Ukraine is being devastated, the West is struggling to find the right way to continue
So Begins the Second Year of the War
I. The situation in Ukraine
A year of war in Ukraine leaves the country looking accordingly.
Last fall, the destruction already caused by both sides started to include widespread Russian missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure. They target Ukraine's combat and resilience capabilities, hitting often enough to make quite a few parts of the country hardly inhabitable and challenge the viability of both its economy and its rule. On a broad front, Russia has engaged Ukrainian armed forces in a war of position that reminds knowledgeable observers of certain French and Belgian place names; Ukraine has recently suffered only small territorial losses in the east, but all the greater losses in men and material. To the delight of the supporters of Ukrainian heroism and an intact European peace order, the Russian army is also recording enormous numbers of casualties and material losses as it throws wave after wave of freshly mobilized human material into battle. However, the fact that the Russian army has much more of both than the Ukrainian army is a cause for concern. The Russians are now bringing their military superiority to bear in a way that not only precludes further Ukrainian offensive pursuits à la Kharkiv and Kherson in the long term, but also brings the Ukrainian army to the brink of defeat.
Despite all this, the Ukrainian government’s military goal has not changed. It remains the sacred right of Ukrainian nationhood to achieve complete territorial integrity of the country, reconquering all territories annexed and occupied by Russia, including Crimea. Those in charge are also certain that their people are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to be liberated or reborn as a (Russian-)free nation at last, fully ‘anchored’ in the European West. However, this ambitious claim is blatantly disproportionate to the current military situation. No one knows this better than Ukraine’s president Zelensky himself, whose demands of his sponsors in the potent and generous Western values-and-weapons collective are accordingly urgent and sweeping: more ammunition, more weapons, better weapons. These include some that are outlawed under international law — i.e., cluster bombs and phosphorus bombs, which there are plenty of in Western arsenals — but mainly more reputable ones, i.e., battle tanks, fighter jets, missiles with a range and a power that would enable the Ukrainian armed forces to hit the Russian military power more effectively everywhere on Ukrainian soil and also on Russian territory.
With all this, Zelensky is at the same time demanding more from his partners. He is demanding nothing less than that they decide to make Ukraine’s war the West’s war literally and once and for all. One way he works to persuade them — especially when making home visits in Washington, London, Paris, and Brussels — is to invoke a common set of values: Ukraine is fighting not only for the right of all Ukrainians to reunification under the rule of a Ukrainian state authority anchored in the West, but also for what is holy to the West — for its peace order, its freedom-based values, even its way of life. He helps things along by providing evidence of Ukraine and the West being jointly affected directly, declaring a wayward Ukrainian missile hitting Polish soil to be a targeted Russian missile attack on NATO territory, and a Russian missile crossing into Romanian airspace — denied by Romania — to be another such attack… No question: these are the self-confident arguments of a warring party that is powerlessly dependent.
II. The Response of the West
The answer that Ukraine gets from the Western capitals is still:
"Ukraine will get everything it needs for as long as it needs it." (German chancellor Scholz, among others)
This assurance shows how advanced Western communication culture is insofar as no one receiving the message will take it to mean the West is agreeing to completely and lastingly fulfill all of Ukraine’s requests for materiel. When the West proclaims it is unfailingly willing to provide military support, everyone knows what this means. The Western sponsors themselves and no one else — not Ukraine, nor Russia, nor morally outraged warmongering segments of the opposition and public in some Western countries — will decide what Ukraine needs and when and how long it needs it. When Western leaders talk about showing “prudence,” this stands for the insistence that Ukraine will be supplied with war materiel depending on what the suppliers “need” from Ukraine’s defensive fight.
The Western “community” thus fundamentally has quite a different view of the drastic effect the war of attrition is having on Ukraine. It is acutely jeopardizing the continuation of the West’s anti-Russian military calculation. It is for this calculation that it has equipped Ukraine to have an army capable of fighting against Russian superior’s power, and that is what the Ukrainians are fighting for with all their self-driven nationalism, i.e., in a downright ideal way. Their failure would mean the end of the experiment of inflicting a fairly crippling defeat on Russia, a nuclear power, by way of a proxy war, by the imperialistically very expedient means of a battle on foreign territory and without Western “boots on the ground.” Ukraine’s courageous fight — together with the West’s large-scale economic war — has succeeded in hugely wearing down Russia’s military power, but it has also worn down the so useful proxy to an existential extent. A rescue operation is required to make sure Ukraine’s Western sponsors do not lose the country: it must be enabled to continue enduring the war of attrition that is currently destroying it.
But what does ‘continue’ actually mean? In view of what a year of war has done to the Ukrainian army, and the military might its Russian opponent is still able to muster despite its own attrition, merely continuing the necessary and useful war demands a decisive escalation. The ‘red lines’ for its arms deliveries that the West once drew in order to disempower Russia in the imperialistically convenient way just mentioned — in controlled fashion and on Ukrainian soil — must now be crossed for the same reason, because Russia is to be disempowered on Ukrainian soil. For Ukraine to accomplish this, it needs surface-to-air missiles of the more powerful kind, interconnected scout vehicles, armored personnel carriers, and battle tanks, along with air defenses, possibly also fighter jets, and enough ammunition for it all… What is basically required is to deploy an armored army with a matching air force. At least technically.
For at the same time the fall season has also shown that what is required immediately triggers doubts and rivalries. No sooner does the oh-so-never-ending ‘impasse’ over Leopard and other battle tanks give way to a celebrated ‘tank about-face’ than there is the difficulty of coming up with even one tank battalion. The ‘momentum’ created by this decision immediately leads to signals of being ready to supply fighter jets next, but only to water this down and ultimately postpone it. The transition that the current war outcome confronts the West with is evidently somewhat treacherous:
- The challenges to be met relate first of all to the military technology. Operating the high-grade equipment requires long training periods, which are actually far too long to get the Ukrainian army fit in time for Russia’s spring offensive. The logistics involved (transport, refueling, ammunition supply, repair, etc.) can only be managed if they are more or less set up anew at NATO level. That would take time. But it has to happen now.
- As urgent as it is to deliver old and new equipment, including ammunition, its availability is questionable. The Western military alliance has already given Ukraine such a generous share of its own weapons and ammunition stocks that some NATO country leaders even see their own defense capability reduced to an increasingly alarming degree. What this says about how far non-parties to the war have been participating in the war is one thing. The other is what consequence the various NATO powers and their Secretary General now see: nothing less than the need to put their armaments industries, in fact the entire Western military-industrial complex, into a state of war. The war program the NATO powers have been pursuing, treating it up to now as the fiction of a mere aid program, has been intended to build up and maintain their protégé as a combat-capable anti-Russian war power without militarily weakening themselves as the protectors, and this is now jeopardized. Ukraine's massive consumption of weapons already calls for transitioning to a certain degree of war economy, and even more so if NATO’s own fighting strength is not to be diminished. Accordingly restructuring and setting up their arms industries to meet the requirements of really true parties to the war thus means an even greater additional challenge to the budgets and economies of the NATO powers. They are now more acutely confronted with the question of how much effort the war in Ukraine is actually worth. And regardless of whether and how many NATO powers decide to take this step, it again applies that it takes time to produce what is needed — too long, at any rate, to save their proxy, for whom this obliging transition, too, would come too late.
- Thus, the escalation step the West considers necessary for right now puts quite a strain on the basic principle, motto, and mantra of its so very ‘prudent’ warfare, i.e., warfare so worthwhile to it. The ‘indirect’ way NATO’s non-warring parties are waging the war, constantly insisting on the distinction between suppliers and users of Western weapons, collides with the predicament the Ukrainian proxy is confronting its sponsors with. This predicament requires Ukraine to be equipped with a new quality of weapons, which cannot be had without providing the corresponding technical support services and operating crews. That would be a military engagement making it impossible for the West to maintain its official position of not being a party to the war but only helping Ukraine. It would result in NATO soldiers directly confronting Russian soldiers.
But at the beginning of the second year of the war, this is apparently still out of the question just as much as Ukraine being defeated is. That does not make the critical decision facing the West any less urgent, but it makes the West all the more resolute about putting it off. It insists on both sides of its war program: firstly the interest in fighting Russia so effectively as to permanently damage its military power, and secondly the interest in doing this not as a direct war party but through the Ukrainian proxy. The more this war program progresses, the more contradictory it proves to be, but at the same time so productive and promising that the West is unwilling to back away from it.
For Ukraine itself, this means in practice that the proxy model is being upheld, demanding that it hold out as the military power the West has made it into, that it plan out its military goals and means, until its sponsors make it into a power of the caliber capable of making itself useful with its own military progress, with its own offensives and recaptures. For now, it has to cripple Russia’s military progress: by launching local counteroffensives that get Ukraine out of the ruinous trench warfare, and in selected theaters that make it impossible for Russia to keep the front together. The weapons to be used here are called modern artillery, long-range missiles — but to a limited extent; battle tanks — but not the most modern, i.e., most powerful, variants, not on a militarily decisive scale, and without the additional military assets for combined-arms warfare that would give them their full effect on the battlefield. Ukraine is getting more ammunition, plus shooting lessons for the scarce goods to last longer, and strategic instructions on where and how to use its weapons and human materiel most effectively for these precious goods to last longer too. It is for a good cause, after all. This is intended to make the war a little more costly, more materiel-intensive and bloodier for Russia, to prolong it into a next stage that will make the losses on the Ukrainian side useful for the Western sponsor collective. In short, it is a military experiment that is rendered as follows in the characteristic value-neutral style of military science. Ukraine must first ‘absorb’ Russia’s military power and its new offensive — the hope being that so much ‘strategic patience’ will pay off by again by again exhausting the Russian army. Then it might even be possible for Ukraine to launch another counteroffensive and recapture more Ukrainian land and the hearts of its Western supporters.
III. What the leading Western power contributes: Escalation, deterrence, and announcements to everyone
The Biden administration is doing what it has declared necessary: taking away Russia’s ability to wage war on its own authority. And it is explaining what it is doing for the world to know where it stands when the US sees to the Pax Americana.
