War and its consequences: Five months after the invasion of Ukraine

Editorial statement from issue 8 of Socialist World, the theoretical journal of the International Socialist Alternative

War in Ukraine is now entering its six month. Entire cities such as Mariupol and Severodonetsk have been annihilated. Thousands of civilians and tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides have been killed, whilst probably ten times more have been wounded. Although some have now returned, over eight million refugees, overwhelmingly women and children, have fled abroad. As many again have been displaced within Ukraine.

The Kremlin’s hopes that it would occupy the whole country were quickly dashed as it met fierce resistance. It was forced to withdraw from around Kyiv, Chernigov and Kharkiv, to concentrate its forces on Donbas. This is the approximately 400 by 200 km area covering the industrial Donetsk and Luhansk regions in East Ukraine. In 2014 part of Donbas was taken over by the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “peoples’ republics” (DNR/LNR) and since then fighting has continued. Now Russian and Ukrainian forces are fighting over every kilometer of land in a war of attrition that is likely to last for many months, and possibly longer.

The war is a product of a new period of growing tensions between the imperialist powers resulting from the economic crisis, retreat from globalization and neoliberalism and the consequent attempts to redivide global spheres of interest, in other words, areas for exploitation. As the new Cold War between the two major imperialist powers — U.S. and China — deepens, military and diplomatic blocs are being realigned, and regional balances upset. The camp led by the U.S. clearly sees the war as the opportunity to weaken Russia and also as a warning to and dress rehearsal for military conflict with China at a later stage.

Russian imperialism has its own aggressive agenda in which Ukraine does not have the right to exist as an independent state. The reality too is that the U.S. and the Western imperialist governments, despite all their promises to the Ukrainian people, see Ukraine as a pawn in their global conflict.

Biden changes his tune

Early in the war, feeling emboldened by Russian reverses and NATO’s united response, U.S. president Biden in so many words called for Putin’s overthrow. He and others in the U.S. leadership supported the idea that Russia would be driven out of the whole of Ukrainian territory and decisively defeated. While Putin miscalculated badly in ordering the invasion, it looks very much like Biden miscalculated since. This is especially as the West has seen the wider costs of the war escalate.

But we must also be realistic about the military balance of forces. Despite endless Western propaganda at the start of the war about the Russian military facing imminent collapse, this is far from true. Without Western backing, it is the Ukrainian military which would have collapsed rapidly after the invasion. For example, the U.S. sent 7,000 Javelin anti-tank missiles. However, Russia would have found it impossible to permanently occupy the whole of Ukraine or even most of it against the determined resistance of its population.

The new phase of the war in the Donbas has favored the Russian approach of using long range artillery to pound Ukrainian cities into submission. While Russian forces are still taking big casualties, Ukrainian casualties are increasingly unsustainable. The West has promised more high tech military systems to Ukraine. The truth is that the only way to militarily defeat the Russian military and drive it out of Ukraine at this point would be for NATO to send in its own forces, leading the world to the brink of all out war between Russia and NATO. The Western imperialists have made clear they are not prepared to do this, and instead want to confine the war to Ukrainian territory in order to maintain greater control.

So the West is now busy talking down expectations and dashing the illusions of ordinary Ukrainians. This could get worse when the Western imperialists eventually force Zelensky to sign a deal accepting the partition of the country and the effective annexation of a large part or the whole of Donbas into Russia.

Meanwhile, the Western powers are exhibiting tensions and divisions over their next moves given the potential consequences. The war has already dramatically worsened global food and energy crises, worsened inflation and the debt crisis facing many poor countries. This points to massive upheaval as we already see in Sri Lanka.

But the economic and social consequences will not be limited to poor countries. Among the major powers, Germany is particularly exposed as its economic model is based on cheap Russian energy and exports to China. There is now great anxiety in the Western media about whether Russia is about to shut down the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline. Germany relies on Russia for 35% of its gas supplies from Russia, covering the heating of half of the country’s households while France gets 19% of its gas from Russia. As the war drags on, divisions in the Western camp could sharpen with one wing seeking to bring the conflict to an end more quickly, through some form of accommodation with Russia, the other willing to let it drag on.

