The war in Ukraine has become a bloody stalemate that continues only because both Russia and the US are pouring in weapons to continue the killing.
Six months since Ukraine launched its much anticipated counter-offensive, using billions of dollars worth of US and NATO weapons, it has advanced just 17 kilometres.
In early November, Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, General Valery Zaluzhny, admitted to The Economist that hopes for the counter-offensive had failed, “Just like in the First World War we have reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate… There will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough.”
One of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s closest aides also told Time magazine that Zelensky was “deluded” in thinking he could still win the war, “We’re out of options. We’re not winning. But try telling him that.”
Several months ago the New York Times reported that the number of Ukrainian and Russian troops killed or wounded since the war began was already nearing 500,000.
The US has been more than happy to sacrifice Ukrainian lives to achieve its own imperialist ends.
The US has blamed Ukraine’s slow progress on not herding enough conscripts into human wave assaults through the heavily fortified Russian minefields.
A US intelligence briefing reported in the Washington Post several months after this year’s counter-offensive began criticised the Ukrainian government’s failure to accept higher causalities, “as the cost of piercing through Russia’s main defensive line”.
After Russia’s invasion in February 2022 the US and NATO poured in arms and financial support to allow Ukraine to keep fighting. It quickly became a proxy war between Russia and the West.
In April last year, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin declared that Washington, “wanted to see Russia weakened militarily and unable to recover quickly.”
Both Russia and the US aimed to pull Ukraine into their respective spheres of influence as part of a struggle for control over Eastern Europe. Both are murderous imperialist powers out for their own profit.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 the US has expanded its European military alliance NATO eastwards to pull away a raft of former Russian allies including Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. It has further expanded since the war in Ukraine began.
Gaza and Ukraine
Despite the bloody stalemate the US still wants to keep the war going. Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Kyiv in late November in what Associated Press called, “A high-profile push to keep money and weapons flowing to Ukraine even as US and international resources are stretched by the new global risks raised by the Israel-Hamas conflict.”
The Israeli war on Gaza has “forced the US to divert time and resources away from Ukraine”, the Financial Times notes.
“In some cases, there is direct competition for munitions. Ukraine has been desperately short of shells and now is competing with Israel for scarce supplies. Air defence systems are also needed by both Ukraine and Israel.”
US President Joe Biden is also struggling to secure more funding for weapons to Ukraine in the face of opposition from elements of the Republican Party in Congress. He has requested another $61 billion for Ukraine as part of a $106 billion funding package that also includes money for Israel.
But there are now signs that the US and NATO are starting to accept that Ukraine cannot completely defeat Russia and reclaim all the territory it has lost since 2014.
In late November a German government source told the Bild newspaper that, “Zelensky should realise that it can’t go on like this. He needs to, of his own free will, turn to face his nation and explain that there is a need to negotiate.”
The US administration was also planning to scale back weapons deliveries and wanted eventual negotiations, it claimed.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wants Ukraine to become a permanently militarised society propped up by Western arms on Russia’s border. Last year he said he wanted the country to become a “big Israel” with “all institutions, supermarkets, cinemas” guarded by “people with weapons”.
The need to secure the country against Russia meant it would not be able to emulate “a liberal European democracy”, he said. This is no future for workers and ordinary people in Ukraine.
It’s increasingly becoming clear that for Ukraine to have true self-determination the workers of Ukraine will have to rid themselves of the authoritarian Zelensky as well as the embrace of US imperialism.
We need to oppose the Australian and US government’s efforts to keep sending weapons and prolonging the war. Anti-war movements are needed in both Russia, Ukraine and the West to demand all our governments put an end to the slaughter.
By Tom Orsag