A propaganda offensive against ‘Russian aggression’ orchestrated by the United States and its Nato allies aims to trigger a new arms race and shackle Europe into the USA’s strategic confrontation with Russia
After 15 years of war in Afghanistan, Nato chiefs have signalled they have no intention of acquiescing to war-weariness and beating their swords into ploughshares.
An existential Russian threat to European order and stability is being conjured up in order to bounce politicians into ramping up arms spending and deploying troops to Europe’s eastern frontiers.
The pretext is the year-old civil war in Ukraine, presented as an act of naked Russian aggression. This is despite the fact that the conflict is indisputably the result of the Western imperialisms’ own attempt to drag that unhappy country into their orbit through a “colour revolution”, with American and German funded NGOs as their conduits.
The “revolution” was in fact a coup carried out with fascist muscle, which ousted the elected pro-Russian president and replaced his regime with personnel handpicked by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland. Far from being hatched in the Kremlin, the conflict in Ukraine was hatched in the White House and the Pentagon, with Berlin providing the democratic veneer of “European democracy”.
The scenario according to Nato is simple. Putin’s “little green men” are poised to infiltrate the states of Eastern Europe from the Black Sea to the Baltic. Since the existence of large ethnic Russian populations in these states apparently provides a pretext for Russian invasion, these minorities must be regarded with the utmost suspicion.
Supreme commander of Nato, US General Philip Breedlove is planning an advanced deployment of weaponry and forces along the borders of Russia, with a major deployment in Poland ready to mobilise at a moment’s notice.
As a statement of intent, Nato forces from the US, UK, Holland and others staged a provocative military parade through Narva, Estonia, just yards from the Russian border posts.
It is no accident that Narva has an 87 per cent Russophone population, and that 37 per cent of its residents are Russian citizens. It is the easternmost town in Estonia, only 85 miles from Saint Petersburg.
Nato’s new strategy
At the September 2014 Nato Summit in Newport, South Wales, a new cold war strategy was thrashed out. This was followed by a February 2015 meeting of Nato defence ministers, which created a “spearhead force”, dubbed the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), for the existing Nato Response Force.
This will initially consist of 5,000 troops backed by air, maritime and special operations units. Two further brigades will be on standby to reinforce it; in total the enhanced Nato Response Force will total around 30,000 troops.
The ostensible purpose of this rigmarole is to deter the supposed threat from Putin’s Russia. The number of manoeuvres on the eastern flank of the world’s biggest military alliance has increased, with more than 3,000 air sorties in 2014, compared to just 200 by Russia.
The rationales provided by our political leaders would not win prizes for sophistication of analysis. In a speech to Nato’s political leaders last September, David Cameron likened Putin to Hitler: “We run the risk of repeating the mistakes made in Munich in ’38. We cannot know what will happen next. This time we cannot meet Putin’s demands. He has already taken Crimea and we cannot allow him to take the whole country.”
Michael Fallon, UK Defence Secretary, has said that there is a “real and present danger” that Putin will launch a campaign to destabilise the Baltic states. Consequently Nato must be prepared to repel Russian aggression in “whatever form it takes”.
A parade of senior military figures have been wheeled out in the media to warn of the dangers “we” face. Just as turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, so generals don’t have a tendency to talk up prospects for peace. So we get Deputy Supreme commander of Nato, General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, claiming that in “an era of constant competition with Russia” the latter represented “an obvious existential threat to our whole being.”
Air Commodore Andrew Lambert told the Daily Mail that the Royal Air Force would likely be overwhelmed by sheer numbers in the event of a Russian attack. Sir Michael Graydon, a former Chief of the Air Staff, thinks “They have got us more or less at their mercy.”
Any credible journalist should of course dismiss these ludicrous claims as the hyperbole of people who still think they’re fighting the USSR. Yet the BBC, Channel 4, the Daily Mail, The Times, The Economist, The Guardian and The Independent parrot this line without demur.
It is the absolute unanimity of the propaganda war that indicates that a serious and fundamental change in the policy of the Western imperialist bloc has taken place.
A new bipolarity
The financial crisis of 2008 and the long recession since have altered the economic balance of world forces against the USA and the European Union. As a result, we are now witnessing a long march to conflict between the two real superpowers: the USA and China. Although by far the world’s hegemonic economic and military power, the preeminence of the USA is beginning to wane and its rulers know it.