How the Ukraine conflict evolved

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, western economic interests have exploited Eastern Europe’s cheap labor for its supply chains, and relied on the region’s energy, minerals, and food commodities. Militarily NATO has expanded across the region. Until the 2008 global crisis, both the West and Russia viewed their relationship as a developing “partnership.” Putin even suggested Russia could eventually join NATO. But as globalization began to slow, and Russia benefited from increased oil revenues, increasingly conflicts grew.

Both the “Orange revolution” in Ukraine in 2004 and the Euromaidan crisis in 2013–4 were the result of the conflict between pro-Russian and pro-EU interests within Ukraine’s oligarchic ruling elite. In both cases the pro-EU forces resting on mass protests were victorious. The Kremlin’s response was to annex Crimea, and give military and political support to the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics” (DNR/LNR) governments in the east. The resulting war in Donbas from 2014–21 claimed over 15,000 lives. As U.S. and EU imperialist interests have strengthened across the region, the Kremlin elite has become increasingly more aggressive in opposing it.

In launching this brutal war, it claimed its aim was to “denazify” and “demilitarize” Ukraine. It justifies this, as it waged the referendum campaign in Crimea in 2014, with a deluge of horrific allegations about how the Kyiv government had been taken over by fascists. It is certainly true that Ukraine’s far right played a key role in the Euromaidan crisis and in the battles against pro-Russian forces in 2014–6, although, since Euromaidan, the far right vote has reduced from 7% to 2.2%. A section of the oligarchs however, during the Presidential period of Viktor Poroshenko (2014–19), saw the far-right as a useful adjunct to the usual repressive state apparatus, and many far-right activists, including in the infamous Azov Regiment, have been integrated into them at various levels.

We do not agree with the way the Zelensky regime is characterized by either pro-Russian voices, who say it is far-right/fascist or by its supporters who whitewash the real nature of Zelensky’s regime, presenting it as a defender of “democracy” against “authoritarianism.” He was elected in 2019 as an outsider, winning the support of all those disgusted by the previous oligarch regimes of Poroshenko and Yanukovich. He promised an end to the war in East Ukraine and a battle against corruption. He quickly met opposition from the far right who opposed his attempts to negotiate peace. At the same time, he continued to implement pro-business, neo-liberal economic policies, sometimes with a light covering of populism — for example proposed measures against the oligarchs.

Although his popularity was falling before the war, his poll numbers have soared because of his refusal to leave Ukraine and the way he is seen as standing firm against Russia. Yet his government continues with its anti-worker policies with a ban on strikes, new laws making it easier to fire workers, and plans to push ahead with pension reforms. The war itself has strengthened the tendencies to militarisation, and has allowed Zelensky to deal more sharply with his political opponents — including the ban on pro-Russian parties. Whatever the outcome of the war, in the absence of a left alternative, it is clear the Russian actions will lead to a dramatic increase in nationalist and right-wing nationalist views. To prepare for this it is essential the working-class, during the war, develops its own organized political alternative to Zelensky’s pro-capitalist and pro — imperialist policies.

If the Kremlin really wanted to “fight fascism” it should start with its own camp. Among those who first established the DNR/LNR governments were many members of the neofascist “Russian National Unity,” although they have largely been replaced by figures safer for the Kremlin. Today amongst the Russian troops are groups such as “Rusich”, recruited mainly from St Petersburg neo-Nazi groups and the notorious Wagner group — mercenaries used by the Kremlin as “deniable assets,” many of whom wear Nazi and fascist symbols.

The nature of the war

Some on the left internationally falsely give support to the Putin regime to one degree or another on the basis that it is the weaker imperialist power and echo the idea that the Ukrainian regime is pro-fascist.