It first feels a need to explain things domestically, especially vis-à-vis the Republicans in Congress. For some months now, they have been suspecting that America is once again in the process of going from master to servant, of being exploited by its Ukrainian protégé and European freeloaders and thus becoming embroiled in a war that does not pay off for America. Though these critics’ suspicion is definitely unfair, by their repeated warning not to let any more ‘blank checks’ be issued to Ukraine they are merely insisting explicitly on what the basic line of America’s war participation under Biden is anyway. America is having war waged in Ukraine, so must always steer it according to its own calculations and objectives. The degree this war participation has meanwhile reached, its increased costs and risks, now give this abstract, fundamental concern a new kind of acuteness. The opposition is demanding concrete evidence that America is not knee-deep in a military quagmire preventing it from standing astride its competitors — and that means everyone else. A small but vocal and growing minority of Trump Republicans are already calling for a halt to aid to Ukraine, while a slightly larger group is voicing the more constructive concern that the US might be losing sight of the main issue — the real enemy, China — while fighting Russia in Ukraine.
The Biden administration’s response, still seconded by the majority of members of Congress, is that the war in Ukraine is in fact the decisive arena for the US to fight for its supremacy. It is where the rules of the world order are being defended, the outstanding feature of this order being that America guarantees it with its force and all the other powers abide by it, and its name being ‘international peace and security.’ This test that the Russian invasion is putting the US to cannot go unheeded; so it must make sure Russia cannot go unruined. It is very important to Biden to stress that he is by no means being distracted from the showdown with the great Chinese challenge. Firstly, because the Biden administration is pursuing it with considerable energy alongside the proxy war in Ukraine. Second, because the war in Ukraine is the decisive battle at the moment in the larger, epoch-making struggle mainly with China over the rules of world order, i.e., over the authority to set and enforce them. This is an imperialist clarification of a very fundamental kind. When it comes to proving one’s superior capability and willingness to use force — that being the crucial matter behind the ‘rivalry of the great powers’ — there is no substitute for successfully applying military force. That may be expensive — especially with an adversary like Russia — but it has to be done; it is a price America must demand of itself, it is something it owes to itself as a world power.
The USA’s latest escalation step is a new and more acute challenge to Russia’s nuclear readiness — and that is part of Washington’s calculations. Unofficially and most coolly, the State and Defense Departments say that Putin is left with hardly any conventional escalation options worth mentioning. This is basically very good news for the US government; after all, the whole point is to deplete and overstretch Russia’s military power in Ukraine. But at the same time it is challenging itself as a nuclear power: to be an even more effective, credible nuclear deterrent, so as to pin Russia down to its military power being finished off by conventional warfare in and through Ukraine, without having to take the nuclear exit, even if only the ‘tactical’ one. On the one hand, that means sending out all kinds of discreet, if not secret, threats. On the other hand, there are the very official greetings that America extended last fall, e.g., in the freshly published new edition of the national “Nuclear Posture Review”:
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine underscores that nuclear dangers persist, and could grow, in an increasingly competitive and volatile geopolitical landscape. The Russian Federation’s unprovoked and unlawful invasion of Ukraine in 2022 is a stark reminder of nuclear risk in contemporary conflict.” (Nuclear Posture Review, p. 1)
The USA needs absolutely no reminding in this regard, of course. Conversely, it once again reminds Russia — and everyone else — that there is no reason to doubt its nuclear war capability and readiness. It underlines this, first, by announcing its intention to modernize the entire nuclear triad, and, second, by explicitly rejecting any ideas of a “no first use” or “sole purpose” policy by which the US would confine itself to a nuclear second strike, at least by way of “declaration.” The experiment to see how much this deterrent power of America’s can achieve is being continued in Ukraine at a higher level.
What America owes to itself as a uniquely superior superpower, the test it sees itself faced with — a superpower makes that a test for all the other states involved in this affair, i.e., for all other states. The US lets them know what they owe it.
This applies first and foremost to its main rival, China, whose money and international weight are now more important to Russia than ever for its ability to wage war. China has all the more to contribute to the strength of Russia’s deterrence, to neutralizing its nuclear deterrent power. It was thus quite pleasing to hear China condemn Russia’s nuclear threats at the G20 summit last November — to add to America’s deterrence regime, to contribute to confining the nuclear power, Russia, to the limited theater of war in Ukraine, and its military power to a contest using ‘conventional’ weapons that would be ruinous for it. But it is unacceptable that China is not standing up for global peace by willingly contributing to the West’s war. On the contrary, China actually blames the West’s war at least partly for the lack of peace in Europe, for the breach of the global peace order, and even propagates this position among states in the rest of the world. To the US, this is basically taking the wrong side in this war. That is so annoying precisely because the US is putting quite a strain on all these states’ willingness to cooperate, both by the way its global economic war against Russia is affecting them and by its demand that all states contribute to it. No state is too small or insignificant to meet this demand; every last ‘failed state’ can and must add its small-fry UN vote to condemning Russia’s violation of the international peace order. But this applies especially to Russia’s quite powerful partners in the BRICS club and to a number of not unimportant ‘newly industrialized countries.’ The ‘indispensable nation’ expects them to do decidedly more than just vote properly, they are also supposed to contribute to damaging Russia economically and in some cases — Brazil, for example — by military means. When countries such as these allow themselves a neutral position on the war in Europe, the USA sees them, according to its imperialist claim, as dividing the world. They are undermining the united front against Russia that America has long been reckoning on. So it is accordingly working them, pressuring them bilaterally and at summit meetings; it threatens to impose secondary sanctions, but even offers deals to some of them.
What does this mean with regard to China, the power that is most important since it has the most weight in this context? Precisely because the US government is well aware of how its and its military alliance’s current escalation step is challenging Russia, it is simultaneously escalating its dispute with China. It is far from enough for the People’s Republic to denounce nuclear threats; it must also deny Russia’s nuclear power all conventional military assistance, particularly because Russia will need it more than ever. If China fails to do so and supplies weapons to the very side whose military power America wants to see worn out all the more effectively now, then China obviously has no will for peace, no matter how many points its peace plan has. It is then making itself a party to the war and deliberately prolonging it. Who knows how that works better than the USA?
The US government’s tone with its European partners is friendlier and more cooperative but it is no less demanding. Biden underscores the leading power’s esteem for its most important allies by encouraging them to play a more independent role in the alliance and assume more leadership responsibility for European security and a rules-based world order. This applies first and foremost to leading power Germany, especially given the particular weapons required by the upcoming escalation level. The leadership that America is demanding here coincides fully with the way it is expecting Europe and especially Germany to follow its lead: to act as the armored spearhead of the escalation step America is already initiating. If Biden has to promise some of his own specially-made tanks and maybe even send them over in three quarters of a year to get Germany to go along with the plan, that does work. But the leading European power in particular must be prepared to take action on its own initiative and at its own expense. That’s what it means to revive the spirit of the transatlantic brotherhood of arms.
So it is no small thing that post-Trump America — returning to global leadership under Biden — wants this war to further: Russia’s ruin and a world of states proving it is in line by doing good deeds for America. What that means for the Ukrainian protégé and proxy is obvious from the type of escalation explained in the previous section. Ukraine is getting more and better weapons along with instructions making it clear that the US alone decides how far the Ukrainian war effort goes and when it is over, in accordance with America’s political objectives and their shifts. Ukraine will be informed in due time and then allocated what it needs, and how long it needs it, to meet that purpose. This has recently included the bad news that American rulers and their voters are becoming increasingly skeptical. The Zelensky government is therefore being told — unofficially, but unmistakably — that it must at least start getting used to the idea that its brave struggle, although it will certainly not end in defeat, will not necessarily bring a victory on its maximum terms, but will realistically end sometime with negotiations. The good news for Kiev is that the US cannot see any willingness to negotiate at all on the enemy’s side, in Putin. So it is time to escalate. The new and better weapons are accompanied by corresponding demonstrative assurances of steadfast solidarity, brought over by the boss himself, and the promises will be followed by lots of equipment, for the Ukrainian army to be able to keep contributing to its country’s devastation for the good cause.
IV. The European states see themselves doubly challenged by the war in Ukraine: as NATO members and as member states of the European Union
1. The European states as NATO members with Germany as the leading European power
The European NATO members — except for one Hungarian troublemaker — agree to make it their business to comply with the US demand to arm Ukraine with battle tanks. The Ukrainian proxy is threatening to fail to fulfill its intended function of drastically weakening the strategic position of Russian world power. The European powers see this as a challenge to them: as participants and beneficiaries of the West’s “rules-based world order” and, again, separately, as the masters of the “European peace order” that Russia has disrupted by invading Ukraine. In the eyes of the European bloc, Russia cannot be allowed to win this war; the outcome must instead be the EU states asserting themselves vis-à-vis Russia now and in the long term as the definitive order-enforcing powers on the continent. In view of the precarious situation on the Ukrainian battlefield, they therefore see it as their duty to donate to Ukraine the battle tanks deemed necessary as the main weapon for the current phase of the war, to guarantee they are technically operable, and to make sure Ukrainian crews are able to operate them by offering training in the nations supplying the tanks.
The decision to escalate the Ukraine war by making this major military transition was made by the USA and bindingly agreed with its allies, just like all the other essential decisions on entering the war and how to fight it. The European states have had their own reasons for deciding to join in the war effort in Ukraine, including all escalations the US deems necessary. That means letting themselves in for a confrontation between the two nuclear-armed world powers that — as both sides have repeatedly warned, i.e., threatened — has the potential to lead to a nuclear war that they are not up to either individually or as a European collective. So they are absolutely dependent on America as a protective power, the only one, with its ever-ready strategic war power, that is capable of credibly deterring Russia from transitioning to nuclear war. In other words, only its power is effective enough to keep the war at the level of “conventional” slaughter on the ground in Ukraine. In addition, the Europeans are relying on the United States’ ample military arsenals and arms-industry resources when it comes to how this war is to be fought and, even more so, appropriately continued. So the US has the status of a command power over its European partners.
This command relationship between NATO’s leading power and its European pillar guarantees that the alliance is stable and — as part of this — that the Europeans are united in their willingness to make the Ukraine war their business. With the nuclear risk it entails, this war reanimates the alliance discipline that once characterized NATO as an anti-Soviet club. Now this discipline is the premise for Europe pursuing its policy of restoring peace by war against Russia, and not evading any confrontation that America and the collective decide on. When the sovereign states on the European side of the Atlantic have to, but also choose to, submit to America’s supreme command by way of the alliance, that of course includes their struggling within this alliance to assert their particular concerns and needs as national powers, i.e., their competing for a weighty role as a participating actor. What this competition currently revolves around, on the basis of NATO’s military mission, is to make oneself valuable within the Western alliance by contributing to and performing functions for the war events, on the one hand. There is also a competition to make sure one’s own nation is not irreparably damaged by NATO’s simultaneous postulate of long-term “staying power” when it comes to the confrontation with Russia, on the other hand. This applies both to a nation’s military equipment and to its budget funds, which are being strained for the agreed-on arms buildup in a whole new way from now on. That makes it necessary for each individual member of the war alliance to calculate its contributions and own needs accordingly. At the same time, each one is interested in using these contributions to gain recognition, mainly from NATO’s leading power. That is why the partners are always arguing, on the basis of their anti-Russian unity, about so many different things: what war equipment will be supplied or manufactured in the future, what logistics or training provided, by whom and when, etc.
