A statement on Ukraine from the Quad (US, Australia, Japan, and India) seems to reflect India’s continuing irritation with the behavior of the western powers at the G20 meeting, when these powers inappropriately tried to foist anti-Russian communiques on the gathering’s financial and foreign affairs committees.
The Quad statement makes no reference to Russia. It contains no condemnation of Russia but, noting the inadmissibility of the use of nuclear weapons, urges a resolution of the conflict that is in accordance with international law, including the UN charter. The rules-based international order [which must be a reference to the US and its friends] must respect the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, transparency and peaceful resolution of disputes – wording which closely reflects the recent Chinese position paper on Ukraine and refers to all the principles that the US consistently fails to observe. Alexander Mercouris recently noted a big difference between the warmth that welcomed Lavrov’s recent arrival in India for the March G20 meeting, and the coolness which greeted his German counterpart, Angelina Baerbock, for whom no Indian officials were waiting.
I suggest that these are early signals of an extraordinary realignment of international power, going further even than the BRICS and the SCO, that may unite China, India, and Russia, and many core nations of Central Asia (conceivably Azerbaijan, Geoprgia, Armenia, many of the “Stans”), Middle East (perhaps Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria), Africa (perhaps South Africa, countries of the Sahel) and South America (perhaps Brazil, quite likely, along with Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, even Chile, Argentina and Uruguay), against US hegemony and its “rules-based” order (in which the rules are made up arbitrarily by the hegemon on the basis of its own interests and as it goes along).
The catalyst for this realignment of international power is the NATO proxy war with Russia over Ukraine, helpfully laid out for the global public well in advance of the war by the Santa Monica think-tank of the NATO military industrial alliance (the RAND corporation report, Extending Russia). This has displayed in humiliating and embarrassing detail a remarkable hubristic diplomacy deficit on the part of almost all of the West, entrapped in a groupthink bubble, sealed by the cultivation of a crassly servile European elite and its US senior partners, never better exposed than by the complicity of German Chancellor Olof Scholz when at a joint press conference in January 2022 he failed to muster even a whisper of complaint when President Biden promised to destroy Scholz’s property (that is, Biden’s public commitment to destroy Nord Stream, into which Germany had sunk enormous investment and hope for an ever more competitive German industry, whose wealth was to have been assured by the flow of cheap energy from Russia).
The catalyst has also exposed an economic deficit, first in the sense that western economists and economics proved wholly unable to stop the process whereby sanctions against Russia would end up enriching the US fossil fuel industry, and severely crippling the European economy- while having only a minimal effect on their principal target, Russia. Russia has, instead, greatly enhanced its fuel supplies to China and India, cementing its political relationships with these massive economies, while continuing, less directly than heretofore and at much higher prices, to feed Europe. And it is has exposed an economic deficit, revealing that despite all its pompous and threatening rhetoric, the West was badly underprepared for this war of its own making – a war which its toadying press insists was “unprovoked,” but was in fact clearly provoked, persistently and callously, over the previous two to three decades, a movement for which the Bush Junior, Clinton and Obama regimes all carry a great deal of responsibility.
And this segways to the third deficit, a military deficit. A broad swathe of sources, including western mainstream media, have confirmed in great detail both the growing disparity to Russia’s favor between the weaponry available to Russia and the weaponry available to Ukraine and depletion of the West’s own stocks of weaponry. In the field of artillery shells for example, the US produces, 14,500 155mm artillery shells a month, and is struggling to raise that figure to 20,000 by the Spring. The eventual goal is 90,000 a month, which it may, if it is lucky, reach in 2028. Russia meanwhile fires on average 20,000 shells a day in Ukraine or 100,000 shells every five days (exceeding the amount that the US will be producing a month in five years’ time!), and there is no evidence of any slackening in this rate of expenditure. The entirety of the European Union produces 650,000 artillery shells of all kinds (i.e. not just 155mm shells) a month. This is the equivalent of 54,000 a month which is just one fifth of the 250,000 shells that Ukraine’s defense minister Reznikov has been claiming Ukraine needs each month for its upcoming Spring offensive.