However, in the West, there is an even more pervasive false position on the broad left, stretching from Podemos in Spain to AOC in the U.S. which is to give credence to Joe Biden’s claim that NATO is fighting for “democracy against dictatorship.” This leads to supporting the massive military outlays of the Western imperialist powers in the name of opposing Russian aggression. This is also echoed by some on the far left including so-called Trotskyists who combine support for the Western arms buildup with general anti-imperialist rhetoric. But in reality the arms buildup is inseparable from the broader Western imperialist agenda. By supporting one you support the other.

ISA is totally opposed to all the imperialist powers. Ukraine today faces a long drawn out war of attrition. Zelensky’s approach is to demand more and more weapons from the west, hoping militarily to push Russia out from Donbas. If this was to succeed, it would only be at the cost of a massive level of casualties, and a vast destruction of homes, schools, hospitals and workplaces. It would likely require a much more direct intervention by NATO precipitating a much wider conflict. This would leave Ukraine completely dependent on Western imperialism, which itself could at any time change its approach to demand unacceptable concessions from Ukraine. The reality is that the Ukrainian people in this situation face a choice, either to end up as vassals of Russia, or of Western imperialism. Unless, of course, the working-class, in defending itself from Russian occupation, can develop new methods of struggle relying on working class solidarity.

ISA fully supports the right of the working class in Ukraine to defend itself from Russian aggression, including, of course, militarily. In areas occupied by the Russians, such as Kherson, there is already developing a nascent partisan movement. But early in the war there were examples of wider mobilization against the occupation. At the Zaporozhskaya Nuclear Plant, workers and local residents came out en-masse to block advancing Russian troops, while in nearby Energodar, firefighters organized a demonstration in their vehicles after their fire-chief was replaced by the Russians.

The revolutionary methods that Trotsky generalized from the 1917 Revolution would mean, in today’s Ukraine, extending this through the mass mobilization of Ukraine’s population. But in such a mobilization, the working class must maintain its political independence from all pro-capitalist forces.

As this article is being written Zelensky has announced that an army “one-million strong” is being assembled to take back the occupied territories in the South around Kherson. If this was to happen, and not just remain as a boastful claim, it is difficult to see how the Russian army could maintain control of the South.

Nevertheless, this top-down, and in all likelihood one-off, mobilization is not the same as a mobilization based on, and organized by the working-class. By linking it, as Zelensky does, to the provision of weapons by the western imperialists means that, in effect, the imperialists would control how effective such a mobilization could be. Once reoccupied, the region would be handed back to the same owners, those responsible for exploiting Ukrainian workers and rural laborers before the war, and leaving the way open for the return of a better prepared Russian army at a later stage.

There would be a different outcome if the mobilization was completed by the working class organized in the workplaces and neighborhoods, through strikes, boycotts and uprisings in occupied areas, combined with a direct class appeal to the Russian soldiers, making it impossible for the occupation to continue. This would leave the working class able to defend and fight for its own interests — kicking the oligarchs out of the factories, allowing it to establish its own political party to fight for political power. If this was to happen, there would be a massive boost in working class solidarity across the world, and in Russia too making it much more difficult for the regime to continue the war.

But the Zelensky regime, basing itself on bourgeois nationalism and neoliberal ideology, is completely opposed to this path, instead relying entirely on Western imperialism.

Repression in Russia

Now the emphasis of the Kremlin’s propaganda is changing. Claims it is “denazifying” and “demilitarizing” Ukraine have not gained traction in public opinion. The Foreign Ministry now says Ukraine is waging a “proxy war in the interests of the U.S.” against Russia.

The state-controlled opinion polls, like Russian elections, are rigged. It is now even a criminal offense to call the “military operation” a “war.” Even so, it is clear that there is not a strong mood for war. A majority of those asked do not want them or their families to be involved. While support for the war is highest amongst the wealthy and older sections of the population, the majority of young and working class people are against it.

