Attacks on Crimea up the nuclear ante

20 Aug

If NATO encirclement of Russia was a betrayal of promises made by a string of senior Western politicians commencing with Bush Senior’s Secretary of State, James Baker, who promised that, following German reunification, NATO would advance “not an inch eastwards1 …

and the arming of Ukraine – after the US led 2014 Maidan coup and its tightening of the far right grip on Kiev – together with Washington’s provocative refusal to rule out its joining NATO, and eight years of civil war in the east, crossed what Moscow had repeatedly warned would be a red line …

then the line crossed by US and UK backed attacks on Crimea – which voted by over 95% to join Russia after the Maidan coup unleashed state backed Russophobia, and which houses both nuclear weapons and the Russian fleet’s sole access to the all year round ice free Black and Azov Seas – is the brightest of scarlets.

Word Socialist Website today. For once ithis Trotskyist outlet drops its customary paragraph or two denouncing, amid otherwise correct and useful pieces, Russia’s alleged “strategic imbecility” of February 24.

US approves further attacks on Crimea, provides $775 million in weapons for Ukrainian offensive

Clara Weiss

Days after the latest major Ukrainian attack on a Russian military base on the Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea, the US is seeking to further escalate the war with Russia by providing $775 million in weapons and ammunition for Ukraine’s offensive.

Speaking with POLITICO earlier this week, a senior Biden Administration openly endorsed the strikes and encouraged further attacks on Crimea. The peninsula was annexed by Russia in March 2014, following a US-orchestrated coup in Kiev that ousted a pro-Russian government. The official stated that the US supports strikes by Kiev on Crimea and reiterated that the US considered Crimea part of Ukraine.

So far, two major attacks have taken place on Russian military bases on Crimea, on August 9 and August 16. The first attack on the Saki airbase caused the biggest loss of Russian aviation in a single day since World War II, destroying at least seven fighter jets, each worth over $24 million. A Western official told POLITICO on Friday that “more than half” of Russia’s Black Sea fighting aviation fleet had been destroyed in the assault. A Ukrainian official claimed last week that 60 people had been killed and 100 wounded in the attack. 

The second attack on Tuesday caused an hour-long fire at a major ammunition depot and damaged railroads critical for the supply of Russian troops fighting in Eastern and southern Ukraine. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the strikes on the ammunition depots, in particular, had had a visible effect on the course of the war in East and southern Ukraine. Both attacks damaged a total of at least 130 residential buildings and led to the evacuation of a total of over 3,250 of civilians.

Another series of explosions were reported in the night to Friday, including again on Crimea as well as at an ammunition depot in the Russian Belgorod region, where two villages had to be evacuated. Russian officials also reported that drones were destroyed by Russian air defense systems and a military warship in Crimea in the area of Sevastopol Bay, which is home to the naval base of Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

While Russia has so far been markedly restrained in its response to the enormously provocative strikes by Ukraine, Russian officials have repeatedly threatened that they would retaliate in response to strikes on Crimea, including potentially by using nuclear weapons.  

It has become increasingly clear that the attacks on Russian military bases in Crimea are part of a beginning counter-offensive by the Ukrainian military that has been prepared and funded through massive weapons deliveries by the NATO powers, first and foremost by the United States. 

In recent weeks, in addition to the attacks on the military bases in the Black Sea, Ukrainian forces have used the US-supplied long-range HIMARS rocket systems to disrupt Russian supply routes across the Dnepro and Inhulets rivers by attacking Russian-held bridges. Ukrainian troops have now also amassed near Kherson for an attempt to retake the strategic port city in southern Ukraine, which was the first major city to be taken by Russian forces after the February 24 invasion. 

On Friday, the Pentagon announced another $775 million in weapons and ammunitions supplies to facilitate the beginning Ukrainian offensive. This brings the total of direct military aid by the Pentagon to Ukraine since February 24 to $10 billion, an amount that does not include the $40 billion aid package passed by Congress in May.

According to POLITICO, the US will now for the first time be sending 15 ScanEagle surveillance drones “to help the Ukrainians spot and correct the precision artillery and rocket strikes that have taken a toll on Russian forces in recent weeks. The small drones can be moved around the battlefield relatively easily and would be invaluable in the expected push to retake the city of Kherson in the south.” 

The deliveries will also include 40 heavily armored MaxxPro mine-resistant vehicles, which were originally developed for the US occupation forces in Iraq. In addition, the Pentagon will provide fighter-launched High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles that have targeted Russian radar systems, as well as TOW guided anti-tank missile systems, sixteen 105mm howitzers and 36,000 rounds, and 2,000 rounds for the Carl Gustav recoilless rifle. POLITICO explained that the Carl Gustav is a “small anti-armor weapon used by U.S. special operations forces…which can be carried easily and is designed to work in close quarters with an enemy, is an indication that the Ukrainians expect close-in fighting in the coming weeks.”

A source told POLITICO that the US is planning to send Excalibur precision-guided artillery munitions in another tranche in the near future. 