No wonder, therefore, that Ukraine is losing in the critical front line concentration of its forces in Bakhmut, from which Ukrainian soldiers are reportedly fleeing as I write, and even in advance of formal orders to withdraw. In Kreminna, Avdievka, and Vuhledar and elsewhere, Russian advances successfully wage a war of attrition which may make a full-scale Russian offensive unnecessary. Various commentators, including Lt. Col. Vershinin, and Brian Berletic, have noted that Russia itself has never said it would launch either a winter or a spring offensive. Vershinin has argued that an offensive would be unlikely before the culmination of processes of recruitment and training into the Russian army, along with process of structural reformulation of that army away from the (relatively) infantry-light Battalion Tactical Group model.
I note that some western mainstream media, unlike the aforementioned Financial Times and El Pais – which are hardly angelic but do increasingly grit their teeth in favor of occasional reality checking – persist in sustaining a wholly one-sided and totally unnuanced barrage of highly pro-Ukrainian and anti-Russian articles, several a day, whose sources, it seems to me, are dubious and whose verity strikes me as improbable or, at least, decontextualized. The nakedness of an intense propaganda war is apparent to all who have eyes to see. Some online media sources strike me as invented only with this purpose in view. When we have sufficient empirical investigation – and this will require an academic community that is itself sufficiently distanced from the conflicts, currently far from being the case in most of the USA and Europe – we may begin to discern the grim statistical contours of this seismic decline in our informational infrastructure.
The brutal bottom line is that across almost all major categories of weapons, Russia outguns Ukraine 20 to 1. This applies particularly to such things as tracked and wheeled armored vehicles, air defense systems, artillery, and shells. Perhaps not enough is said about naval weaponry, where Ukraine, arguably and through mining, has managed to block Russia from attacks by sea on Ukrainian targets. There is broad consistency across many sources in the assessment that Russia expends at least five times more shells than Ukraine on the average day (even if the actual numbers cited may vary from source to source). Ukraine is currently begging the West for more – more of everything – and the West is able only to supply a fraction of what is being requested, and almost certainly not enough to make the required difference. This is exemplified by the response so far to Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov’s most recent pleas to the West (Mercouris has noted that Reznikov, who just a few weeks ago was reported to be victim of a major internal power struggle, still holds his post. His refusal to resign coincided with an end to the purge, something which western media no longer discuss). In effect, Ukraine currently has only three hundred artillery systems, not all of them necessarily in good order, to defend a front line that is the equivalent of the distance from Paris to Warsaw, around 1500 kilometers.
Much of what Ukraine has been promised by the West is arriving but only in small quantities or batches, over time, while some of it still must be ordered and produced, and the production timetable for some items is probably a matter of many months and even years. Mercouris warns against the assumption that when fresh supplies of Western equipment finally do arrive, however “new” and “advanced” they are, they will not necessarily be newer or more advanced than Russia’s latest and most advanced weaponry, and this will likely arrive on the battlefields around the same time. One should never overlook the largely unmarked delivery of western weapons to criminal, terrorist and other organizations who find means of acquiring, seizing, or purchasing them through corrupted political and military outlets in Ukraine, Russia, and any of the countries through which these weapons must pass. The destabilization does not stop at Ukraine but will slowly pervade the entirety of Europe.
One has also to bear in mind that in the case of Ukraine particularly there is a process of transitioning from a previous era of Soviet-originated weaponry towards a new era of Western weaponry. And this brings us face-to-face with the ugly reality of the political economy of NATO.
This, indeed, is one of the most salient facets of NATO – that new NATO members are obliged, in return for glitzy admittance to “western civilization” (at which point it is permitted to laugh) to align their existing armories with western weaponry systems, standards and operational procedures. This therefore exposes the underlying rationale and raison d’etre for NATO in the first place namely, to act as a mechanism for expanding the markets for western and, in particular, US weapons manufacturers.
The political economy of NATO goes even further in its institutional servility to the armaments industry and the military-industrial Incubus, not only enforcing an armaments regime upon its new and junior members but also in providing the wars in which these armaments can be deployed and, sooner rather than later, burn up at the fastest possible speed so as to ensure delivery of a steady flow of orders for replacements and newer models back to the manufacturers, not to mention an eternity of career opportunities and ribbons within the Incubus itself. All in the name of “democracy,” of course, as NATO itself chooses to define that concept, but one which so rarely feels like democracy for any ordinary people living in it.
