were almost as witnesses, preparing for its war with Russia.
The leaders of the imperialist powers, especially the United States, are acting recklessly to the point of criminal insanity. But it is a recklessness stemming from class interests and the logic of the capitalist crisis. The escalation of the conflict is motivated not only by geopolitical interests, but also, and above all by the intractable economic, social and political crisis raging in all major capitalist countries, especially in the United States.
As in the First World War, the same contradictions which led to the imperialist war give impetus to the world socialist revolution. Even with the outbreak of war, mass protests and working-class struggles erupt all over the world. These struggles are fueled by high rates of inflation and historically unprecedented levels of social inequality.
World war plans are being implemented entirely behind the backs of people. Workers must be alerted to the danger, and the growing struggles around the world must be combined with the struggle against imperialist war and the capitalist nation-state system.
(Article published in English on April 27, 2022)