US and NATO send tanks to Ukraine

14 Jan

Will German made tanks named after big cats once more strike through the Ukraine at Russia? Leopard tanks, by Porsche.

I have my differences with WSWS hosts, the Socialist Equality Party. One of the most important is that, in common with Stephen Gowans, the subject of my last post but one, it sees Russia’s invasion last February as “reactionary” while failing to spell out an alternative path her leaders might have taken (absent a worldwide revolution few of us expect anytime soon) in the face of years of US/NATO provocation.

That does not, however, stop WSWS from producing searing posts on the war, marred only by the occasional aside borne of the perspective just noted. Today’s post by Andre Damon is one such.

US and NATO send tanks to fight Russia

This week, the United Kingdom and Poland announced that they intend to send main battle tanks to fight Russia in Ukraine, opening the way for Germany and the United States to make similar announcements.

For the first time since Operation Barbarossa 80 years ago, German-made tanks will cross the Polish border to take part in a shooting war against Russia. This is, without a doubt, the most reckless and escalatory measure taken by the US and NATO to date.

Abrams battle tanks stand on rail cars in Lithuania, near the Russian border, in 2019. [AP Photo]

Tanks are offensive, not defensive, weapons. They are used to break through enemy entrenchments, with the aim of capturing territory. Ukrainian officials have made clear that Western tanks are key to the achievement of their goals in the war, including the reconquest of the Crimean Peninsula held by Russia since 2014.

The United States is training hundreds of Ukrainian forces in armored warfare at its base in Bavaria, Germany, carrying out exercises with NATO armored vehicles. The tanks and their crews will leave Germany and enter Ukraine through Poland, where they will be thrown against the Russian front.

Modern tanks need vast logistics networks to arm and support them. A single M1 Abrams tank consumes 60 gallons of fuel per hour when deployed. These tanks will require a massive train of logistics personnel, many of them likely to come from the armed forces of NATO countries.

Not only the tanks, but their vast logistics and supply trains, will become targets. Each Leopard 2 tank costs approximately $15 million. The protection of these weapons systems, not to mention the troops that will service and supply them, will become a vital military necessity for NATO.

The US and NATO have staked their credibility on the outcome of the war, which is evermore explicitly defined as the military defeat and dismemberment of Russia. The logic of the conflict requires, therefore, an ever greater esacalation.

With its armored columns and supply lines threatened by Russian weapons and airpower, either inside Ukraine or over the Polish border, the creation of a “no-fly zone” will again be mooted in the American press as a vital necessity to protect the commitment that has already been made.

This would mean that, in the name of defending its military assets, US and NATO pilots and SAM operators would be engaged in shooting down Russian warplanes, kicking off a direct shooting war between the US and NATO.

This is the prospect the American and European population is being signed up for, without their knowledge, by governments that promised to avoid “World War III” and nuclear “Armageddon.”

In an expression of the reckless and provocative character of NATO’s actions, the New York Times wrote, “Over the last few weeks, one barrier after another has fallen,” as “the United States and its allies take on more risk to defend Ukraine.”

In a lead editorial advocating sending main battle tanks to Ukraine, The Economist wrote: “Another worry is that, if Russia is pushed too far or too fast, its president, Vladimir Putin, could escalate and, in the worst case, even trigger a nuclear war. These are not baseless fears.”

The Economist argues for sending tanks despite the danger. “If Mr. Putin concludes that his nuclear threats won him this victory, it would set a terrible precedent.” It adds, “Yielding to Mr Putin’s nuclear threats today sets up more perilous stand-offs tomorrow.”

The imperialist war planners assume that they can intensify their engagement in the war without a Russian response. But if Washington isn’t afraid of the consequences of nuclear war, what makes them believe the Kremlin won’t be?

In fact, this argument applies with greater force to the Russian side than to NATO, because it is the Russian government, and not Washington or Berlin, that is confronted with the prospect of regime change.

If The Economist editorial board were on the Russian side, what would they be saying? “If NATO concludes that military escalation won it a victory, it would set a terrible precedent.” After all, “yielding to NATO’s escalation today sets up more perilous stand-offs tomorrow.”

This, in other words, is an argument for Russia to respond to NATO’s escalation by launching an attack on NATO or a nuclear attack on Ukrainian forces. The more the US and NATO escalate, the less reason for Russia to avoid escalating.