The main actor and the main object of criticism: Germany with its leadership role
The German government has come under fire for being “hesitant” in supplying weapons. This alone makes it clear that Germany’s capacities are crucial for its partners. That is why this complaint is also brought forward with special emphasis by saying Germany should “finally assume its leadership role in Europe.” The point of this appeal to lead is, of course, to commandeer Germany’s means of power for the particular calculations the criticizing nation is aiming for. The loudest voices of course come from the proxy Ukraine, and notoriously its ex-ambassador Melnyk, but also the Baltic states and Poland, NATO’s eastern front states, which see themselves most threatened by Russia. They take the war constellation in Ukraine as an opportunity to anchor their specific anti-Russian reason of state as a definitive and irreversible maxim of action for the transatlantic alliance. By trying to use Germany like this, they are admitting that they are dependent on the economic, political, and military capabilities that, in Europe, only it as the leading nation has to offer. Its economic power, which is now being massively wielded to build up its military might (100 billion euros for the Bundeswehr!), and its political power in the EU that is based on that economy, make this nation the decisive contributor to fulfilling the tasks set for NATO’s “European pillar” in the Ukraine war and beyond.
This is demonstrated by the big debate about supplying battle tanks to Ukraine. The crucial matter is what position Germany takes. Its position is based in material terms on its leading expertise in tank construction. Its Leopard 2 not only graces its Bundeswehr arsenal as a first-class means of war. All German governments have also kindly permitted its military-industrial complex to supply large numbers of this gem to quite a few European countries, so that the latter can now make them available to Ukraine too. Thus, Germany is also responsible for building up and maintaining a reliable logistics chain for spare parts and servicing close to the war. It is likewise up to its defense industry to finance the necessary supplies and keep them coming to replace worn-out goods and spent ammunition. Germany is also the main country in charge of training Ukrainian fighters on the new equipment in the host states. And so on.
Of course, Germany is not really being called upon by its dissatisfied alliance partners or the government in Kiev as a leading power with special material resources. Two tank battalions have been formed for Ukraine through the decision to escalate the war that has basically been made in Washington. Germany was not asked, but more or less instructed by the US to activate its stockpiles and capabilities in terms of battle tanks and to equip the theater of war with them adequately, i.e., in accordance with NATO’s decision.
For the German government, these instructions put two general problems on the agenda that are part and parcel of NATO’s escalating involvement in the Ukraine war and are now exacerbated by the latest initiative to achieve Ukrainian military successes.
The first is that stepping up the supply of not only battle tanks but also all kinds of other armaments to enable Ukraine to hold out in the attrition war conflicts with the alliance’s own current and future need to defend itself against the great enemy. It conflicts with Europe’s goal of confronting Russia as a conventional power capable of winning. NATO countries have opened their arsenals more and more for the proxy war in Ukraine. Now the need to promptly supply their pressured proxy is increasingly coming into conflict with the other need to perpetuate the intended gain of the proxy war — Russia’s conventional disempowerment — and massively upgrade NATO’s military capabilities for that purpose. When there are reports that munition stockpiles have run out, for instance, they cannot be written off as exaggerated laments by arms lobbyists and Bundeswehr generals. Consequently, there is more and more talk about gradually having to deal with switching to a war economy, and making use of the nation’s economic and financial power in the long term for that purpose. Germany’s ambition on this double front is to once again come out of a ‘problem situation’ — this time an escalating war — stronger than it went in.
The second problem the German government has to deal with due to the battle-tank deal is that the leading position Germany has thereby acquired also grants it a leading position when it comes to the scale of the threat the major Eastern power aims against Western contributors to the Ukraine war. In order to manage the risk he is exposing his country to, the chancellor has chosen the path of a German-American special relationship, thus implementing the message he recited at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 17, 2023:
“At the same time, we’re making sure that war doesn’t break out between NATO and Russia. My third message is therefore: we will continue to strike a balance between providing the best possible support for Ukraine and avoiding an unintended escalation. And I’m pleased and grateful that President Biden and many other Allies share this view. After all, the path we’ve embarked upon together runs through uncharted territory.”
The German chancellor has made his willingness to comply with the US’s instructions to equip Ukraine with a powerful armored division from German and European Leopard stockpiles conditional on the US itself supplying a number of its own Abrams tanks to the theater of war. This is how he spells out what his government means by stereotypically repeating it will take escalation steps “only within the alliance and in consultation with the partners.” The US tanks that Scholz insists be supplied to Ukraine are the material pledge for the relationship that the cis-atlantic leading power Germany is now entering into with the leading power of the transatlantic alliance. Germany is making itself the European protagonist of the upcoming escalation step, but only on condition that the US stands ready as a protective power for Germany in this prominent role and assumes real liability. Washington’s promise of Abrams tanks stands for the assurance that it is guaranteeing the deterrence Germany needs by stepping up its contribution to the war.
The US government is swayed by this act of intra-alliance diplomacy and promises to send over a few tanks at some point. That is how interested the US is in the leading European power acknowledging the need for the upcoming escalation step and making it its business for the European NATO members to organize it.
America thus recognizes Germany as the corresponding (sub)leading power on the European side of the Atlantic. On that basis, with America behind it, the German government with its new defense minister is in fact assuming the position of leader, that is, a leadership according to its own calculations. And one quite different from what subaltern partners were asking for. This is what Scholz said, with rather heavy-handed irony, in his speech at the Munich Security Conference:
“That also means that all those who can supply battle tanks of this kind should now actually do so. Defense Minister Pistorius, Foreign Minister Baerbock and myself are canvassing intensively for this – and we will do so again here in Munich. Germany will do everything it can to make this decision easier for our partners, for instance, by training Ukrainian soldiers here in Germany or providing support in terms of supplies and logistics.
“By the way, I see this as an example of the kind of leadership that everyone can expect from Germany — and that I expressly offer to our friends and partners.”
Following the US pledge to back up the Berlin-managed qualitative progress in Ukraine’s weaponry, Germany feels empowered and able to have a crucial say in what happens in the Ukrainian proxy war, and to “lead” less powerful allied states to make sure they finally meet their obligations.
Not bad, what a constant “ditherer” notorious for “only acting when he is forced to” has managed to gain from a significant escalation step in the Ukraine war.
2. The European states as members of the EU
a) The EU, shoulder to shoulder with the USA, is making itself a strategic actor against Russia: it is using its economic and political power to secure and expand its regime over Europe
The leading European nations see the quintessence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as being an attack on “European peace” and thus on themselves as order-enforcing powers. They react not only as NATO members taking part in a military confrontation that is determined and led by the main power, the USA. Together with the lesser EU members, they also see themselves affected and challenged in their independent role running their own collective of states. Russia’s invasion attacks the purpose of their union: to continuously expand the EU’s sphere of power to cover the entire continent, and to make the EU the determining power over Europe. That means above all subsuming the Eastern European states not yet fully incorporated into the EU under its supranationally organized single-market capitalism, and accordingly subjecting essential areas of their sovereign control to EU jurisdiction. This far-reaching annexation program aiming to exclusively assign these countries to the EU economically and politically and remove them from Russia’s influence is being thwarted and called into question by Russia militarily in Ukraine. That also jeopardizes Europe’s global standing, since continuing its ‘peaceful eastward expansion’ is a firm part of the EU’s plans to increase its clout in order to be able to assert itself as a globally active power in competition with the USA, China, and Russia.
However differently they may benefit nationally from taking part in this far-reaching power project, all EU members are challenged by Russia’s incursion and thus have their very own reason for disempowering Russia. They go on the offensive to do so.
There is the economic war that the NATO powers have established as a veritable second front to destroy Russia’s power, taking aim at Russia’s integration into global capitalism to damage Russia’s ability to wage war, on the basis of the West’s regime over the world economic order. The European nations forming the EU collective see themselves as being particularly called upon to wage this economic war, and, above all, ready and able to show what they are capable of achieving. With Germany in the lead, they have created the right conditions to do this with their chosen path to political and economic success in previous decades. They have taken advantage of Russia’s need to advance as a capitalist power and established themselves in Russian capitalism as a preferred economic partner. They have been buyers of Russian oil and gas; suppliers of goods, especially high-tech goods; German capital has opened branches in Russia that make extensive use of cheap Russian labor and material resources; they have granted Russia loans and operated financial centers for its investment-seeking financial capital and foreign-exchange reserves. The EU states take the war Russia has started in Ukraine as making it necessary to start using their economic relations with Russia in a way that goes against the purpose of enriching themselves. They are now using their economic power as a weapon to destroy the economic foundation of Russia’s state power. The economic war the Europeans are organizing enables them to play a role they are not capable of in the military field. Their superior capitalism allows them to act as a prime mover when it comes to overpowering Russia. This is a role they are aggressively pushing the limits of, constantly stepping up their economic sanctions. Now they are at their tenth sanctions package.
So the EU is working to destroy the economic basis of Russian power and, by crucially contributing to the economic war, moving up to being a global political player. It is actively advancing its own European ambitions to enforce order in the world against its powerful strategic rival across the Atlantic, using the civilian, economic means of power that the EU has at its autonomous disposal.
To move up like this, the EU is using its economic power not only in a negative way, as a decisive means for doing extensive damage to Russia’s economy. It is using it in a positive way, to irrevocably incorporate Ukraine into its system. Creatively circumventing the EU treaties that explicitly exclude the use of funds for military purposes, it is for the first time setting up a fund financed by the member states under the fine title of “Peace Facility,” to enable even nations with a lot of old Soviet weapons and small military budgets to act as outfitters for Ukraine:
“In the meantime, the European Union has responded to the invasion with economic sanctions against Russia, significant financial aid and a fund — now at 3.6 billion euros, or about $3.9 billion — to repay member states for their military contributions to Ukraine. Total military contributions to Ukraine from member states is estimated at €12 billion, and overall assistance at nearly €50 billion.” (New York Times, Feb. 4, 2023)
Moreover, the EU is mobilizing substantial funds supranationally and in the form of national contributions from its member states, to finance Ukraine’s budget and keep the nation going at all. These funds are not merely intended to keep this destroyed country capable of waging war, they are labeled “reconstruction programs” as an explicit contribution to peacetime after the war, to make sure Ukraine belongs “with us,” i.e., is ours, meaning it will lastingly be subject to the EU’s politico-economic regime.
