Amid “massive casualties,” Washington vows to fight to the last Ukrainian
Andre Damon, WSWS, Sep 9 2022

Ukrainian soldiers load bodies into a railway refrigerator carriage in Kyiv, May 13 2022.
(Photo: Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

On Thursday, US Sec State Blinken and Sec Def Austin traveled to Ukraine to pledge to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian, cheering on an offensive that US forces quietly warn will lead to “massive casualties.” Blinken boasted:

More than six months after Putin’s invasion, your counter-offensive is now underway and proving effective.

Blinken was referring to a US-instigated offensive to retake portions of Russian-occupied territory, which has already resulted in a horrendous bloodbath. Ukrainian forces have claimed that hundreds of Russians are being killed each day, while Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov said:

During two days of unsuccessful attacks on the Nikolaeva-Krivoy Rog and other directions, Ukrainian troops lost more than 1.7k Ukrainian servicemen.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one of the Americans on the ground coordinating the Ukraine war effort as part of the “Mozart group” paramilitary force told Newsweek that Ukraine’s planned offensive will be “very bloody.” He said:

There’s a lot of casualties. It doesn’t matter how well-trained you are. No matter how well-prepared your people are and your troops are, nobody’s ever prepared for the massive number of casualties.

In fact, the Pentagon and their underlings in Kiev are indifferent to the loss of Ukrainian lives. The much publicized counter-offensive involves assaults on well-fortified Russian defensive positions. The Ukrainian soldiers are exposed to massive bombardment from Russian artillery and aircraft. Even before this offensive, the war in Ukraine has been a disaster for the populations of both Ukraine and Russia. Many thousands of soldiers have been killed on both sides. Some 6.6m people have been displaced, while over 5.5k Ukrainian civilians have been killed, according to the UN. Human life means nothing to the Washington warmongers or their stooges in Kiev. The same people warming their hands over the fires of Ukraine have presided over a COVID-19 policy that has killed over 1 million Americans and plunged US life expectancy by nearly three years. The lives of Ukraine’s youth, many of them conscripted, are being squandered, mere cannon fodder, or to use the phrase favored by Leo Tolstoy, “cannon meat.” The recklessness of the US in escalating the war was summed up earlier this month by The Hill in an article titled “Why the US is becoming more brazen with its Ukraine support.” It concluded:

The Biden administration is arming Ukraine with weapons that can do serious damage to Russian forces, and, unlike early in the war, US officials don’t appear worried about Moscow’s reaction.

In July, Ukrainian Defense Minister Alexei Reznikov openly declared that the country should be viewed as a “testing ground” for US defense contractors, saying:

We are inviting arms manufacturers to test new products here.

Indeed, US defense contractors are not only “testing” their products in Ukraine, they are raking in money hand over fist. Despite the 8% decline in the US stock market over the past year, shares of Lockheed Martin, the largest defense contractor, are up by 20% over the same period, as are the share prices of General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman. US arms manufacturers are not only cashing in directly on the thousands of missiles, drones and other weapons being sent to Ukraine, but also on the massive rearmament of the NATO allies, who have all vowed to expand their military spending to record levels. And they are not the only American companies enjoying record profits. As Russia has dramatically curtailed its gas deliveries to Europe as a result of the war, US natural gas exports to Europe have tripled, while the prices paid by European consumers have surged ten-fold over the past year. US energy companies posted their largest profits ever last month, with ExxonMobil posting a record $17.85b in quarterly profits and Chevron a record $11.62b. Throughout the US economy, corporate profits have surged to 15.5%, the highest figure reported since 1950 and double what they were 10 years ago, amid rampant corporate price-gouging and a collapse in workers’ living standards.

American companies are benefiting from a war that was deliberately provoked by Washington and a pro-NATO Ukrainian government that emerged from a US-orchestrated 2014 coup in Kiev. For all the winged phrases of “democracy” and “national sovereignty,” the real meaning of Ukraine to US imperialist strategists was spelled out bluntly by US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who called the country a “battleground for great-power competition.” Speaking at Ramstein AFB in Germany, US officials pledged to “put the Russians back on their heels.” US Sec Def Austin boasted of the range of weapons systems provided by the US to Ukraine. Over the past three months, Austin said, the US has sent over 126 M77 howitzers, adding, “We’ve increased the number of howitzer systems for Ukraine’s defenders by more than 18-fold.” He added that 25 long-range missile launchers have been sent to Ukraine, including the HIMARS. Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, bragged that “the Ukrainians have struck over 400 targets with the HIMARS.” Critically, as this meeting was taking place, Ukrainian officials admitted that the series of attacks on Crimea last month were “successful missile strikes,” leaving open the possibility that the US-supplied HIMARS were used.