The deliberate escalation of the war with Russia by the imperialist powers comes even as tens of thousands of soldiers are believed to have died on both sides; over a quarter of the country’s pre-war population of under 40 million has been forced to flee; and over 5,300 civilians have been killed. There are also significant concerns that fighting around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, could lead to a nuclear disaster. After weeks in which Ukraine and Russia traded accusations of shelling the plant, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed on Friday to arrange a mission by officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit the plant in the coming days.

The developments of the past two weeks have shown beyond any doubt the true character of this war: the imperialist wars are waging a war against Russia, using Ukrainian territory as the staging ground, its troops as their proxy and the civilian population as their hostage. The Russian invasion was provoked to provide a pretext for the implementation of war plans that had long been in the making. It is now used to further a massive escalation of the rearmament of all the imperialist powers who are positioning themselves for a new imperialist redivision of the world.

While Ukraine is currently the main battlefield of the war, NATO has aggressively pushed to broaden its frontiers. Particularly dangerous are the explosive tensions around the Suwałki gap, a less than 100-kilometers-long stretch of land, which passes along the borders of NATO member states Poland and Lithuania and connects Belarus, a Kremlin ally, with Kaliningrad, an enclave on the Baltic Sea that forms part of the Russian Federation. 

In June, Lithuania deliberately sought to provoke a clash with Russia by blocking the transport of Russian goods from Belarus over the Suwałki gap to Kaliningrad. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Lithuanian helicopters are now accompanying many Russian freight trains crossing the Suwałki gap to Kaliningrad.

This week, the far-right Polish government of the Law and Justice Party, which has delivered more weapons to Ukraine than any country apart from the US and the UK, announced that it is planning to close its part of the Suwałki gap. Both Poland and Lithuania announced this week that they will cease to issue passports to Russian citizens (with the sole exception of diplomats). The moves have prompted angry comments in the Russian press, suggesting that the main goal of the new visa restrictions is to prevent Russian citizens from entering Kaliningrad through Suwałki gap. Some commentators are insisting that Russia had to assert its “right to the Suwałki gap.”

In an indication that the Kremlin is preparing for a potential broadening of the conflict with NATO, Russia has reportedly increased its troops deployments and missiles in Belarus. On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that it had sent three MiG-31E warplanes equipped with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles to Kaliningrad. 

It should go without saying – but probably doesn’t – that Washington’s increasingly reckless adventurism can only be properly understood within the wider context of the desperate need of the rentier  elites who rule the West to prevent Russia, and even more importantly China, from establishing an economic bloc independent of the dollar. For why this is so serious a matter for those elites, see my three part series of posts, Why read Michael Hudson? – in particular the as yet unwritten third part, only slightly delayed by my having gone down with Covid.

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  1. While there’s no shortage of self anointed “fact checker” sites – see my recent post, Who fact checks the fact checkers? – to “debunk” the claim that James Baker made any such promise, the evidence is incontestable. In our propaganda free Western world where, unlike brainwashing places like China and Russia, people are allowed to make up their own minds, the link I gave – to a RT piece – elicits the Hmmm… can’t reach this page message. To access it you’ll need a non censored browser like Tor.

5 Replies to “Attacks on Crimea up the nuclear ante

  1. The Russian invasion was provoked to provide a pretext for the implementation of war plans that had long been in the making. It is now used to further a massive escalation of the rearmament of all the imperialist powers who are positioning themselves for a new imperialist redivision of the world.

    No shit Sherlock. Its only taken the WSWS just under six months to figure out what anyone with more brain cells than pips on shoulders knew and have been saying since 2014.

    As regards the move of those three MiG-31E planes to Kalingrad. This piece from Andrei Martyanov provides some interesting context:

    That context being the very serious warnings made months ago of that the consequences of escalating attacks on Russian soil would be the targeting of the decision making centers. Not necessarily with hypersonic missiles armed with nuclear warheads.

    On which note I recollect reading at least two or three reports from the Syrian conflict only a few years back of an incident in which the Russians destroyed, in similar fashion, a US/NATO covert Command Center directing operations in the region in which a fair number of Western security and intelligence personnel assets, like the Monty Python Parrot, (permanently) ceased to be.

    In respect of footnote 1 – whilst the RT piece is not available in the so called “free West” this link may prove to be an adequate substitute:

  2. Thanks Dave.
    Both good posts, never heard of Smoothie but have read Jacques Baud quite a few times.
    Cheating with the facts will indeed lead to disaster.


    • To give WSWS its due, it has never denied the West’s US led belligerence, on Russia’s Western borders as in the South China Sea. Nor is it blind to why, with both rivals making huge strides to forge an independent economic bloc outside the dollar’s reach, it’s all kicking off now.

      What WSWS has most frequently done however is paint – without any of the empirical evidence we should expect of Marxists – both Russia and China as rival imperialisms, and on that basis cry a plague on all their houses. The absence of any such sideswipe in Clara Weiss’s piece is refreshing!

    • Andrei Martyanov’s “Smoothie” blog is worth a daily read – and, when I have the time (occasionally) his regular 20-30 minute videos (if only for his ever present opening catch phrase “Well hello, it me again” which never fails to crease me up – must be something to do with Northern humour as there is something almost Music Hall about his dry delivery style).

      A rare commodity in the West these days – someone who very clearly knows their arse from a hole in the ground. One day soon I might get round to reading his books.

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