Along the same lines, the EU is rounding itself off by pursuing its “Eastern Partnership,” thereby aggressively disregarding Russia’s objections. In order to complete Russia’s exclusion from exerting strategic influence abroad, the EU states are working to further isolate Moscow. Beyond the offer of accession to the Ukraine/Moldova duo, they are launching new offers of politico-economic cooperation with Georgia and other countries as far away as Central Asia that Russia regards as its “near abroad.” They are politically pressuring the western Balkan states, which are counted as the EU’s exclusive possession be they member states or candidates for accession. When their populations, but especially incumbent rulers or rivals aspiring to exercise state power, uphold positions that are somehow neutral, much less pro-Russian, the EU fights them. It insists that they commit to the new anti-Russian reason of state that it decrees for all states that want to become full members of the EU.
b) Europe’s need for autonomous war capability — and its reality in the EU as an alliance of competing nations
Precisely because the European states have decided to use their civilian economic power, based on a single market and a common money, as a strategic weapon against ‘Putin’s Russia,’ the EU leadership and the leading powers, Germany and France, agree that economic weapons alone are not enough against this enemy. The military force for asserting and safeguarding the EU’s own imperialist ambitions exists in the form of NATO, i.e., thanks to US supremacy; but this means that such force is not at its autonomous disposal. So the EU’s leading elites see Europe’s own sovereignty in matters of war as an urgent desideratum:
“The declaration’s central goals of Europe becoming ‘sovereign’ and ‘strategically autonomous’ would have been considered a ‘French fantasy’ just a few years ago, Macron said. Now, in light of the war in Ukraine, these goals have become a ‘European imperative.’” (FAZ, Mar 11, 2022)
“When, if not now, do we create a sovereign Europe that can hold its own in a multipolar world? When, if not now, do we overcome the differences that have paralyzed and divided us for years?” (Scholz, SZ, Aug. 29, 2022)
The EU’s leading powers thus see it as absolutely necessary for the EU to finally become a player capable of acting independently in matters of war. Only then will it properly emerge as a responsible global power. This need to emancipate itself from NATO’s military power and its leading power’s strategic calculations has bothered the ambitious members of this alliance ever since their economic bloc was founded. The war in Ukraine is currently boosting this fundamental dissatisfaction of the Europeans in two respects. First, the intended erosion of Russia’s conventional warfare capabilities also erodes the warfare capabilities of Ukraine’s European arms suppliers, thus exposing Europe’s status as militarily inferior, by world-power standards. And second, conversely, the considerable progress that has been made in destroying Russia’s conventional military power opens up the prospect for the EU states to reverse the relation of strength vis-à-vis Russia in the field of conventional military power. This is a constellation that absolutely must be created and perpetuated on their own strength. Which calls for an accelerated collective arms buildup.
But in practice, the way the existing union of European states is pursuing this urgent need for autonomous European military power fails entirely to meet this purpose. No member state, especially if it is militarily potent, has ever been willing to transfer its control of its nation’s military capacities to a higher supranational sovereign authority. This is how the German chancellor describes what they are prepared to do:
“‘Perhaps the most pressing problem in Europe is the completely unclear number of weapons systems and armaments and the competition between different defense companies,’ Scholz said. ‘Only the coordinated development of European capabilities will make Europe able to act,’ he stressed. Air defense was particularly important to him here.” (Spiegel Online, Sept 16, 2022)
From the standpoint of a “Europe able to act,” Scholz observes that the condition of the armies and the armaments industries in the various EU states is characterized by far more desire for national control than for supranational cooperation. The German chancellor wants to get beyond this state of affairs, but at the same time he gives an indication of how the EU’s will to make Europe “able to act” militarily actually only exists. He invokes the need to forge an autonomous, supranational, conventional war capability for Europe but reduces it to the task of achieving partial advances that can be made operational for stepping up cooperation between the states in terms of the means of war deemed desirable: establishing a common procurement system for munitions, forging a European military-industrial complex, building up a European air defense, and so on. He is taking it for granted that Germany will play a prominent role in this program, as one of the major military powers in Europe, together and in competition with France. He expects it to be the crucial motor for initiating such cooperation at all and for offering other nations the opportunity to follow Berlin’s proposals and thus submit to Germany’s policymaking power. And he expects it to be the main authority for moderating the typical haggle between EU nations over the most favorable terms to each for taking part, in order to reach a compromise acceptable to all, especially Germany. If one can be reached, that is. So any progress that united Europe makes in terms of military cooperation is essentially the result of the cooperation and competition between Germany and France. And whatever the details of the initiatives turn out to be, both leading powers are interested in organizing stronger arms-policy and military cooperation only in order to anchor their respective nation as the EU’s leading military power.
So, in practice, the Europeans pursue their need for autonomous military clout in the form of a constant dispute and struggle, mainly by its leading powers, to make progress they can reach a compromise on toward a European war capability. This arms-policy competition is then in turn determined essentially by the dispute over what form their security-policy link with the United States should take.
V. Britain’s agenda in the Ukraine War
The firebrand in the West’s military alliance guarantees unity between Europe and the USA
The British government is not a bit surprised by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Like the US, NATO power Britain readily rejected Russia’s ultimatum demanding recognition of its security interests that Putin issued in the face of NATO’s increasingly taking possession of Eastern Europe militarily, right up to Russia’s own borders. Instead, both countries stuffed Ukraine with the modern military equipment enabling its army to withstand a Russian attack. On the very night the war began, the prime minister assured the Ukrainian president of his full support, appearing before the British people the next morning to explain the higher justification and deeper necessity of why the Ukrainian war was our business, meaning theirs:
“Shortly after 4 o’clock this morning I spoke to president Zelensky of Ukraine to offer the continued support of the UK. Because our worst fears have now come true and all our warnings have proved tragically accurate. President Putin of Russia has unleashed war in our European continent. He has attacked a friendly country without any provocation and without any credible excuse. Innumerable missiles and bombs have been raining down on an entirely innocent population. …
“Ukraine is a country that for decades has enjoyed freedom and democracy and the right to choose its own destiny. We — and the world — cannot allow that freedom just to be snuffed out. … It is because we have been so alarmed in recent months at the Russian intimidation that the UK became one of the first countries in Europe to send defensive weaponry to help the Ukrainians. Other allies have now done the same and we will do what more we can in the days ahead. … Our mission is clear. Diplomatically, politically, economically — and eventually, militarily – this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure. … And I say to the Ukrainians in this moment of agony … we are on your side. And if the months ahead are grim, and the flame of freedom burns low, I know that it will blaze bright again in Ukraine. … We will work with them — for however long it takes — to ensure that the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine is restored. Because this act of wanton and reckless aggression is an attack not just on Ukraine. It is an attack on democracy and freedom in East Europe and around the world. This crisis is about the right of a free, sovereign independent European people to choose their own future. And that is a right that the UK will always defend.” (Speech to the Nation by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Feb 24, 2022)
Boris Johnson, who likes to present himself as the successor to the great wartime prime minister Churchill, is appealing to the Britons’ national consciousness that was successfully formed over almost two centuries, in two “great wars” and the many smaller wars from the Crimea to the Falklands, and is shared across all party and class boundaries. Their own nation — “victorious, happy, and glorious” — is a “force for good in the world.” It stands for the highest moral values and what is good in this world — freedom, democracy, sovereignty of the people, and the like — and against evil in the form of dictators and warmongers like Putin, who invades a peaceful country without any apparent reason and drops bombs on its people to destroy their right to freedom and independence. Beyond the moral pathos, the prime minister makes it known that this war is about the common cause of the West, namely, its world order. This order provides for the right of each state to “determine its own future,” i.e., its obligation to freely join the capitalist competition for wealth and power, this including the imperative to respect the monopoly on the use of force that the guardians of this order, first and foremost the US, execute. Russia’s “attack on democracy and freedom” is an “imperialist” attack on this principle of business and force in the West’s world order, which the prime minister vows to “defend” in Ukraine.
Britain’s reason for war is the general one that the West has: to defend its monopoly on the use of force
The United Kingdom has no other reason for war than the West as a whole. The monopolistic principle of this world order, which the NATO military alliance under the leadership of the USA is out to guarantee with its deterrent force, is incompatible with Russia’s ambitions. This is a nation that fully conforms with the system by competing on the world market to produce and appropriate monetary wealth, while at the same time being a nuclear-armed world power that claims and also practices the right to define its strategic security interests autonomously and assert them globally. Russia thereby reveals itself to be an enemy of the united West. Russia’s war on Ukraine is a breach of the West’s monopoly on maintaining the world order, its inseparable linkage of the imperative to compete with a ban on the use of force. So it is a reason for the states allied in NATO to repel Russia’s attack on their world order. They do so through the proxy war in Ukraine fueled with their military assistance and controlled by ‘reconnaissance,’ in order to lastingly weaken Russia’s military power. And they do so through the economic war waged by their economic powers themselves, in order to destroy the economic basis of Russia’s global power.
The United Kingdom joins in this fight against Russia, seeing itself not as a proxy helper of the United States but as an independent maker of the West’s world order. And it not only sees itself as such, it also acts accordingly. Great Britain has quite a bit at its disposal for playing its imperialist role. After all, it is the home of the sixth largest capitalism, with its industry and trade as well as the international financial center in London and the pound sterling, its own reserve and key currency, which make the nation a global financial power in world capitalism. On the force-wielding level, Britain is a diplomatic heavyweight whose nuclear missiles give it the status of a permanent member of the UN Security Council, along with the right to have a say when the world powers deal with matters of war and peace there. As the leader of an entire “Commonwealth of Nations” of fifty-two former colonies and now independent states (many still having the British monarch as their head of state such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), Britain not only has traditional rights in all corners of the globe, but is also quasi-automatically responsible when it comes to all questions of maintaining order and the use of force. To this end, the nation commands the war capabilities of a nuclear-armed middle power, with nuclear submarines for autonomously contributing to the West’s nuclear deterrent. And it has a considerable naval power which is capable of global power projection, with its two aircraft carrier battle groups on all seas and its well over one hundred military bases all over the world. And last but not least, Britain enjoys a “special relationship” with the world-ordering power USA, which gives a real boost to its own military and diplomatic potential at the highest level of global politics. The German public may like to dismiss the Britons’ pride in this special relationship, in a mixture of envy and scorn, as a has-been world player overestimating and fooling itself, and making itself the “Americans’ poodle.” But this entirely misses the point. This special partnership between the unequal powers is not free of contradictions, but what does that matter? Alongside the number one world power, Britain mobilizes more imperialist influence than it has. This makes Britain more powerful than it is in itself, allowing the nation, which is so fond of sports metaphors, “to punch above its weight.”