Austin said the mission of the US is “changing,” making it clear that the aim of the US is to draw the war out for as long as possible. He pledged to “upgrade our defense industrial bases” for the “long haul,” a phrase he repeated five times. In this he echoed the words of NATO Sec-Gen Stoltenberg, who wrote earlier this week that NATO was “making the most fundamental shift in NATO’s deterrence and defense since the Cold War,” but that this would come at the cost of “soaring energy prices and costs of living,” and the “threat of energy cuts, disruptions and perhaps even civil unrest.” The war unleashed by the US and NATO powers is at one and the same time a war against the working class: of Ukraine and Russia, of Europe and of the US. In the name of the “war against Putin,” the imperialist powers are waging a war against the world’s workers, declaring that they must accept energy rationing, plunging pay and even starvation. But the working class will have its own say in the matter. The crisis created by the collapse in living standards has led to a global surge of the class struggle, from the UK to France, the US, Sri Lanka and Africa. As they enter into struggle, workers all over the world must raise the demand for an end to the war. To the ruling class’s policy of world war, workers must counterpose the strategy of class war and the struggle for the socialist transformation of society.

Top European leaders visit Canada, as Ottawa takes on still larger role in US-led aggression against Russia and China
Matthew Richter, Keith Jones, WSWS, Sep 9 2022

Trudeau and Stoltenberg touring NORAD facilities in Nunavut (Photo: NATO)

German Chancellor Scholz and NATO Sec-Gen Stoltenberg made high-profile visits to Canada at the end of last month. Scholz was principally interested in securing German imperialism greater access to Canada’s abundant energy and mineral resources. Speaking to a business audience in Toronto, Scholz observed:

Germany is moving away from Russian energy at warp speed. Canada is our partner of choice.

Stoltenberg’s focus was on the Arctic and the Arctic Ocean, which he stressed at every opportunity are major arenas in the imperialist powers’ strategic conflict with both Russia and China. Accompanied by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Stoltenberg visited Canada’s far north, as well as the Canadian Armed Forces’ air base in Cold Lake Alberta, a key installation for NORAD, the joint Canada-US North American aerospace and maritime defence command. In his capacity as NATO Sec-Gen, Stoltenberg has frequently travelled to Canada. Nevertheless, this was the first time that he or any of his predecessors had visited the Canadian Arctic. Both Scholz and Stoltenberg lauded Canada and the trade-union and NDP-supported Trudeau Liberal government for their provocative and belligerent role in the war on Russia. This has included helping instigate the war, joining Britain in spearheading the push for crippling economic sanctions, funnelling hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Ukraine, and deploying Special Forces to Ukraine, where they are providing its military with intelligence and tactical and strategic direction.

Taken together, Scholz and Stoltenberg’s visits underscore not only that Canadian big business is eager to profit from a war that is roiling the world economy and could rapidly escalate into a catastrophic nuclear conflict. Canadian imperialism is assuming an ever more significant role in the US-led military-strategic offensives against both Russia and China, and is itself a protagonist in the imperialist repartition of the world that the Ukraine war has initiated. Scholz’s visit to Canada was far from a standard diplomatic jaunt. Lasting three days, it was far and away the longest state visit to date of his nine-month long chancellorship. He was accompanied by Robert Habeck, the Vice-Chancellor and Economic Affairs and Climate Change Minister, as well as the CEOs of several of Germany’s largest transnational corporations including Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Siemens. Moreover, as the German press noted, previous to Scholz’s visit it was unheard of for the head of Germany’s government to visit North America without visiting Washington. Berlin’s sudden interest in Canada is motivated by German imperialism’s need to secure alternate sources of energy and other strategic resources as it wages war against Russia, prepares for confrontation with China, which NATO now characterizes as a strategic “challenge” to its “interests” and “security,” and seeks to position itself to act independently of and if need be against Washington. German capitalism needs these resources both to fuel commercial war, including for dominance in electric vehicle manufacture and other “green” industries, and to pursue German rearmament.

