The US and Germany are now sending heavy armour to Ukraine, starting with 14 German Leopard 2 tanks, in yet another escalation of Western arms supplies. This heightens the risk of direct confrontation between NATO and Russia.
Tragically the German Green Party has been at the forefront of demanding more weaponry, with Greens vice-president of the German Parliament Katrin Goring-Eckard tweeting “the Leopard’s freed!” after the announcement.
There are also calls to supply fighter jets to Ukraine and the UK has agreed to start training Ukrainian pilots.
Australia is part of this escalating Western war effort. Seventy Australian military personnel have been sent to train Ukrainian troops in the UK.
Labor Defence Minister Richard Marles said in January that this: “Builds on Australia’s military support for Ukraine, with the previously gifted Australian-produced Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles proving their worth as highly valuable military vehicles.
“To date, Australia has provided Ukraine with about $655 million in support, including $475 million in military assistance.”
Australia will also help supply Ukraine with artillery shells, produced by a French company with Australian-supplied gunpowder. Marles said the plan would come with a “multi-million-dollar” price tag.
Arms firms are reporting soaring profits. US General Dynamics, which makes Abrams tanks, reported revenue for its combat systems rose 15.5 per cent last year. Its total profit was up 4.1 per cent to $US3.39 billion.
A proxy war
Russia began the war with its brutal and unjustified invasion. But the US has built up Ukraine as a proxy to weaken Russia and cement US and NATO control over Eastern Europe.
US direct military aid to Ukraine increased sharply from around $US70 million a year in 2013 to well over $US600 million per year from 2019 onward. As a result, Ukraine’s military budget tripled in size in real terms from 2010 to 2020. Its troop numbers grew from 125,000 in 2013 to more than 300,000 before the war began.
Ukraine president Vladimir Zelensky has said he wants Ukraine to play the role of a “big Israel”—a militarised society defending Western imperialism on Russia’s border.
The US has now spent more than $US140 billion on the war according to an Al Jazeera report in December. Around $US70 billion of this is direct military aid, with the rest going towards propping up the Ukrainian government, paying government and military salaries, pensions, housing and fuel subsidies.
As Sean Spoonts, a US Navy veteran and editor-in-chief of Special Operations Forces Report, told Newsweek that Ukraine “probably could not continue the fight without the West’s supplies”.
The UK is the second largest supplier of arms to Ukraine and the European Union has contributed around $US70 billion in total aid.
Those kind of sums could be spent on dealing with climate change or addressing the cost of living but instead they are being used to feed human beings into what NATO officials have referred to as the “meat grinder”.
Ukrainian and Russian conscripts continue to pay with their lives. Zelensky has declared martial law in Ukraine and has made all adult males between 18 and 60 eligible for conscription. Russia conscripts men aged between 18 and 27, with ten years jail for those who refuse to serve. It has called up 300,000 conscripts for the war.
At least 100,000 have died on both sides. In January, Norway’s defence chief General Eirik Kristoffersen said it was estimated that Russia had lost 180,000 dead and wounded, with 100,000 Ukrainians soldiers killed or wounded plus another 30,000 civilians dead.
The alternative to industrial slaughter
Zelensky is a warmonger who wants to continue fighting until he retakes all previous Ukrainian territory—including Crimea and other areas Russia has held since 2014.
The longer the war drags on, the more deaths there will be and the greater the nuclear threat, either from a desperate Russia in the face of looming defeats, or indirectly from fighting around nuclear power plants.
Journalist Seymour Hersh’s claims that the US deliberately blew up Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline last year—which would be an act of open war—shows the risks the US is prepared to take.
The hope lies in opposition to imperialist war in Russia, Ukraine and the West. The possibility of conscript rebellion and fraternisation among Russian or Ukrainian troops may currently seem remote but the weight of the war on workers can result in unpredictable consequences. Rebellion seemed remote in the First World War until revolution in Russia and Germany ended the fighting.
The West also sees the war in Ukraine as a precursor to war with China over Taiwan. US politicians approved $US10 billion in military aid to Taiwan in December 2022. Undermining support for Western escalation of the war can also help push back the threat of war with China.
We need to unmask the proxy nature of the war and oppose the growing Australian government involvement.
By Chris Breen