The anti-war protests in Russia have for now died down having faced widespread repression. However, so far there has been only one day since the start of the war in which no-one was arrested for speaking out. Many soldiers have refused to go to Ukraine, others have disobeyed orders, and some who have already fought in Ukraine have refused to go back for a second tour. There have been arson attacks on recruitment centers. Opposition to the war, however, is spontaneous and sporadic, as yet not taking on an organized form.

In part this is due to the absence of any opposition parties or organizations able to translate the latent discontent into active opposition. The so-called “systemic parties,” those which operate in agreement with the Kremlin to divert opposition into safe channels are in the “party of war” — the Communist Party being the most war-mongering of them. They have acted to relieve the pressure on the Kremlin. In the early stages, many rumors of opposition within the ruling elite, the military and security services circulated. Leading generals, including from the FSB, have, reportedly, been fired, and even in a few cases arrested. But as the conflict has entered a new drawn-out phase, and opposition at the time of writing remains under the surface, pressure on figures near Putin to take action against him has been reduced.

While in the short run Putin has strengthened his dictatorial domination over Russian society, this is at the cost of undermining the base of the oligarchic regime in the longer term. Even if it manages to secure what Macron calls a “face saving” agreement with Ukraine, based on Russia holding on to at least part, if not all, of Donbas it will have been at a very high cost. The Russian economy has been isolated to a large degree from the world economy. It now finds itself cold-shouldered by former allies. Even Belarusian dictator Lukashenko has not been able to openly support the attacks on Ukraine. None of the Central Asian republics have recognised the break-away republics in Ukraine, and the Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev even dared to state this publicly to Putin at the recent St Petersburg Economic Forum.

Despite the “no limits” cooperation agreement between China and Russia announced in January, China too has held back from too openly supporting the Kremlin at this stage. Despite its alleged opposition to any attack on the territorial integrity of a nation, clearly with an eye on Taiwan, which it considers part of China, it has not uttered a word of criticism of the invasion. It blames the U.S. and its allies for the war dragging on and opposes the sanctions regime that has been imposed. But it is avoiding anything that can be interpreted as directly helping Russia, either militarily, or to avoid sanctions, as, in the run up to this year’s CCP Congress, Xi Jinping needs global stability.

Chinese banks and high-tech companies such as Huawei are even withdrawing from the Russian market. A joint China-Russian project to design and build a wide-bodied jet to compete with Airbus and Boeing also appears to be finally collapsing. It is true that China and India are taking advantage of Russia’s excess oil supplies by buying them at large discounts, but even a senior Biden administration official (anonymously) told Reuters recently: “We have not seen the PRC (People’s Republic of China) engage in systematic evasion or provide military equipment to Russia.”

The effect of sanctions

The Western imperialist powers were, initially, united in launching unprecedented economic sanctions against Russia. Over 1,000 companies have withdrawn or scaled down their business, whilst the EU and U.S. have both banned oil purchases, although the actions will be phased in over the next eight months.

The Kremlin now gloats that sanctions are hurting the West more in terms of inflation, and the energy and food crises. Indeed, the ruble has been the “best performing” currency this year — on 24 February 24, the dollar-ruble exchange rate was 85, it fell to 139, but has since strengthened to over 60.

The reasons for this are threefold. Firstly, despite the decrease in oil volumes exported, the oil price has increased dramatically, by 60%. This means the EU is now sending more money to Russia than it has agreed as assistance to Ukraine! Consequently, Russia’s current account surplus reached $110 billion in the first five months of 2022 — 3.5 times higher than in 2021. Secondly, the government immediately implemented capital controls, limiting the export of cash and increasing the bank rate to over 20%. Although these restrictions have since been relaxed, they helped to strengthen the ruble. And of course, thirdly, the actual effect of sanctions was to lead to a rapid decline in imports, again leaving currency in Russia and strengthening the current account. The ruble is now so strong, the Central Bank is trying to weaken it.