Much as the Ukraine war has dislocated Germany’s economy, the ruling class has enthusiastically welcomed and prosecuted it, seizing on the fighting as the opportunity to implement their longstanding plans to make Germany Europe’s largest military power and pursue their strategic goal of dominating Europe, as a first step to vying for global dominance. Within days of the war’s outbreak, Scholz announced a tripling of the military budget, to thunderous applause from the German parliament. Talks between Trudeau and Scholz centered on Germany’s access to Canadian sources of liquefied natural gas, hydrogen fuel and the minerals and rare earths that are needed for high-technology goods including battery production. To Scholz’s chagrin, Trudeau was reticent about pledging Canadian natural gas to Germany. He would only commit Ottawa to supporting development of LNG capacity on Canada’s east coast in so far as it was “commercially justifiable.” The building of oil and gas pipelines and the role of natural gas in Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy have long been the subject of bitter conflicts between rival sections of Canada’s capitalist elite.

Trudeau was much more forthcoming on the question of working with Germany to develop a hydrogen fuel export industry. Scholz and Trudeau signed a five-page “declaration of intent” establishing a Canadian-German “hydrogen alliance,” and set a goal of 2025 for the start of regular Canadian exports of liquefied hydrogen fuel to Germany. Scholz and Trudeau traveled to Newfoundland, where the provincial government recently lifted a moratorium on wind farms, with a view to using wind power to fuel the production of hydrogen fuel. More than a dozen hydrogen fuel export projects have been proposed to Canadian governmental authorities, with various big business interests competing to make use of Atlantic Canada’s deep-water ports as conduits to Europe. Nova Scotia billionaire John Risley, who is involved with World Energy GH2, a US-based biodiesel company that has plans to build a plant in Stephenville, Newfoundland, told the Globe and Mail:

This is a global opportunity. The wind blows in a whole bunch of other places around the world, and we are in a race with those jurisdictions.

Trudeau told reporters the Canadian government will ease regulations so liquid hydrogen projects can gain environmental and other regulatory approval more rapidly. During the Toronto leg of Scholz’s Canada visit, the heads of Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz signed Memoranda of Understanding with Ottawa to secure access to minerals crucial for battery production, such as cobalt, lithium and nickel, and participate in Canada’s fledgling electric vehicle supply chain. The MoUs have not been made public. A Volkswagen board member told the German business newspaper Handelsblatt:

We are not opening any mines of our own, but we want to take stakes in Canadian mines and mine operators.

The day after Scholz departed, NATO Sec-Gen Stoltenberg began his own three-day visit to Canada. In a Globe and Mail op-ed published the day he arrived and titled “In the face of Russian aggression, NATO is beefing up Arctic security,” Stoltenberg stressed the “region’s importance for Euro-Atlantic security.” He made the by now well-known point that due to the effects of climate change, which will soon make the Arctic Ocean largely if not completely ice-free, global competition for strategic trade routes and access to the energy and mineral wealth of the region, including that under the ocean-floor, is rapidly intensifying. Singling out Russia and China as NATO’s competitors in the region, Stoltenberg said their increasingly close strategic partnership constituted a challenge to the “rules-based” order, the imperialist world order led by Washington, which makes and breaks the “rules” to suit its own imperialist ambitions. He subsequently crowed that once Finland and Sweden join the NATO alliance, seven of the eight Arctic nations, that is all but Russia, will be NATO members. he declared:

Finland and Sweden’s membership will significantly enhance our posture in the High North and our ability to reinforce our Baltic Allies.

As Stoltenberg’s remarks suggest, NATO views the Arctic as critical to its plans to strategically encircle, threaten and subjugate Russia, with the region constituting the northern flank of an unbroken front stretching from the far north and Scandinavia through the Baltic Sea and all of Eastern Europe to the Black Sea, Ukraine and the Caucuses. On Aug 25 Stoltenberg, Trudeau, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, Defence Minister Anita Anand and head of the Canadian Armed Forces General Wayne Eyre travelled to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, site of one of NORAD’s radar stations. While there, Stoltenberg and Trudeau observed Operation Nanook, which began in 2007 as an annual military exercise, but since 2017 has consisted of four separate exercises across Canada’s three northern territories and Labrador. The Nunavut portion of this year’s exercise included soldiers from Denmark, France and the US. The following day Stoltenberg and Trudeau visited, the Cold Lake, Alberta, air base.

