The bloody war in Ukraine has taken a new turn as Ukrainian forces equipped with US-supplied weaponry have routed Russian forces south-east of Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.
The swift advance has fuelled the Ukrainian government’s aggression. Olesky Danilov, senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, ominously stated, “Our task is to make Russia into the kind of country that does not even have the desire to think that it can attack its neighbours.”
There is little sign the war will end any time soon, with fighting likely to slow in the northern winter. As it grinds on, it only becomes more clearly a proxy war between NATO and Russia.
Since Russia’s unjustified invasion in February, Putin has been forced to abandon his attempt to launch a full-scale occupation of the country. Russia’s efforts are now focused on holding the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in what has become a Second World War-style ground war.
The recent Ukrainian success will only entrench the view among the US and NATO states that Russia can be humiliated.
The war is part of a wider imperialist power struggle. The US thinks that arming Ukraine to the teeth, inflicting brutal sanctions and prolonging the war can seriously weaken Russia. They believe this can send a deadly warning to China, which the US (and NATO) regard as the biggest threat to the West.
To this end, the West has torpedoed peace talks, dumped extraordinary quantities of weapons into Ukraine, provided critical intelligence to Zelensky and trained Ukrainian forces.
Escalation in Crimea
The dangers involved are immense given the US and Russia are both nuclear-armed states.
Increased supplies of high-tech weapons are boosting Ukraine’s efforts on the battlefield. It now has state-of-the-art artillery which allows it to launch precision attacks deep inside Russian-held areas. These include the HIMARS rocket system that has a range of up to 80 kilometres, more than twice the range of the howitzers the US previously supplied to Ukraine.
A top adviser to Zelensky said, “Our strategy is to destroy the logistics, the supply lines and the ammunition depots and other objects of military infrastructure. It’s creating chaos within their own forces.”
In August it also became clear that the West was urging Ukraine to re-take Crimea. This would mean a deadly escalation and expansion of the war.
Russia seized Crimea in 2014 following the ousting of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych. Crimea is home to a strategic port on the Black Sea where Russia has had an important naval base since the days of the Tsarist Empire.
The US has removed any doubt that Ukraine can use its Western supplied firepower to bombard Crimea. A top US official has said any target in Crimea is “by definition self-defence”.
There have now been drone strikes on the headquarters of the Russian Navy in Crimea at its Black Sea base in Sevastopol and explosions at other military sites including the Saki air base, which reportedly destroyed nine Russian warplanes.
The reality of the war is one of increasing brutality. While Russia’s war crimes are broadcast in the Western media, the ugly side of the Ukrainian forces’ tactics are comparatively hidden.
An Amnesty International report in August said that Ukrainian forces had put civilians in harm’s way by systematically setting up military bases in schools and hospitals when “viable alternatives were available that would not endanger civilians”.
No war for democracy
The narrative we hear about the war in Ukraine is that the US and NATO are defenders of democracy.
But the escalation of imperialist conflict has been accompanied by vicious attacks on the democratic rights of workers in Ukraine. On 17 August, Zelensky ratified Law 5371.
The law means 70 per cent of workers in Ukraine have been stripped of the rights that come with collective union agreements and are now forced to negotiate contracts individually. There was an attempt to introduce the law in 2021—the war has created a justification for its adoption.
Ukraine’s supposed allies are also circling the economically stricken nation like vultures, keen to take full advantage of Zelensky’s neoliberal policies and gain further market control for US and European companies.
Western governments met for a “Ukraine Recovery Conference” in July. The conference issued a statement advocating “privatisation of non-critical enterprises” and “finalisation of corporatisation of SOEs” (State Owned Enterprises) as well as the slashing of labour rights.
This war has nothing to do with democracy. It is part of an increasingly dangerous escalation in imperialist tensions across the globe. The Australian government is right behind US imperialism against both Russia and China. We need to build an anti-war movement to stop them fanning the flames of war.
By Adam Adelpour