But stabilizing the financial market is not the same as the wider economy, where ordinary people usually live. Inflation is currently 17%, the third highest amongst G20 countries — after Turkey and Argentina. Even according to government statistics, unemployment is expected to grow from 4.5% to 7% by year end while the RosStat statistics agency reports that the number of Russians living in poverty doubled in the first five weeks of the war. There are now 21 million living in poverty — which, given the fluctuating exchange rate, is between $100 and $200 a month. The unemployment figures are always understated as employers are persuaded by the government not to fire people — instead their wages are cut. In addition, it is estimated that maybe a million Russians have fled the country since the start of the war.

It is clear that a recession is looming. Some sectors are in danger of being wiped out — last month, only two of Russia’s 22 car factories were operating. Even the Russian manufacturers, who have raised prices by 30% cannot produce as, firstly the market has collapsed, and secondly, they can not get the necessary parts such as microchips from abroad. Car production fell by 97% in June. While the government is planning to take over some of the abandoned plants, the models it will be able to produce will, in the words of a Central Bank expert, be “technologically degraded”. They will no longer have airbags, APS systems or navigation units. This will be the situation in many sectors — Russian airlines, for example, expect that they will have to “cannibalize” up to a third of their aircraft for parts to keep the rest of the fleet flying in the coming years. There are now reports that even the arms manufacturers are facing difficulties. Workers at one factory in the Urals have recently been on strike as they have not been paid for two months — the director curtly warned them that workers did not expect wages during World War 2!

Forecasts by the Central Bank that Russia is entering a recession, and that it will take a decade to recover are probably pretty realistic.

War and the world economy

The Ukraine war, now in its fifth month, has accelerated a series of processes on a global scale. First and foremost of these are the effects of the war on the world economy, particularly because it has triggered a massive energy and food crisis. As we explain elsewhere in this issue, hundreds of millions of people in poor countries are facing food insecurity and famine in part because grain from Ukraine and Russia as well as key supplies of fertilizers from the region are not making it to the world market. Rising energy costs are also exacerbating the crisis in agriculture.

The energy and food crises in turn are fueling inflation which has reached a 40 year high in the U.S. and the UK. In many other countries inflation is even higher. It is important to stress that inflation does not have an even impact across populations. The rise in food prices affects poor families the most because food makes up a much higher part of their household budget. This is true even in advanced capitalist countries like the U.S. where millions are turning to food banks but it is a far more desperate situation in large parts of South Asia, the African continent and Latin America.

In the attempt to tame inflation the central banks in the advanced capitalist countries are now turning, as we said they would, to sharply raising interest rates. The polite explanation is that by raising interest rates, the cost of borrowing for businesses and ordinary people will rise and this will reduce spending. But this covers up the brutal truth that the real goal is to hold down wages and if necessary increase unemployment even if that means risking a recession. The Bank of International Settlements recently stated that in order to prevent inflation becoming entrenched, central banks “should not be shy of inflicting short-term pain and even recessions.” The former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Larry Summers, recently declared even more bluntly, “We need five years of unemployment above 5% to contain inflation—in other words, we need two years of 7.5% unemployment or five years of 6% unemployment or one year of 10% unemployment.”

In this way the capitalists seek, as always, to make working people pay for the crisis of their system. But the effect of the Federal Reserve and the ECB raising interest rates will not be felt just by workers in the U.S. and Western Europe. Debts owed by poor countries to institutions like the IMF or to private lenders are largely denominated in dollars. Rising interest rates will immediately make servicing these debts harder. The consequence of spending more of the national income on debt servicing to foreign banks and financial institutions means local capitalist governments will impose cuts in education and health care for working people making the crisis even more dire.

The combination of inflation, unpayable debts and the corruption of local capitalist elites has already brought Sri Lanka to the brink of collapse. More countries will follow this grim path. With large sections of the population in country after country driven into destitution and with the threat of mass hunger, social upheaval is inevitable.

