By ERNIE GOTTA
As diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Russia continue, another type of diplomacy via military maneuvers and economic contingency plans continue, which could be activated if negotiations break down.
The New York Times reports (Jan. 28), “The United States is not relying on diplomacy alone. It has put 8,500 troops on alert to be deployed to Eastern Europe, sent defensive weapons to Ukraine, and is negotiating to divert natural gas from other suppliers if Russia cuts off pipelines that supply Germany and other countries.”
Russia’s demands on demobilizing NATO forces and keeping Ukraine out of the Western military alliance remain. U.S. President Joe Biden insists that a Russian invasion is likely and even imminent. To bolster this claim, the U.S. has been releasing intelligence about Russian troop deployments and possible false-flag operations that could serve as the pretext for an invasion. Russia has also rejected U.K. claims that it is attempting to replace the Ukrainian government with a pro-Moscow leadership.
An official message from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was broadcast during a radio interview, and it is consistent with recent statements about Russia’s intentions. Lavrov said, “If it depends on Russia, then there will be no war. We don’t want wars. But we also won’t allow our interests to be rudely trampled, to be ignored.”
Russia has grown in international military experience in recent years due largely to its role in helping Syrian President Assad crush his opposition. This past week, Russia was seen flexing its military capability again in Syria, and it’s one indication that Putin is serious about earning respect as the leader of a new imperialist power. The extension of runways at the Russian base at the Khmeimim airfield allowed for the deployment of long-range bombers with nuclear capabilities. In collaboration with Syrian authorities, the Russian military is conducting round-the-clock patrols at the port of Latakia due to “terrorist threats.”
These patrols coincided with joint military exercises between Russian and Syrian air defense units. Russian military power will also be on display worldwide. Al-Monitor reports, “On January 20, the Defense Ministry of Russia announced naval exercises involving more than 140 ships in all the zones of responsibility of the fleets. This means that by February almost all combat-ready ships, submarines, boats, and support vessels will be simultaneously and synchronously withdrawn to training ranges in the Mediterranean, North Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, Northeast Atlantic, and Pacific Ocean.”
Even though Russia has incrementally increased its military presence globally, including small deployments of troops in Venezuela and possible covert military operations in Sudan, its military capabilities should not be over inflated. The U.S. still dominates air, land, and sea with one of the most well equipped militaries in history. The problem for U.S. imperialism is that it no longer has the lone ability to dominate world politics. U.S. geopolitical confidence has been shaken by what many see as the poor handling of the withdrawal in Afghanistan. The U.S. ruling class has also had to deal with intense competition from China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, which looks to secure new infrastructure investments, military expansion, and opportunities to extract wealth from weaker nations.
For U.S. imperialism this is a key opportunity to regain a more nimble diplomatic footing in the international community, which was lost during the Trump years and immediately following the withdrawal from Afghanistan. President Biden’s approval rating hit an all-time low of 39 percent in the latest Harvard CAPS/Harris poll. This is a problem for Biden and the Democrats, who are in a midterm election year that could potentially end their slim majority in Congress—a situation that many working people believe has been fairly meaningless for them.
However, Biden is emerging through the crisis in Ukraine as a more capable collaborator with his European counterparts. Unlike with Trump’s move to withhold military aid to Ukraine in 2014 and shun collaboration with historic European alliances, The New York Times reports, “This time, American officials have consulted with a galaxy of groups encompassing the political and security bureaucracy of the European continent: the European Union, the European Commission, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Bucharest Nine, a group of eastern NATO members.”
The rigor and speed with which world imperialism prepares for war and the money they spend on shuffling troops and military equipment from one country to the next is impressive. The international display shows the misguided priorities of the capitalist system, which has a blank check for war but unwillingness by the corporate elite and ruling-class politicians to use their resources to effectively combat COVID, climate crisis, and economic instability. A new world war to redivide markets and exploit workers and natural resources would only drive the world deeper into crisis. Workers everywhere can use this moment to reflect on the question of power and who should rule. Unequivocally, the conclusion should be the self-organization of workers to fight for a system that puts human needs and the health of the Earth over the interests of private profit and ends the war on workers at home and abroad.
You can read Socialist Resurgence’s recent anti-war statement here.