China’s dynamism has obliged the USA to declare South East Asia its priority strategic region, in what has come to be called the “Pivot to Asia”. Military bases in South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia are now more carefully maintained than ever before. Japan has been encouraged to upgrade its military and adopt a more aggressive stance.
In response, China’s president Xi Jinping announced a strategic change of course in November 2014. China no longer considers relations with the United States and Europe a priority. That position is to be replaced by a reorientation to the “BRIC” states, especially Russia, and to neighbouring Asian countries, as well as to Africa.
At a time when Russia is beset by Western economic sanctions and the slump in oil prices enginerred by US ally Saudi Arabia, China has concluded several gigantic energy contracts with Russia’s state-owned Gazprom and Rosneft. In time, these can compensate for the threatened loss of exports to Europe. The two countries are building two new gas pipelines together, and increased use of the yuan in bilateral trade is likely to stabilise the beleaguered rouble.
If China is the USA’s long term rival for domination of the global economy in the 21st century, then Russia is its short term obstacle to preserving its hegemony in key areas like Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. When Russia recovered from its prostration at the hands of Yeltsin and Western imperialism in the 1990s, and emerged under Putin as a new imperialist power, it inherited certain assets remaining from the Soviet Union. Amongst these were its nuclear deterrent and its veto on the UN Security Council, but also strategic allies in the Middle East.
Through its alliances with Syria and Iran, and through the latter, Iraq, Russia poses a major obstacle to US hegemony over the Middle East. Russia’s military power, its UN veto and its nuclear capabilities make it the most powerful regional military opponent of the US empire. The shift in the relative balance of military force in the region has even provoked restiveness amongst the USA’s oldest allies there: Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt.
The main enemy
Nevertheless, the world’s largest superpower can still impose its will on its Nato and Seato allies. This gives it a greater ability to intervene globally than any other military power. In addition it has proven adept at drawing its allies into its conflicts, even against their own interests, as with Germany and Japan, who have good reasons to pursue closer economic ties with Russia and China respectively.
The phoney character of the USA’s “Russian threat” narrative is revealed in a recent interview given by US President Barack Obama, in which he argued that “we don’t have a peer in terms of a state that’s going to attack us and bait us. The closest we have, obviously, is Russia, with its nuclear arsenal, but generally speaking they can’t project the way we can around the world. China can’t, either. We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined.”
And in any case, as Obama said in his State of the Union speech in January, “Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters,” due to sanctions.
He is right. Russia, as a much weaker imperialist power, remains at the mercy of the USA’s influence over world markets, and is confined in its ambitions effectively to the surrounding parts of the Eurasian land mass. It is not seeking to dominate or conquer Europe (it couldn’t), but to ally itself with a German-led European Union to its west, as well as to build links with the economic powerhouse of China to its east.
Or at least it was until recently. Thwarting a resurgent Russia and reining in Germany’s appetite for trade and investment openings to the east via Russia are the real driving forces behind the USA’s intervention in Ukraine, and behind its policy of reviving Nato as a cold war instrument needed to “protect” Europe from the consequences of Nato’s own provocations.
Of course, the USA’s allies have their own agenda, and they do not always willingly submit to policies whose consequences would hurt them far more than they would the USA. As Obama stated: “we occasionally have to twist the arms of countries that wouldn’t do what we need them to do if it weren’t for the various economic or diplomatic or, in some cases, military leverage that we had — if we didn’t have that dose of realism, we wouldn’t get anything done, either.”
Such aggressive talk, reinforced by the real threat of actual aggression does not come from a positions of unassailable strength, such as the USA enjoyed in 1945. Instead it is the bravado overlaid with arrogance that is symptomatic of a declining power. But this does not make the USA’s new cold war any less dangerous, but more so, since it is forced to take ever greater risks to maintain its position.
It is the duty of socialists to expose the plans of our own imperialist rulers as plans prepared and enacted to defend the interests of our ruling capitalist class at home and its allies abroad. These plans, if unchecked, will lead to more regional wars as in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria today. They will lead ultimately to a world war, as the major powers are drawn into defending their own regional allies and proxies.
In Britain, the USA, Germany, France and Russia we need to rally opposition to our rulers’ war drive by raising the slogan of the German Communist Karl Liebknecht and the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin: the main enemy is in our own country.