All this constitutes the material substance of Britain’s imperialist practice of using its financial power, diplomacy, and military force to compel the respect for its global rights that they deserve. As for its substantive interest in global capitalism and in maintaining the order that requires, Britain pursues it within NATO. Within the military alliance under US leadership, it sees itself and acts as an authoritative player having a far-reaching right of joint control over the deterrence regime that the alliance maintains over the world of states. This gives the nation its position of power against Russia.
Britain confronts great Russia — and always has, but with new emphasis today — as a free-West power that is automatically entitled to pass judgment on its global political actions. The force potentially wielded by a nuclear-armed middle power is of course not big enough to underpin this overbearing and hostile stance towards the world power in the east — but it is when backed by being a member of the US-dominated NATO military alliance and a special partner of the leading power. Britain sees itself as having the authority and the right to be hostile to Russia as a power that is basically equal and, thanks to its special alliance with the US, actually superior. Only to find that Russia denies it the respect it is claiming as an ordering power that cannot to be ignored. Russia lets Britain know it takes second place imperialistically speaking, treating it as a vassal of the US — and quite demonstratively, too. A nuclear power like Russia has nothing to negotiate with a British government! Russia negotiates world-ordering issues with the West’s real world power, and when it drafts treaties on security guarantees aimed to prevent the Ukraine war it addresses them to the USA and NATO. All of this reinforces the British position that Russia is an imperialist power that is quite fundamentally incompatible with Western imperialism, which would of course never call itself that.
Given all this, Britain did not need any “historic turning point” to get on board with disempowering Russia. It was always a resolute protagonist of NATO’s eastward expansion, and, together with the United States, made itself the military guarantor of the EU’s no longer viable peaceful eastward conquest once Russia annexed Crimea and the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics seceded. So it contributed to turning Ukraine into an anti-Russian frontline state, and the military confrontation is hardly surprising. The war confirms how right British politicians and the nation have been to treat Russia as a mortal danger for Europe and the world. The nation is agreed: this proxy war must end in Ukraine’s victory, brought about by NATO support and Britain’s military contributions. It must end in a strategic defeat of Russia that degrades it as a power capable of acting autonomously in Europe and the world.
The special challenge that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses to Britain and that it militantly rises to: to secure transatlantic unity between Europe and the USA
Playing a crucial part in the West’s world-ordering monopoly is a vital interest of Britain’s and determines its agenda in NATO. As an element of the West, Britain is the European power that has made it its business and achievement to anchor the European states in the US-dominated NATO alliance. Britain owes it to itself to commit politically, on its own initiative and independently, to guaranteeing the unity of the West, i.e., unbreakable unity between the European states and America’s cause. It sees this unity as being under constant threat, not least by the EU’s leading powers, Germany and France, which keep invoking the need for Europe to have strategic autonomy, and plan initiatives to strengthen NATO’s European pillar more or less with the prospect of emancipating it from US leadership.
Russia’s attack on the West’s monopoly on the use of force requires the West to be united without any state seeking its own advantage. This challenges Britain to newly emphasize and radicalize its special world-order role, that of guaranteeing unity between both sides of the Atlantic. Britain is doing its utmost to maneuver the European states into an escalating confrontation with Russia, a nuclear world power, making them absolutely dependent on US deterrent power. In doing so, it is making its valuable contribution to consolidating NATO unity with Europe for the US. It is rendering a service to Europe by proving to NATO’s leading power by its resolute, substantial military support for Ukraine how valuable, if not indispensable, the European states’ military support is for disempowering Russia, America’s strategic rival. That is supposed to tie the leading power down, in turn, to the role of unconditionally and reliably guaranteeing Europe’s security. For not only the British government, all European governments fear ‘isolationist tendencies’ in the USA — after all, Trump was not unique!
Of course, transatlantic unity cannot be consolidated with appeals and fine words. Deeds are required, preferably the militant kind, to compel the other states in the coalition of war supporters to follow suit with equal militancy — anything else would divide the West, and only benefit Putin. Even before the war, Britain together with the US were first to train and arm the Ukrainian army for war against Russian-backed paramilitaries in eastern Ukraine, but also for the prospect of conventional warfare capability against Russia. Since Ukraine started fighting, Britain has been constantly leading the way in supplying the proxy with ever more and ever more effective weapons and training thousands of Ukrainian soldiers on British soil. By crossing ever new “red lines” in arming the Ukrainian army, the British government is setting the precedents — for the Eastern European states, which willingly follow its lead, but also for “hesitant” EU leader Germany, which wants to be sure that every escalation step against nuclear power Russia is carefully weighed and backed by the nuclear deterrent power of the US. For the time being, the risk of Russia escalating is not stopping Britain from escalating on its part; it dismisses Putin’s and Lavrov’s threats of nuclear war as a bluff.
Ten years ago, Britain already made itself the leading power of a sub-NATO, the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), which has organized and coordinated the military contributions of eight Northern and Eastern European NATO countries, along with the candidate countries Finland and Sweden, thus making an independent contribution to encircling and containing Russian power. Now, in the Ukraine war, this sub-alliance is proving its worth as a united front of firebrands. At the Ramstein conferences on stepping up arms supplies to Ukraine, JEF members very strongly insist that all Europeans in the NATO alliance be “in lockstep in our response to the invasion of Ukraine” (Prime Minister Rishi Sunak) and join in the escalation of war support that they prescribe.
With all this, Britain is at the same time setting itself up as the autonomous guarantor of European security. It is taking the war as an opportunity to return, after leaving the EU, as a military power leading the way and assuming responsibility for Europe’s security. And this nation can actually do that because its Brexit has freed it from the EU’s contradiction, now glaring in light of the Ukraine war. The war is confronting European states with the need to establish themselves as a unified, sovereign actor capable of war, something they cannot agree on and so keep fighting over, up to now. For Britain it is quite different. This state is already complete as a power willing and able to wage war. It thus confronts the European Union as a now external power in order to make itself indispensable by way of a foreign- and security-policy partnership on a new post-Brexit basis. The first successes are already being reported. And when it comes to the two sides of the transatlantic alliance, the US and the European states, Britain confronts them as the NATO member for guaranteeing that American and European interests are “in lockstep” now that Russia has challenged the West’s monopoly on the use of force. That is the essence of British global politics and what makes Britain a firebrand: Britain acts as a middle power in the literal sense, adopting it as a cause that the US needs partners because its world order only works if and to the extent that its competitors join in.
The war goal: Onward to Russia’s complete defeat in Ukraine
Britain agrees with the US and the other NATO members on the premise that the war in Ukraine should remain the proxy war that it is, and not escalate into a direct military confrontation between NATO and Russia. In Ukraine, and by the conventional warfare of their proxy, Russia is to be weakened “to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine” (US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, April 25, 2022). However, NATO members have different views on when this war goal will have been achieved and how to achieve it.
The British government insists that in its view — which the Western military alliance must share — the war in Ukraine will only end with Russia’s clear defeat on the battlefield and its complete loss of the Ukrainian territories its army conquered and annexed. It commits to this by the so-called “Tallinn Pledge,” which it has got eight Northern and Eastern European NATO countries to sign, rallying them behind it and acting as their spokesperson:
“We reject Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and its illegal claims to have annexed Ukrainian territory. We recognise that equipping Ukraine to push Russia out of its territory is as important as equipping them to defend what they already have. Together we will continue supporting Ukraine to move from resisting to expelling Russian forces from Ukrainian soil. … Therefore, we commit to collectively pursuing delivery of an unprecedented set of donations including main battle tanks, heavy artillery, air defence, ammunition, and infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine’s defence. This substantial assistance to Ukraine comes from our own national stocks, and resources illustrating the mutual understanding of the severity of the situation and our commitment to urgently increase and accelerate support for Ukraine. Having made this ‘Tallinn Pledge,’ we shall head to the Ukraine Defence Group meeting in Ramstein tomorrow 20 January and urge other Allies and partners to follow suit and contribute their own planned packages of support as soon as possible to ensure a Ukrainian battlefield victory in 2023.” (Joint statement by the defence ministers of Estonia, the United Kingdom, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania; and the representatives of Denmark, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Slovakia, January 19, 2023)
In view of the balance of power on the battlefield, on the one hand, and Ukraine's relative war successes to date, on the other, Western European nations, as well as the USA, have begun to think about whether it might be time for negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. The British government categorically says no. Its consistently holds the maximum position that there can be no peace negotiations without Russia withdrawing completely from the conquered territories:
“The West should consider any Russian call for a cease-fire in its war against Ukraine ‘completely meaningless’ in the current circumstances, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Monday. Speaking in Riga during a summit of leaders of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), a military alliance of 10 Northern European countries, Sunak warned Russia would only use a halt in hostilities as an opportunity to regroup its forces. ‘We must be clear that any unilateral call for a cease-fire by Russia is completely meaningless in the current context,’ he said. ‘I think it would be a false call.’ … Sunak said the Kremlin must withdraw Russian troops from ‘conquered territory’ before any real negotiations for peace can start…” (Politico.eu, December 19, 2022)
The message is addressed not only to Moscow, but also to the NATO partners in Berlin and Paris. After all, their massive military, economic, financial, and humanitarian support for Ukraine has not made the European leaders Germany and France forget the role and achievement of diplomacy. At the end of the war, they want a Russia that is so weakened that it has no choice but to accept EU and NATO sovereignty over the whole of Europe right up to its borders, and thus its own status being reduced by force. Putin is supposed to realize that Russia has no other future than to be a subordinate power to Europe — but that it can have that. That is what Macron means by saying “Russia must not be humiliated,” and why Scholz engages in telephone diplomacy with Putin. Britain sees absolutely no such prospect of assigning and subordinating Russia to Europe. Russia is Britain’s enemy and thus the free world’s, and vice versa. Period. The Ukraine war must make sure Russia’s global power is so weakened that Britain’s claim to power finally becomes true again: Europe and the world are free of the Russian threat, and Britain can at last truly face Russia as a great power whose imperialist claims Moscow can no longer disregard.