During the Cold War, virtually the entire US political establishment, with the exception of the “lunatic fringe” of the Republican Party, accepted the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction.” This doctrine held that certain actions were impermissible for the United States, because the risk of provoking a nuclear response from the Soviet Union was an unacceptable threat.

Now, the mantra in every major newspaper is that NATO and the United States cannot be “deterred” from carrying out policies that could lead to nuclear war. It is like saying that one should not be “deterred” from jumping out of a building by the thought of hitting the ground.

Washington’s entire strategy is irrational, like all plans for world conquest in the past. But this irrational policy is driven by social and economic interests.

The more the present global conflict develops, the clearer the fact that this war, like the first two world wars of the 20th century, can be understood not by who fired the first shot but by much deeper social causes.

The reactionary Russian invasion of Ukraine was provoked with the aim of instigating a conflict that would lead to the dismemberment of Russia. Beyond naked geopolitical interests, the American ruling class confronts an array of economic, social, and political crises for which it has no solution. It believes that, through a desperate gambit to conquer Russia, it can somehow stave off the crisis gripping American social and political life.

And even as it escalates the war in Europe, the United States is turning the Pacific Ocean into a tinderbox, supporting the rearmament of Japan and the arming of Taiwan in preparation for a conflict with China.

The plans for this global conflagration are being hatched behind the backs of the working class of the United States and the entire world. The US and NATO powers are lying about their intentions and hiding the consequences of their actions. This conspiracy extends to every major political party in the United States and Europe, all of whom have lined up behind the war effort. None of them is saying clearly what the consequences will be and how many millions of lives they are prepared to sacrifice.

The rapid escalation of the war in the first two weeks of the new year confirms the warnings made by the International Youth and Students for Social Equality in its December 10 rally, “For a Mass Movement of Youth and Students to Stop the War in Ukraine!”

In his concluding remarks to the rally, WSWS International Editorial Board Chairman David North explained: “The outcome of this process, unless stopped by the working class, will be a global cataclysm on a scale that dwarfs the violence of the past. Since the outbreak of the war, the potential use of nuclear weapons has been normalized in political discourse.”

The situation cannot be left in the hands of the capitalist ruling elites and their political parties. If catastrophe is to be averted, the working class must intervene, connecting the fight against war with the fight against inequality, exploitation and the capitalist system.

I for one can forgive the “reactionary” Kremlin leadership for concluding on February 24th 2022 that the international working class might just conceivably fail to rise up and “intervene” in time to forestall the dismemberment of Russia and plunder of her vast resources … for concluding, in fact, that its sole means of preventing Western corporate asset-stripping, as seen in other richly endowed but subjugated countries, was to choose the least bad of a lousy set of options.

And do as it did.

That aside, the post is as excellent as it is chilling. Sorry if I just ruined your weekend.

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11 Replies to “US and NATO send tanks to Ukraine

  1. Strategic Culture on the descendant of the Panzer once again rolling, Barbarossa like, from the Rhineland, through Poland, into Russia.

    This may not end well. At least not for us.

    Meanwhile, a cautionary tale courtesy of Larry Johnson:

    Who knows where those tanks will really end up? As Smedley Butler observed, War is a racket.

  2. Yes it’s not a good start to a weekend in cold grey January.

    There did used to be I think a consensus on MAD. Despite all their other criminal actions/ideology, at least there was that. Now there’s only insanity across those that claim to be our leaders.

    I spent a few years with CND and I could clearly see there was a majority who wanted rid of nuclear weapons, but CND have never made any headway despite this. We’re stuck with criminals and perpetual war, now prepared to risk QArmageddon.

    I’m scared.

    Take care x

    • There did used to be I think a consensus on MAD.

      Andre makes a point I’ve been making for years. While there’s always been a fringe on the US ruling class which held that America could wage a limited nuclear war and win it, that fringe moved – with the rise of the Project for a New American Century, Wolfowitz Doctrine and calls for ‘full spectrum dominance’ – closer to the mainstream than at any point since WW2.

