A brutal war of attrition – bloodshed in Ukraine continues

By Stephen Boyd 

Putin’s original war aim of a quick Ukrainian capitulation, with Russian troops being greeted as liberators in some areas, has been dealt a decisive blow. Failing to occupy Kyiv, Russian forces are now concentrated in the Donbas region. Fighting in trenches reminiscent of the First World War, with Ukrainian forces receiving significant military and economic aid from NATO.

Weakness of Russian imperialism

The war has exposed the limitations of the Russian army and state, with the Economist describing the invasion of Ukraine as “a disaster for Russia’s armed forces”. Tens of thousands of soldiers have been killed on both sides, with thousands of civilian casualties and up to seven million refugees. The Economist (9 May 2022) quoted Leon Trotsky when explaining the current crisis facing Russia’s armed forces; “the army is a copy of society and suffers from all its diseases, usually at a higher temperature”. 

Retired Colonel and military analyst Mikhail Khodarenok, speaking on the Russian state TV programme 60 minutes, gave what was seen as a shocking alternative view to that of the Putin regime’s propaganda. He warned “the situation [for Russia] will clearly get worse” as Ukraine receives additional military assistance from the West and “the Ukrainian army can arm a million people”. 

A new cold war 

The war can only be understood if it is viewed against the backdrop of the new “cold war” between the US and its allies and China with Russia as a junior accomplice. There are two wars being fought. One being waged by the Ukrainian people against the brutal Russian invasion – the Socialist Party supports this right to self defence and argues for it to be independent of the rotten, pro-Western imperialist Zelensky regime. 

The other war is a proxy war between Russian Imperialism, claiming to be fighting NATO expansion and US Imperialism. On the other hand NATO is aiming to weaken Russia and use Ukraine as the battlefield. Sweden and Finland’s decision to join NATO exposes the futility of Putin’s strategy, his act of aggression has strengthened not weakened NATO.

A prolonged war of attrition, with the Ukrainian people as the victims, now seems most likely.

Impact of sanctions 

The impact of sanctions on Russia have been somewhat alleviated by the significant increase in the price of oil and gas. According to Bloomberg, Russia’s total revenue from energy earnings will be $321 billion, the previous high was $230 billion in 2019. The EU, which has imposed new sanctions on the importing of Russian oil, is paying Russia €1 billion a day – which is more than its daily war expenditure estimated to be between $650-$900 million. 

However, Russian GDP is expected to fall by between 8% and 12% this year, the worst performance in 30 years. Support for the war is weakest amongst the youth and those struggling most to make ends meet as inflation moves towards 20%.

The impact of the war globally is being felt by working-class people as the cost of living crisis intensifies. Ukraine has only been able to plant 75% of its usual crops. Some economists now predict that the price of oil may rise to $160 a barrel. The working class and poor in the neo-colonial world are hardest hit, with predictions that 44 million face starvation.

Biden’s hypocrisy

As Biden imposes severe sanctions on Russia and aims to make it a pariah state, he is planning to repair relations with Saudi Arabia, who he had previously condemned as a pariah state in order to woo them into increasing oil production to make up for the shortfalls from Russia. 

Yet Saudi Arabia has been conducting a war in Yemen for seven years where there have been over 377,000 deaths – with 60% of them the result of hunger, lack of healthcare and unsafe water. Over 10,000 children have been killed or wounded. Yet Biden and his NATO allies, including the UK and the EU, are prepared to turn a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s barbaric war in order to help them economically fight their proxy war against Putin.

The Socialist Party completely opposes the invasion and occupation of Ukraine by the Putin regime. We support the right of self-determination and self-defence for the Ukrainian working class. We also oppose NATO’s proxy war, along with its general expansion in Eastern Europe, which will only bring more militarisation and suffering, not only for the Ukrainian people but for working-class people globally. 

It is only through working-class solidarity against the war and a struggle to overthrow the rotten capitalist and imperialist systems that the horror of war can be ended.

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