That is why the British nation insists on escalating the West’s military contributions to its Ukrainian proxy. It prides itself on being aggressively willing to take risks, and is not afraid to conduct covert war operations against Russia. And it nurses the suspicion that its European allies might let Russian threats to escalate the war, even to point of deploying nuclear weapons, deter them from escalating the war themselves as required, or that they might be so keen on achieving a final diplomatic solution that they bet on peace negotiations with the enemy far too early. They cannot help suspecting even the United States of being so convinced of its absolute superiority to Russia that it might reevaluate the costs and benefits of its proxy war in Ukraine and stop providing the military support that Britain sees as necessary.
These are all good reasons for Britain not to let up until it can be satisfied with how far Russian power has been destroyed. After all, this nation has emerged victorious from every war no matter how much wealth and how many lives it cost, so it will be even more militant when it is not having its own soldiers fight and die but rather Ukraine’s.
“‘How does an economy function at all — while supporting the war effort — with this level of damage to civilian infrastructure? I don’t think we’ve ever seen this,’ said Simon Johnson, an economist at MIT who is in communication with Ukrainian officials. ‘I can’t think of any economy that’s ever tried to do this.’ … Ukrainian Finance Minister Sergii Marchenko was already in the midst of asking Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen for billions in aid when he first alerted her to Russia’s bombing of infrastructure. Dominated by oligarchs and perennially in need of bailouts, Ukraine was a financial mess long before Russia’s invasion. Full-blown war sent its economy into a tailspin.” (Washington Post, Dec. 15, 2022)
Ukrainian rule has become a pure war administration; everything it is doing for the economy now is intended to sustain and continue its struggle to assert itself. And its ability to do this is entirely dependent on financial support from Western powers. The “budget figures” and “growth” that are still being tallied in the country tend of be largely of a fictitious nature:
“Ukraine needs a multi-billion dollar loan to shore up the state budget. To this end the Ukrainian government is seeking talks with representatives of the IMF next week in Warsaw, Reuters reports. This comes as international ratings agency Moody’s yesterday downgraded Ukraine’s sovereign rating to Ca from Caa3 in anticipation of the long-term challenges that a war with Russia will create for the country’s economy. This rating means that the state is likely to default or is very close to default.” (strana.news, Feb. 11, 2023)
The collapse of civilian life does not only drag down the people’s morale, it decimates the resources the army needs to continue the war. Food, hygiene items and medicines, fuel and lubricants, and whatever else is needed for a war of these dimensions is only being produced in limited quantities, if at all. It is an additional problem to transport what is available to where it is needed in view of constant power failures and the general lack of resources. Delivering massive quantities of artillery ammunition, repairing worn-out hardware, and finally redeploying troops — all of this is done in absolute emergency mode in the face of widespread power failure. Not to mention the population trying to survive in the ruins.
“Just this week Der Spiegel reported that the German foreign intelligence service informed security politicians of the Bundestag in a secret session that the Ukrainian army was losing hundreds of soldiers every day in battles for Bakhmut. … Military expert Markus Reisner assumes that the Ukrainian side still has enough soldiers to occupy its defensive positions. ‘However, we can already see that Ukraine is having problems recruiting new soldiers,’ Reisner warns.” (Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland, Feb. 1, 2023) Forced recruitment of ever older and younger Ukrainians is the order of the day.
“Within a few days the stockpiles of entire NATO countries are being fired off, said Rafael Loss, an expert on security and defense policy at the think tank, European Council on Foreign Relations. Ukraine fires between 5,000 and 10,000 rounds of artillery ammunition per day. That's as much as in an entire month in Afghanistan. Due to the ongoing fighting, the Ukrainian army’s ammunition stockpiles are dwindling.” (n-tv, Jan. 14, 2023)
 US Chief of Staff Mark Milley reckons “that Russia has lost ‘well over 100,000’ soldiers. That includes regular members of the military, he said, but also mercenaries fighting on the Russian side. ‘The Russians have suffered an enormous number of casualties in their military.’ For Russia, he said, the war is turning into an ‘absolute catastrophe’” (n-tv, Jan. 20, 2023). “The Russian military has seen its arsenal severely depleted. It has lost nearly half its main battle tanks, according to an estimate published this week by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and is dipping into inventories of older-era (and sometimes Soviet) weaponry. Russia’s ammunition stockpile is rapidly dwindling” (Washington Post, Feb. 17, 2023).
“NATO partners are hesitating to deliver tanks. Following Germany’s pledge to supply fourteen Leopard-2 A6 main battle tanks to Ukraine, other NATO partners are hesitating to make their own contributions, according to one media report. As Der Spiegel reports, there have not yet been any firm commitments to put together a battalion of Leopard-2 tanks for Ukraine along with the fourteen German tanks. ‘Putting together the battalions is turning out to be an arduous feat,’ government circles are quoted as saying. The German government decided just over two weeks ago that Germany, together with other European nations, would deliver two Leopard-2-equipped tank battalions to Ukraine by the end of March.”(Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), Feb. 4, 2023)
“After consultations with NATO partners, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has not managed to drum up enough battle tanks of the modern Leopard 2A6 type for Ukraine to equip a battalion. Alongside the fourteen tanks promised by the Bundeswehr, only Portugal is prepared to provide three of these models. A Ukrainian battalion comprises 31 tanks. ‘We won’t reach battalion strength,’ the SPD politician said after meeting in Brussels on Wednesday with European ministers of the countries that had shown interest in participating. Asked how Kiev is supposed to deploy half a battalion, Pistorius replied, ‘You'll have to ask the Ukrainians.’ Poland, on the other hand, which had taken the lead in supplying a battalion of Leopard 2A4s and also plans to provide fourteen tanks itself, managed to organize ‘just under thirty’ tanks of the older type. Pistorius said by way of explanation that there were fewer A6s than A4s. The minister qualified the previous day’s statements that the operational condition of the A4 models was ‘rather underwhelming.’ A large number of the tanks would ‘be able to be in Ukraine between the end of March and the end of April,’ he said. Among the countries that said no to Germany is Denmark. Pistorius said Sweden was still deliberating. The gap in the ‘German' A6 battalion could be filled if Germany took up an offer from the Dutch head of government Mark Rutte. Rutte had proposed buying back eighteen Leopard 2A6s the Netherlands had leased from Germany as part of a German-Dutch battalion, and donating them to Ukraine. 'There has been no request so far to make these tanks available,’ Pistorius said, but then basically rejected the proposal. If they were made available, he said, it would mean ‘further weakening the Bundeswehr's operational readiness.’ The minister pointed out that ‘more than 120 Leopard 1A5’ tanks would also be supplied by the beginning of 2024 after they have been repaired. The tanks in question are a model that dates back to the eighties" (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Feb. 16, 2023). “Britain had announced it would begin training Ukrainian pilots as soon as possible. ‘We hope to have the first pilots from Ukraine here for training in the spring and we obviously want to start as soon as possible,’ said a spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. He added that Sunak had also instructed the defense secretary to look into which fighter jets the UK could provide. However, he said, this was a long-term project ‘rather than a short-term capability, which is what Ukraine needs most now’” (SZ, Feb. 9, 2023). “According to British Defense Secretary Wallace, ‘Britain did not say that it was necessarily going to send fighter jets to Ukraine. What is said is that we will start training to improve Ukraine’s resilience probably for after the conflict’” (FAZ, Feb. 10, 2023). “[As Wallace said,] supplying fighter jets only serves the ‘long-term resilience of the Ukrainians.’ In the short term, the aircraft would have to be supplied with massive pit crews, and ‘Britain is not putting troops into Ukraine.’” (FAZ, Feb. 16, 2023)
“President Zelenskyy arrives in the UK today to meet the Prime Minister and visit Ukrainian troops. His visit comes as the Prime Minister announces plans to expand training for the Armed Forces of Ukraine to sea and air, including fighter jet pilots and marines, as part of long-term investment in their military. UK also accelerates military equipment to Ukraine in a bid to give Ukrainian forces the upper hand on the battlefield and limit Russia’s ability to target civilian infrastructure.” (gov.uk/government/news, Feb. 8, 2023)
 Pistorius, for example: “I’m not ruling anything out for now. But Germany has committed to fielding a fully equipped division by 2025. We’re talking about protecting NATO’s eastern flank. I have to maintain defense and operational readiness, after all. Take the Patriot air defense system. At the moment, we still have exactly one of these systems in Germany. If I give that out now, too, I won't even be able to train” (Interview with German Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius in Der Spiegel, Feb. 17, 2023).
“Ukraine, having probably burned through most of the 152mm and 122mm shells used by their Soviet-era artillery, is now relying increasingly on nato countries for both 155mm shells and the guns to fire them. But the stocks held by its Western allies from which it has been supplied up until now are rapidly becoming depleted. America has started sending shorter-range 105mm howitzers and shells to make up for the shortfall in larger calibre rounds … Ukraine will soon be dependent on what the American and European arms industries can manufacture (plus a few shells scrounged by America from allies in Asia, such as South Korea, which has a sizeable arms industry but strict export rules). Currently, America can make about 180,000 155mm shells a year, while Europe, according to Bastian Giegerich of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a think-tank, produced about 300,000 last year. All told, that amounts to barely three months’ consumption for Ukraine … ‘The US defence industrial base is scoped for maximum efficiency at peacetime production,’ says Jim Taiclet, the boss of Lockheed Martin, America’s biggest defence conglomerate. That means, in effect, that contractors usually have the capacity to make munitions only at the pace needed to replace those expended in training. Western governments and defence contractors are now scrambling to increase their output … Congress, meanwhile, has authorised greater use of multi-year contracting to give firms more certainty about that demand. However, until now, such contracts have been used mainly for expensive planes, ships or tanks, not the munitions they fire. Money is also being spent on clearing production bottlenecks … A similar process is under way in Europe. Armin Papperger, boss of Germany’s Rheinmetall, says his firm can quickly lift production from 70,000 to 450,000 shells a year or more, having recently agreed to buy Expal Systems, a Spanish ammunition producer. Rheinmetall is also setting up a new munitions plant in Hungary. CSG, a Czech arms manufacturer that produced 100,000 shells last year, is hoping to boost its output to 150,000 this year. A Norwegian firm, Nammo, could also increase production. Former Warsaw Pact countries are even toying with reopening factories to make 152mm munitions, so Ukraine can keep using its Soviet artillery. But for all the talk of urgency, European governments have not been signing many procurement contracts. Mr Papperger has said he is prepared to ‘pre-finance’ some of the investment required to accelerate production of shells and missiles, but there are limits to what private companies will do without firm orders.” (The Economist, Feb. 18, 2023)
 This distinction was of course never the whole truth about the West’s involvement in the war. Cf. “Das erste Halbjahr Ukraine-Krieg: Von einer Spezialoperation gegen einen antirussischen NATO-Vorposten zum Zermürbungskrieg“ [The First Half of the Ukraine War: From a Special Operation against an Anti-Russian NATO Outpost to a War of Attrition] in particular the subchapter “Die USA: Eine neue Form und gewaltige Steigerung des ‘leading from behind’” [The USA: A New and Hugely Ramped-Up Form of ‘Leading from Behind’] p. 12 ff. in GegenStandpunkt 3-22 (untranslated). However, taking the step to ‘putting boots on the ground’ would reduce the distinction to absurdity once and for all.