      That’s why I welcome, for all the attendant perils, Russia’s recently gained superiority in hypersonic missiles. As I said in a footnote to my last but one post:

      Russia having focused her deterrence efforts on surface-to-air and other missile systems (as has China) removes US capacity to launch a first strike, aimed at taking out most of her response capability, secure in the knowledge it could deal with the remnants through ‘star wars’ shields. There is currently no answer to incoming missiles at Mach 10 or higher. To which I add only this. It is a habit with bullies to see any diminution of their power to abuse as an act of aggression by the abused.

      In short, those hypersonic missiles just might have restored, for now at least, MAD to its central position.

      I’m scared too Margaret, but have grown used to the feeling. You take care yourself …

  3. The plans for this global conflagration are being hatched behind the backs of the working class of the United States and the entire world. The US and NATO powers are lying about their intentions and hiding the consequences of their actions. This conspiracy extends to every major political party in the United States and Europe, all of whom have lined up behind the war effort. None of them is saying clearly what the consequences will be and how many millions of lives they are prepared to sacrifice.

    Good to see committed marxists embracing the role of conspiracy in class struggle.

    • It’s true that Marxists often fail to see – indeed, can be in vehement denial of – this truth: no, capitalism’s driving logic does not in the final analysis rest on conspiracy; yes, it can and often does, especially in its imperialist phase, resort to conspiracy.

      One aspect of this, long mulled over by YT, is that the systemic corruption of corporate media (hence of any meaningful, which is to say, informed democracy) does not rest on conspiracy. Nevertheless, conspiracy in the forms of active lying and the embedding of state surveillance in editorial boardrooms does indeed take place.

  4. I’ve known for a long time about the lunatic fringe who thought they could win a limited nuclear war, although I didn’t mention it earlier. That included Nixon I think telling Kissinger to “think big”, because HK balked at the idea of a nuclear strike in relation to Vietnam, Cambodia and the atrocities committed against those innocent peoples. The reality now though as we know is that the lunacy is across the board certainly in the US, if not NATO, Europe.
    I read late last year someone, I forget who, with view that millions don’t know what the reality of a nuclear war would be like. Can millions really be that (I’m searching for the correct word) ignorant, indifferent, oblivious?
    Who knows.
    One glimmer of hope, and I really don’t know if this is the case, is those who say Ukraine simply cannot defeat Russia in this war, no matter what military aid they’re given, and that will force Ukraine to the negotiating table. Of course, as plenty are also pointing out, after the admissions that Minsk was a ruse, how could Putin trust anyone?

    • Given that we have never in my lifetime been so close to nuclear war, and given how much Europe has lost, the lack of debate about Ukraine – amid a full-on, evidence-defiant propaganda blitz – is, shall we say (since words fail me) deeply dismaying.

  5. Re the viability of western tanks, see:

    And they are only being supplied in dribs and drabs – tokenism. And at the very least will just cause more logistical problems for the Neo-Nazis.

    On a somewhat peripheral note, (I know that Phil does not attach much significance to this, but) assuming that Russia wraps up the Ukraine situation by the end of next year, that the US doesn’t manage to provoke China into an invasion of Taiwan and that the US doesn’t resort to nukes after defeat in the Ukraine, then the next big flash point is liable to be this:

    If the Russians enforce this interdict on foreign warships, and given the US/UK proclivity for sailing anywhere they claim that they can, this could lead to Russia having serious confrontations (i.e inflicting significant damage) with US naval ships. Which could lead anywhere. Of course the Russian Navy have, as described in the article, badly damaged USN ships in the past, but at the time Washington was relatively sane. Washington and the rest of the criminal conspiracy) doesn’t appear particularly sane to me right now.

    However, time will tell, and as Phil thinks, it may come to nothing.

    • Hi Jams. I fear I didn’t express myself well in our recent exchange. I don’t downplay this at all. What I said was:

      Naturally we must read between the lines a little. In saying (twice) that Russia’s stocks of conventional weapons are not depleted, I wonder if the lady doth protest too much. But there can be no doubting (a) the immense value of resources beneath the polar ice cap, (b) the insatiable predation of the US ruling class or (c) Russia’s prowess in hypersonic missile technologies.

      The first two sentences were intended to convey that Strategic Culture, which I find invaluable, is not a disinterested party. All information on the Ukraine War must be weighed, triangulated and taken with a pinch of salt. The fact western media are lying to us on a monumental scale does not mean Russophile media are squeaky clean.

      My third and final sentence, with its three point claim, is in alignment (I think!) with your view.

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