The efficiency of this military-political machinery notwithstanding, the NATO political economy is subverted by its parent political economy. It is said by some that the scale of production that is required for the West to compete with a Sino-Russian combine on battlefields such as Ukraine or Taiwan is beyond the current capacity of a for-profit, “just-in-time,” system of monopoly capitalism.
Any major and lasting change to the current cul-de-sac in which the West finds itself would require the reordering of the hierarchy of relations between finance capital, manufacturing capital, the State, and the people. I am speaking primarily of the western powers, but the observation applies also to Russia and China. A reordering of the hierarchy of relations could occur in at least two very different ways. The first, probably the more likely, is clearly dangerous:
First: by means of a western regression to a World War Two-style war economy, whose militaristic and authoritarian underpinning, in a society that is today more self-evidently plutocratic, self-serving, amoral and decadent, might be a difficult “sell” in a promotional culture but an attractive option for those whose number one priority is the survival in its present form of the military-industrial incubus. This would do nothing to resolve the current crisis, but certainly further escalate it.
Second: by means of a rearticulation of prevailing political philosophy on the scale of a French or Bolshevik revolution. This would entail a reset of current priorities in favor of the interests of the masses and, by definition, would require a decisive withdrawal from nuclear brinkmanship, and entry into international negotiations with a view to the establishment of global security for all sovereign nations. This would impact all parties, but the leap would be greatest for the west. Both Russia and China have relatively recent memories of such revolutions whose footprints, while to some extent obscured, still deeply impress the memories of their respective peoples. In other words, there is more recent knowledge and relevant wisdom as to how such rearrangements can be done, and how they can be sustained.
True, such major rearticulations of global power are a great deal easier to talk about than they are likely to happen. But there is something dark at the center of current events that suggests at least that the sparks that can lead to such conflagrations have been struck.
It has to do the relative meaninglessness, the utter folly, of the war itself. What war is worth the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives just so a country, an independent political power, can get to be part of a western military alliance that knows that the country in question is unsuited for membership? And when such membership would be perceived as a direct threat to the national security of a powerful, neighboring country? This was an alliance which just a few years previously most Ukrainians were sure they could do well without. The war for membership of NATO was perpetrated by a president who came to power promising he would bring about peace. Furthermore, the foundations for peace had already been agreed by an international treaty in 2015, the Minsk accords. So, the president who came to power promising peace really had no work whatsoever to exert in making this happen, if peace was indeed his objective (which clearly, it was not). This was a president of a regime whose “legitimacy” (or rather, lack thereof) was founded ultimately on a US-backed if not US-instigated coup d’état in 2014, aided by Neo-Nazi Banderite thugs, which not only overthrew a democratically elected president, but overthrew a president who was due in any case to stand for re-election within a few months.
The minimum requirement for NATO-approved “democracies” is that they have things called “elections.”
Well, Zelenskiy’s bid for “peace” has proven a fake, a farce and a tragedy. Yet even as that becomes more and more apparent to unzombified minds – mainly located, it seems, in the Global South – the small cabal of Washington neocons who brought us the break-up of Yugoslavia, the invasion and two-decade failed occupation of Afghanistan, the invasion and nearly two-decade failed occupation of Iraq, the criminal break-up of Libya, the reckless attempted break-up, occupation and destitution of Syria on behalf of motley and oh-so-undemocratic jihadists, the eternal mythologizing of “nuclear” Iran, blah, blah, blah. That small cabal, as I say, now talks breezily but with its customary absence of necessity, evidence, logic or authenticity about how China intends to invade itself (i.e. Taiwan, which the US formally recognizes as part of the One Nation of China governed from Beijing) and how the US somehow has a responsibility, therefore, to protect those Chinese people of China, who happen to live in Taiwan, from the other Chinese people of China, who live on the mainland. The likely result will be a war to the last Taiwanese to match a war to the last Ukrainian, both to go down in the annals of the grotesquely awful and idiotic means by which doomed empires seek avoidance of (their well-deserved) demise.
We should hope our children will still be here to read those annals as they sweat to reverse the course of climate change. They could learn a lot.
(Featured Image: “Bucha after Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Zelensky and Yermak” by Oleksandr Ratushniak is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.)