“The frank discussions in Kyiv last month reflected an effort by the Biden administration to bring Ukraine’s goals in line with what the West can sustain as the war approaches its one-year mark. Getting Ukraine on the same page has not always been easy, according to people familiar with the discussions, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private talks.
“For months, Ukraine has expended significant resources and troops defending Bakhmut in the eastern Donbas region. American military analysts and planners have argued that it is unrealistic to simultaneously defend Bakhmut and launch a spring counteroffensive to retake what the United States views as more critical territory.
“Zelensky, however, attaches symbolic importance to Bakhmut, two senior administration officials said, and believes it would be a blow to Ukrainian morale to lose the city. On Friday, Zelensky said his country’s forces would ‘fight as long as we can’ to hold the embattled city that Russia is on the brink of capturing.
“While U.S. officials said they respect that Zelensky knows how best to rally his country, they have expressed concerns that if Ukraine keeps fighting everywhere Russia sends troops, it will work to Moscow’s advantage. Instead, they have urged Ukraine to prioritize the timing and execution of the spring counteroffensive, particularly as the United States and Europe train Ukrainian fighters on some of the more complex weaponry making its way to the battlefield.” (Washington Post, Feb. 13, 2023)
“At the same time, ISW [Institute for the Study of War] analysts note that the defense of Bakhmut has forced the Russian Federation to use not only the Wagnerians but also valuable Russian air power.” (strana.news February 15, 2023)
“As the U.S. and Europe look for ways to increase their output of shells to keep their own warehouses stocked and supply Ukraine for its warm weather offensives, they are looking at the current training efforts in England and Germany to change how Ukraine moves on the battlefield. Part of that means figuring out ways to fend off Russia without expending too much ammo. ‘We are working with the Ukrainian soldiers in various places throughout Europe to emphasize additional training on maneuver,’ Austin said, ‘so that as they place more emphasis on maneuver, and shaping the battlefield with fires and then maneuvering, there’s a good chance that they’ll require less artillery munitions.’” (Politico.com, Feb. 14, 2023)
 The measured, piecemeal way that war resources are being allocated gives some military experts, who no one would accuse of being susceptible to Putin’s propaganda, the disappointed impression that Ukraine is merely being saved as a slaughterhouse:
“Whenever a symmetrical situation becomes an asymmetrical one, that is, whenever Russia gets the upper hand, the Americans try to support Ukraine in such a way as to restore a symmetrical situation. But they try not to react beyond that, because there is a fear of Russia then feeling cornered and reacting irrationally. In other words, they are trying to wear down the Russians over time as well. To put it metaphorically, the Russians are strangling the Ukrainians and hoping they run out of air. And the Americans are strangling the Russians and hoping they will run out of air before the Ukrainians do. The tragic thing about this is that it is no way to end the war quickly.” (interview with Austrian military analyst Markus Reisner, tagesschau.de, Feb. 21, 2023)
“The Ukrainian commander-in-chief, General Zaluzhnyi, recently said, ‘I need 300 battle tanks, 600 to 700 infantry fighting vehicles and 500 howitzers to push Russian troops back to the positions before the Feb. 24 attack.’ However, with what he is getting, ‘major operations are not possible,’ he said. But it is questionable whether the Ukrainian armed forces still have a sufficient number of suitable soldiers to deploy such weapons systems, given the large losses they have suffered in recent months. In any case, General Zaluzhnyi’s statement also explains why Western arms deliveries are not enabling Ukraine to achieve its military goals but merely prolonging the war.” (interview with retired German Air Force General Harald Kujat, infosperber.ch, Nov. 3, 2023)
 In America, this is called “walking and chewing gum at the same time.” On the challenges the Biden administration is tackling to implement the project of repositioning the USA in world market competition, see the article “Sachdienliche Auskünfte zur Modernisierung des amerikanischen Imperialismus” [Some Information Bearing on How America is Modernizing Its Imperialism] in this issue of GegenStandpunkt 2023-1. See also “Mehr Zinsen, mehr Schulden: Die USA bewältigen Inflation und Rezessionsgefahr und setzen damit Vorgaben für den Rest der Welt” [More interest, more debt: The USA copes with inflation and the danger of recession, setting standards for the rest of the world] in GegenStandpunkt 4-22, esp. pp. 40 ff. (both untranslated)
 Poland in particular, which borders on Belarus and Ukraine and has grown into the eastern frontline state of NATO, has not hesitated for a second to seize the opportunity to position itself against the former leading Warsaw Pact power it loathes. It is acting at the forefront in the Ukraine war: as an arms supplier, as a logistical hub for supplies from other NATO countries, as a training ground for Ukrainian fighters, and much more. As part of NATO’s eastern front, Poland is making its mark with a massive buildup of its own military; it is already exceeding NATO’s 2% of GDP target, wants to expand it to 5%, and is heading toward getting itself the largest land army in Europe.
Poland is utilizing its overachievement in the Ukraine war, which makes it particularly valuable to the leading war power across the Atlantic, to act as the diplomatic and ideological spearhead of all European initiatives, as an inciter and agitator. It has also long since gathered a camp of Eastern European states behind it. Poland even sees the “historic turning point” the war is proclaimed to be as entitling it, with its fundamentally anti-Russian stance, to rebel against always being told what to do by the EU. Pointing to its own outstanding services in and for the war, Poland is doing everything it can to question Germany’s and France’s leadership role and set itself up as at least a co-determining power in matters of war aims and measures.
 In their “Revue Stratégique” of October last year, French security policymakers devote a whole chapter to unabashedly discussing what steps to take for setting up a war economy to shift the nation to the requirements of prolonged warfare in terms of both needed goods and financing.
 “We are currently in the process of negotiating the budget for 2024 and planning for the next few years. And the goal will be that we at least reach this 2 percent over the next few years. That is the goal. This will now have to be negotiated with the coalition partners. I don’t want to jump ahead. In any case, I am also clearly of the opinion that 2 percent should be the starting point, and we will have to spend more in the medium term” (German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius in the Washington Post, Feb. 16, 2023). To build up a lot more armaments and spend a lot more money on it than promised in Scholz’s “historic turning point” speech a year ago — that is the new defense minister's recipe for the imperialist progress Germany is aiming to achieve.
 Biden after the tank deal with Scholz: “I want to thank you … for your strong and steady leadership” (The White House, March 3, 2023).
 In the power visions of the chancellor of Germany, the leading EU power, this relation sounds as follows:
“An EU with 27, 30, 36 states then having more than 500 million free and equal citizens can bring even more weight to bear in the world.” (Scholz at the Congress of the Party of European Socialists (PES) in Berlin, Tagesschau, Oct. 15, 2022)
 The EU states of course also have to bear the other side of their prominent role in the economic war. Repurposing their former means of enrichment as an economic weapon against Russia affects their domestic capitalism. There are the use-values that are lacking when energy sources are cut off, and the capitalist calculations that no longer work out. Instead of continued business growth there is a lasting recession on the capitalist agenda. That prompts a surge of intra-European competition, which requires constant supervision by the authorities, again with Germany in the lead. In addition to all kinds of regulations for exceptions and deadlines, there is a need for intra-European leadership to discipline those who don’t toe the line. After all, the anti-Russian front must stand firm in the economic war as well. See the article “Der Wirtschaftskrieg wird global und prinzipiell“ (Economic war becomes global and a matter of principle) in GegenStandpunkt 3-22, untranslated.
 This “time later” is reflected in the first rounds of EU accession negotiations with Ukraine. While war is raging there; while martial law has of course suspended all democratic rights and freedoms; while state leaders are carrying out one wave of purges after another against those suspected of being pro-Russian; while the organization of economy and state has been destroyed and is being maintained only by subsidies from abroad, and the general economic struggle for existence, i.e., for money, is being conducted in a way that the philanthropic EU criteria of a successful market economy brand “corruption” — European politicians keep insisting that Ukraine has made considerable progress in the areas of human rights, rule of law, and the fight against corruption even if it still has a way to go… For the EU, promising Ukraine accession is only about one thing: taking geostrategic possession of Ukraine.
 This includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
 Moldova, which has the geostrategic misfortune to lie between Ukraine and the EU state of Romania, was already a ‘failed state’ even without the war, with pro-Russian sections of the population and a breakaway province that defines itself as Russian. Moldova is now being promoted to the status of EU accession candidate. To this end, three international donor conferences have been organized on Germany’s initiative together with France and Romania, and Moldova given funds for “mitigating consequences of the war” and a few million for promoting renewable energies, as well as being promised assistance in training and supporting the military.
In the case of Georgia, the EU is holding back on the prospect of accession for the time being — but this state must definitely prove itself politically in advance. In return, it can count on funds to make itself useful supplying energy to Germany et al.:
“Speaking about Russia's war of aggression on Ukraine, the chancellor said, ‘It is good that Georgia supports the United Nations resolution condemning Russia’s war of aggression.’ Just as important is its clear commitment to prevent all attempts to circumvent sanctions against Russia. Germany is also committed to expanding energy cooperation with Georgia in light of Russia’s war of aggression. In 2022, new funding will be made available for developments in the energy sector, including energy security issues.” (Scholz’ press conference, Sept. 14, 2022)
The same applies to Kazakhstan: “During her visit to Kazakhstan, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock welcomed the Central Asian country’s efforts to distance itself from Russia and reform its own constitutional state. Speaking in Astana, the capital, the Green Party politician said the former Soviet republic deserves respect for standing up on the issue of Russia’s attack on Ukraine despite its difficult geographic situation"(Tagesschau, Oct. 31, 2022). Agreements were also made to cooperate on green hydrogen production and wind farms.
 Examples are the founding of a European “tank alliance” which Germany owes to its proven war skills in this area, as well as its security policymakers’ pressing ahead with the procurement of new air defense capabilities against enemy missile fire, which are deemed urgent in view of the course of the war in Ukraine. They are choosing the Israeli-American missile defense system “Arrow” and forging a European coalition under the catchy name of “European Sky Shield,” bypassing the Franco-Italian rival product.