The IMF now predicts economic slowdowns for 143 countries, accounting for four fifths of the world economy. We are on the edge of a global downturn for the second time in two years, only a year after the capitalist media was full of rosy talk about a stimulus-fueled recovery.

Of course everyone knows that inflation did not begin with the war. The rise in global inflation began with supply chain chaos triggered by the pandemic. But at a deeper level it is also the result of “easy money” policies pursued by the main central banks since the deep recession of 2008–9. This involved central banks pouring trillions into the financial markets to prevent a complete collapse. One of the inevitable by-products was to re-inflate various asset bubbles including in property and cryptocurrency as the capitalists invested the money in the financial casino rather than in expanding production, rebuilding infrastructure, etc.

Bizarrely, this also meant that the inherent inflationary effect of this expansion of liquidity was kept out of the “real economy” for a whole period, continuing the low inflation, low interest rate environment that was a key part of neoliberalism. But the pandemic changed that as the crisis was not primarily driven by the financial markets but by a collapse of demand. The stimulus packages of 2020–1 included more astronomical sums poured into financial markets but also huge amounts given directly to corporations and, to a much lesser degree, ordinary people. This inevitably contributed to laying the basis for an inflationary spike.

At bottom, the capitalist class is now lurching from one crisis to the next, with the measures taken to “fix” one situation directly contributing to the next phase.

The effect on the wider Cold War

Some may have thought that the Ukraine war and the U.S. response meant that it was again focusing on Europe and away from the Indo-Pacific. This is clearly wrong. In reality, we are seeing a significant escalation of the new global Cold War conflict. The war in Ukraine has accelerated this process and is also part of it.

At the end of May, Biden went to Japan and South Korea. During this trip he declared that the U.S. would militarily come to the defense of Taiwan if it is invaded by China. While this was partly walked back by American officials and the media talked of it being another Biden “gaffe,” it is part of a pattern where Biden “lets the cat out of the bag.”

During the trip, Biden met with the leaders of the “Quad,” security alliance including India, Japan, Australia as well as the U.S. He also launched the Indo Pacific Economic Framework with 12 Pacific rim nations. This is in part meant to be a replacement for the Trans Pacific Partnership, begun by Barack Obama, that was meant to isolate China but that Trump abandoned. However, it is not a traditional free trade agreement and focuses on voluntary cooperation in areas like technology standards.

Then, at the end of June, the NATO summit in Madrid for the first time was attended by the prime ministers of several key Indo-Pacific nations, including Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. As the Financial Times headlined, this meeting represented a “return to ‘cold war mission’.” They go on to summarize its conclusions: “a goal of sevenfold increase in NATO forces on high alert; first permanent U.S. base on alliance’s eastern flank [in Poland], an invitation to Finland and Sweden to join, and a new 10 year guiding strategy that ditches any illusion of partnership with Moscow.” The new NATO mission statement also declared China to be a systemic “challenge.”

This is the first time NATO as a body has directly referred to China. Along with the presence of representatives of key Indo-Pacific countries, it shows how Western imperialism is drawing further conclusions about a long-term conflict with a Chinese-led bloc. There is now open speculation about an “Asian NATO.” This may not be on the cards yet but the development of the Quad and the Madrid summit point clearly in this direction.

In a complementary move, the recent G7 meeting pledged to raise $600 billion to expand global infrastructure investment in “developing countries.” This is not an act of benevolence but clearly a belated attempt to push back on China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which has been used by China to build close ties with regimes in Asia, Africa and even Latin America. While this is not a particularly large sum, given that it is to be raised over five years, it is more of a recognition that to push back the growth of Chinese imperialism’s influence in the neocolonial world it will be necessary to engage in building “soft power” not just expanding military budgets.

