The US and NATO have stepped up weapons deliveries to Ukraine further, aiming to prepare it for a highly anticipated spring counter-offensive. This is part of a pattern of dangerous escalation that has continued since former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson derailed peace talks in April last year.
The longer it continues, the more clearly the conflict is exposed as a proxy war between the US-backed NATO alliance and Russia.
The US, Poland, Finland, the UK and Germany have all now pledged to send Ukraine tanks, and at the time of writing six Spanish Leopold 2 tanks had just been dispatched from the Spanish port city of Santander.
Upping the stakes even further, Poland announced in March that it would deliver Ukraine five aging MiG fighter jets. Slovakia followed this by supplying Ukraine with another 13 MiGs, with the US offering Slovakia 12 new military helicopters as compensation.
There is also discussion of the US supplying advanced F-16 jets and the UK has agreed to start training Ukrainian pilots.
The UK is also sending depleted uranium munitions, containing toxic metal known to cause birth defects.
The carnage in places is reminiscent of First World War trench warfare. Russia has tried to take territory through throwing away the lives of thousands of soldiers in gruesome “human wave” attacks around Bakhmut, during bitter fighting in the east of the country.
In April Russia announced further advances there, but the Ukrainian city is now almost completely destroyed due to urban combat and artillery shelling.
There is still the danger of a catastrophic nuclear war. In March Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, declared that the risk of a nuclear attack was at its highest since the end of the Cold War. She said that the war in Ukraine was “the most acute example of that risk”.
These comments came just after Russia announced it was moving tactical nuclear weapons into Belarus. This is the first “nuclear sharing” agreement made since the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons entered into force in 1970.
The leak of highly classified Pentagon documents in April further hammered home the extent of NATO involvement in the war and the fact it is proxy conflict.
The leaked documents revealed there are at least 150 NATO military personnel on the ground in Ukraine. One document dated 23 March listed details of the largest contingents—50 special forces troops from the UK, 17 from Latvia, 15 from France and 14 from the US.
The documents also reveal the extent of NATO involvement in the planned Ukrainian spring counter-offensive. Of the 12 combat brigades involved, they claim, “9 are US, allied & partner trained and equipped.”
The Ukrainian 82nd brigade is being supplied with 90 US Stryker vehicles, 40 German-produced Marders, 24 US-made M113 infantry carriers and 14 British Challenger tanks. The 33rd brigade will have 32 Leopard tanks from Germany, Canada and Poland, alongside 90 American-made MRAP troop carriers, they said. In total the nine brigades would require up to 40,000 soldiers, 250 tanks and 350 mechanised vehicles.
Albanese beats the drums of war
On the one year anniversary of the war Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that, by sending weapons to Ukraine and training Ukrainian troops, Australia was fighting on the side of “all those who hold democratic values so dearly around the world.”
He pointedly gave the speech in Wollongong, near Port Kembla, the most likely site of a planned $10 billion nuclear submarine base.
In April a second rotation of Australian troops was dispatched to the UK to train Ukrainian soldiers. Australia has poured $510 million of military assistance into the conflict.
Albanese’s craven enthusiasm for the war has nothing to do with democracy and everything to do with his stance backing the US in a future conflict with China.
In early April, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made this link clear by telling the Nine papers: “Beijing’s watching closely the war in Ukraine, the price President Putin is paying and the potential rewards he can achieve”.
Albanese, Biden and NATO see the war as a way to weaken Russia and send a message to China.
Meanwhile ordinary people are paying the price in the conflict zone, and immense public funds that could be address the cost of living crisis and fund health, education and renewable energy are going on weapons. The $368 billion nuclear submarines announced as part of the AUKUS pact are part of the same pattern of militarisation.
We need to oppose Australia and the US’s efforts to feed the conflict in Ukraine and build a movement internationally that can end all imperialism and war.
By Adam Adelpour