 On the question of war and peace, the West’s world order and its defense, this nation knows no parties. Both the Labour opposition and the Conservatives in government see the war in Ukraine as “an attempt by President Putin to turn back the clock. To re-establish Russian force as a means of dominance over parts of Eastern Europe. And it is a direct threat to the anti-imperialist principle: That sovereign nations are free to choose their own allies and and their own way of life. That is why it is crucial that we in this House are united in opposing Russian aggression.” (Keir Starmer’s response to the Prime Minister’s Ukraine statement, policymogul.com, Feb. 25, 2022)
 Whatever needs to be said about the reasons for this war that the US-led West and Russia have can be found in detail in the article “The three reasons for the war in Ukraine” from GegenStandpunkt 2-22.
 The "special partnership" has been materialized in Britain’s active brotherhood in arms with the US in its world-ordering wars, in the time-tested interoperability of the two armed forces, in Britain’s nuclear capability with American Trident missiles, in the two British aircraft carrier battle groups with US planes and pilots on board and usually a US warship as escort, in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance (UK, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), etc.
 After the end of its military alliance with the Soviet Union against fascist Germany in World War II, Britain was a staunch fighter within the NATO alliance during the Cold War against the new enemy of the Free West: “totalitarian communism” behind the “Iron Curtain” dividing Europe and the world. Even in the phase of détente, British governments saw no reason to substantially modify their hostility. Unlike their NATO partner Germany, they did not bet on a policy of “change through trade and rapprochement,” relying instead on the deterrent power of their nuclear-armed military and the subversive capabilities of Her Majesty’s world’s best secret service. Britain could boast of having an “Iron Lady” standing firmly by the side of the US and Ronald Reagan to “out-arm” the Soviet Union “to death” until it exited world history “with a whimper or a bang.”
When the communist system collapsed and Russian power progressively declined in the Gorbachev and Yeltsin eras, British governments relaxed their hostility in order to use their financial power to help introduce capitalism to Russia and make money doing so, which also had a destructive effect on the country. Russia’s nuclear power and its political world-ordering claims based on that power were still seen to be too great by London governments. When Germany and France pursued an interest in strategically utilizing Russia to increase Europe’s power against the sole remaining world power, as they did at least at times in the second Iraq war, Britain found them to be betraying the necessary unity of the Free West and the vital transatlantic relations. There was a brief phase of easier relations based on the expectation that Russian world power was a thing of the past, when Britain actually declared it was willing to honor the Russian president by letting him visit the Queen. This phase was over with Putin’s program to restore Russian state power. Since then, Britain is proud to have made its capital the center for Russian dissidents and anti-Putin oligarchs, who now work to undermine Putin’s power in Moscow from a safe distance. Britain is anything but displeased that giving Putin’s enemies a home has caused a steady deterioration in diplomatic relations. It keeps a list of Russia’s crimes, chalking up the use of polonium to assassinate Russian spy Litvinenko who had defected to London, the murder of oligarch and Putin opponent Berezovsky, and the poisoning of former Russian double agent Skripal on British soil, as well as the Russo-Georgian War, the annexation of Crimea, and Russian intervention in the Syrian war in favor of dictator Assad.
 Britain has not forgotten the historical experience of the Iraq war, in which it fought alongside as the United States as its largest and most reliable ally in the “coalition of the willing,” leading to a row among the EU’s three leading powers. Germany and France refused to show solidarity and take part in the war, opposing the sole world power’s “unilateralism.” Britain saw them as blatantly betraying the unity of the West and showing an anti-Americanism that was dangerous to it and the world.
 The government is also forging ahead with the furthest-reaching escalation step in Western war aid to date — armored forces — by supplying fourteen Challenger 2 main battle tanks. And it is already training Ukrainian fighter pilots just in case, to make sure the personnel is ready should it and NATO decide to provide Ukraine with fighter jets as well. At the Munich Security Conference (February 18, 2023), Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called on NATO to “double down” on its war support and noted that “the UK will be the first country to provide Ukraine with longer-range weapons.”
This can be illustrated by the impressive list of war materiel supplied by the Ministry of Defence after only three months of war, intended to enable the Ukrainian government and its army to “drive Russia from the territory of Ukraine”:
“The multiple launch rocket system (M270 weapon system) and associated munitions (M31A1); More than 5,000 NLAW anti-tank missiles; More than 200 Javelin anti-tank missiles; 120 armoured vehicles; 1,360 anti-structure munitions; 5 Air Defence systems, including Starstreak missiles; 4.5 tonnes of plastic explosives; Stormer vehicles fitted with launchers for anti-air missiles.; New anti-ship missile systems; More than 400,000 rounds of small-arms munitions; More than 200,000 pieces of non-lethal aid including helmets, body armour, rangefinders and medical equipment; Electronic warfare equipment; Counter battery radar systems; GPS jamming equipment; Thousands of night vision devices; Dozens of heavy lift UAV systems to provide logistical support to isolated forces; Over 20 M109 155mm artillery guns, purchased on the open market and refurbished.” (gov.uk/government/news/ June 20, 2022)
“The prime minister will travel to Latvia for the leaders’ gathering of Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) countries, including Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania and the Netherlands, which will be addressed by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. ‘From the Arctic Circle to the Isle of Wight, the UK and our European allies have been in lockstep in our response to the invasion of Ukraine, and we remain steadfast in our ambition for peace in Europe once again,’ Sunak said ahead of the visit. ‘But to achieve peace, we must deter aggression and our deployments across the region together are vital in ensuring we are able to respond to the gravest of threats. I know this Joint Expeditionary Force summit will only underline our close friendships and unwavering support for Ukraine.’ No 10 said the meeting would also discuss intelligence sharing between JEF countries, threats to infrastructure and hybrid threats posed by Russian aggression and bolstering support to Finland and Sweden ahead of their accession to Nato. Further announcements on joint military exercises are also expected.” (The Guardian, Dec. 18, 2022)
 By exiting the EU, Britain has rid itself of the dilemma of always being concerned about its sovereignty and wanting and having to assert itself as a leading power in the EU at the price of ceding elements of its sovereignty to “Brussels,” while at the same time being unable to escape the claim to leadership raised by the “Franco-German axis.” The governments that implemented Brexit have been convinced that their nation will have at least as much imperialist weight through its own power and in partnership with the United States as it did before as an EU power, and be respected in a whole new way once it is no longer constantly tussling for power in and with Brussels. That is the British state’s materialism behind its exiting the European Union. Britain is willing to accept the associated loss of economic growth in exchange. It is thereby testifying to an imperialist state’s standpoint that its economy has to fulfill a function — to serve sovereignty. Brexit affirms that the standpoint of sovereignty is supreme over the material basis of this sovereignty.
“UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly hosted German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in London today (Thursday 5 January) for the first annual UK-Germany Strategic Dialogue … The 2 ministers committed to increase cooperation on a range of joint priorities from further support for Ukraine to action on climate change. UK Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly said: ‘The UK and Germany are the closest of partners and we are using the strength of our relationship to tackle the shared challenges we face today. As Europe’s leading economies we’ve agreed to work closer on our unwavering support for Ukraine and combatting climate change.’ There was a significant focus on global security in today’s talks. Both foreign ministers made clear their steadfast support for Ukraine in their fight against Russia’s illegal invasion and made a commitment to holding Russia accountable for atrocities, including conflict-related sexual violence. The UK and Germany have already worked in tandem to respond to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, working with the G7 and NATO to isolate Russia and support Ukraine. Today’s talks have deepened the UK-Germany partnership to enable even closer cooperation.” (uk.gov, Jan. 5, 2023)
“Britain and France will hold a summit in the first quarter of 2023 aimed at reinforcing their military and defence cooperation, French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Wednesday. Macron unveiled the summit while laying out his strategic defence priorities for France and Europe in the coming years, not least in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and a growing international assertiveness of China. ‘Our partnership with the United Kingdom must also be raised to another level,’ Macron said onboard a helicopter carrier at the Mediterranean naval base at Toulon.” (thelocal.fr, Nov. 9, 2022)
 Traveling to see President Zelensky two months after the start of the war, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised himself for doing his part in rejecting an outline agreement drawn up by Ukraine and Russian negotiators in light of Russian military successes. It provided for Russian troops withdrawing to pre-February 24 lines in return for Ukraine committing not to become a NATO member now or in the future. The Prime Minister later explained in Parliament that there was “absolutely no sign” that Russia wanted to reach a deal with Ukraine, and it could not be trusted even if one was on offer. He warned against a “land for peace” deal, and said he doubted Volodymyr Zelensky or any Ukrainian government would agree to any such compromise. He claimed President Putin’s position was getting weaker each week and that Britain must “stay the course” (BBC News, Sept. 22, 2022).
 It is an open secret, at least in Moscow, who is responsible for blowing up the Nord Stream pipelines. Moscow cites either London or Washington or both together as the perpetrators:
“On 29 October 2022, Russia accused the UK of involvement in the 2022 Nord Stream pipeline sabotage, which it claimed were carried out by the Royal Navy, in addition to involvement in the drone strikes on the Sevastopol Naval Base. The UK Ministry of Defence released a statement denouncing the claims and stated that Russia was ‘peddling lies on an epic scale.’ Earlier in the month, Russia had also accused the UK of involvement in the Crimean Bridge explosion.” (“Russia–United Kingdom relations,” en.wikipedia.org)
 British military officials warn against being too cautious in providing military support to Ukraine and urge the government to take a hard line, toward the US administration as well:
“The chief of the defence staff told the Royal United Services Institute: ‘Extraordinary times call for an extraordinary response. This explains why Russia is losing. And the free world is winning… Providing we maintain our cohesion and resolve, the real victory within our grasp is much more significant.’ Ukraine also made an appeal this week for more weaponry. General Valery Zaluzhny, the head of the Ukrainian armed forces, told the Economist: ‘I know that I can beat this enemy. But I need resources. I need 300 tanks, 600-700 ifvs [infantry fighting vehicles], 500 Howitzers.’ The US Congress gave the Pentagon approval in principle earlier this month to buy substantial weaponry for Ukraine. But the Economist reported that this may not arrive in time for a spring offensive next year. Some in Whitehall see this approach as a sign of the innate caution on Ukraine by US President Joe Biden who is understood to be concerned about provoking a wider global conflict. There are some fears in Whitehall that Mr Sunak may end up encouraging Mr Biden’s caution. The source told Newsnight: ‘We have stiffened the US resolve at all levels — pressure from us but always friendly. We don't want Rishi to reinforce Biden’s caution. We want him to [keep] pushing in the way Boris did.’” (BBC News, Dec. 16, 2022)
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