Of course the Chinese regime is not standing idly by. Xi Jinping promoted his own “Global Security Initiative” at the recent BRICS meeting which includes Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, as well as China. The CCP regime also continues to push aggressively to develop security arrangements with Pacific island nations. A prime example is the recent agreement with the Solomon Islands which allows the local regime to call in Chinese “security forces” to help it quell local unrest in exchange for granting China, in the words of the New York Times, “a base of operations between the United States and Australia that could be used to block shipping traffic across the South Pacific.”

The trend towards deglobalization has sharpened. The clearest expression of this is the radical decoupling between the West and Russia, the world’s 11th largest economy. The decoupling of the U.S. and China also continues although at a much slower pace. We have seen a certain shift of production out of China and some evidence of “reshoring” and “nearshoring” production, that is bringing critical sectors nearer to key imperialist countries where they are more “secure.”

There has been much talk of the U.S. government investing large sums in cutting edge technologies, particularly microprocessor production, yet very little has materialized. But while the results have been meager, the turn to nationalist “industrial policy,” a form of state-driven capitalism, is inherent in the situation.

Instead we have seen ever more restrictions placed by the U.S. government on investment in China even while there is some talk of easing tariffs. Both in Europe and the U.S., the energy crisis has meant governments ripping up any remaining pretense at a transition away from fossil fuels in favor of developing oil, natural gas and even coal resources at a breakneck pace. This shows how the Cold War compounds all other crises.

War and politics

At the beginning of the war, there was an outpouring of sympathy for the Ukrainian people in Western countries. This was manipulated by Western governments to support a militarist agenda including expanding military spending and, in the case of Sweden and Finland, joining NATO.

However, in many other parts of the world, including the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and much of Latin America, there was far less support for NATO’s agenda, given completely justified suspicion of Biden’s claims that this was a fight between “democracy and autocracy.”

Many have not missed the utter hypocrisy of Biden denouncing Putin as a dictator while cozying up to the Saudi monarchy in order to get them to increase the supply of oil. Biden is visiting Saudi Arabia in July and has dropped all criticism of the brutal role they have played in Yemen, an even worse humanitarian disaster than Ukraine. Talk of U.S. “leadership” in the fight for democracy also rings pretty hollow in the wake of the reactionary majority on the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the 50 year old Roe v Wade decision which guaranteed the right to abortion. This shows U.S. society heading backwards in terms of basic human rights.

We pointed out that as the consequences of the war, in particular the effects on the economy, became more dire, popular support for military escalation, even in the imperialist heartlands, would tend to wane. By the middle of May, even the Biden-loyal New York Times was sounding concerned, warning in an official editorial about the danger of “all out war with Russia,” that “U.S. support for the war is not guaranteed” and that “inflation is a much bigger issue for American voters than Ukraine.” Biden’s sinking poll numbers fully confirm those points. Incredibly he is less popular than Trump at this point in his presidency.

The first round of the French presidential election in June was also a warning sign for NATO. A majority of voters supported either candidates on the far right or to the left of social democracy. While Macron spent his time presenting himself as a “European statesman” trying to find a solution to the war within the framework of Western imperialism, French voters focused on the cost of living and offered a stinging rebuke to the bourgeois “center.”

The war is deepening all aspects of the crisis of capitalism. While the people of Ukraine suffer, both imperialist camps face serious problems. Putin on the surface seems to have squashed all opposition but only at the cost of further eroding the foundations of the regime. Russia’s ally China faces an enormous economic and social crisis. And while the U.S. and NATO’s aggressive and initially united response showed apparent strength, as the months pass, the complications in their position have accumulated.

It is inevitable that the inter-imperialist conflict which flows from capitalism’s deeper contradictions will act to exacerbate domestic crises within the imperialist states themselves. But the main victims will be the masses of the neocolonial world, facing a drastic increase in food insecurity and savage austerity as regimes seek to make their debt payments. As people face literal starvation, the imperialists will seek to blame each other for the catastrophe. But the truth is that it is the entire system of imperialist capitalism which is to blame and which must be overthrown to prevent further and even worse catastrophes.

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