During his visit, Stoltenberg repeatedly praised Canada’s plans to spend some $40b over the next twenty years on “modernizing” NORAD. As part of his emphasis on the strategic importance of the Arctic, he noted that the shortest route for Russian missiles and bombers to reach North America is over the North Pole. At the same time, he pressed the Trudeau government, which dramatically raised military spending since 2016 and is in the process of procuring new fleets of warplanes and warships, to rapidly meet the alliance’s minimum military spending target of 2% of GDP. This would mean boosting Canada’s annual defence budget from the current $36b/yr to almost $55b/yr. Trudeau balked at making such a commitment. But in the run-up to this year’s budget, Defence Minister Anand presented the cabinet with spending scenarios that conformed with the NATO target. Moreover the government, even after announcing billions in military spending hikes in the 2022-23 budget, promised further spending announcements after a defence policy review is completed. Trudeau also made clear that while Ottawa uses NATO to project Canadian imperialist power and influence in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, it doesn’t acknowledge a European role in the “defence” of the North American Arctic. That it considers to be an exclusively bilateral Canada-US matter, anchored by NORAD and the three-quarters of a century old Canada-US military security alliance. Trudeau declared:

We will continue to lead on the defence of North America, but as NATO members it is of course perfectly germane to invite the secretary-general and to highlight the work that we’re doing as NATO members in protecting this region.

The Canadian press has said very little about NORAD “modernization.” This is consistent with the ongoing efforts of the entire political establishment and capitalist elite to cover up the extent to which Canadian imperialism is fully integrated into Washington’s plans for WW3. In so far as NORAD modernization is mentioned, it is generally presented as a much-needed technical upgrade of the now decades-old early warning radar system. In fact of the almost $40b in new money Canada is investing in NORAD, less than a quarter, $6.9b, is budgeted for upgrading and developing new radar capabilities. As for the remainder, vaguely-worded government documents allot $6.38b to new, advanced air-to-air missiles; $4.13b to updating and integrating command and control systems; $15.68b for improved military infrastructure, including upgrading four CAF bases, and new air-to-air refueling aircraft; and $4.23b for developing new weapons systems. Washington has welcomed the Liberal government’s new NORAD commitments, even while signaling that they view them as only an initial down payment. It is well known that both the Biden administration and the Canadian military-security establishment are anxious for the Trudeau government to formally join the US anti-ballistic missile shield—which, its name notwithstanding, is aimed at giving US imperialism the capacity to wage a “winnable” first-strike, nuclear war.

The death of Queen Elizabeth II: A major political crisis for British imperialism
Chris Marsden, WSWS, Sep 9 2022

The Queen invites Liz Truss to become PM, Sep 6 2022. (Photo: AP)

Queen Elizabeth II has passed away aged 96, after seven decades on the throne as head of the United Kingdom. Her death occurs at a time of acute economic, social and political crisis for British imperialism, including the deepest collapse of living standards since the Great Depression, a NATO proxy war against Russia waged on mainland Europe, and a rising wave of class struggle that threatens to erupt into a general strike. The ruling class now faces this perfect storm without its popular representative of state on which it has relied to project the myth of national unity and suppress social conflict. In her role as head of state, the queen officially welcomed and held weekly discussions with an extraordinary total of 15 prime ministers. Her final act of service to the bourgeoisie, just two days before her death, was to appoint Liz Truss as prime minister, bestowing her authority on an illegitimate and despised government tasked with waging war on the working class. The Telegraph acknowledged the importance of the Queen’s role, writing:

The Crown can help secure smooth and peaceful handovers of political power, as we have seen only this week. The Queen’s final public duty was to oversee a trouble-free transition of executive power that in other countries might have engendered a political and constitutional crisis. How many other nations can seamlessly change their head of state and leader of government in a week without tumult? The country’s stability has owed a great deal to the Queen’s presence at its heart.

With her death, the crown falls onto the head of her son, Charles III. At 73, he is the oldest person to ever become king and has no popular support. His accession leaves little with which to conceal the deepening and irreconcilable social and political divisions that are the reality of life in Britain and throughout the world. Amid the inevitable ritualistic fawning of the British media, the scale of the difficulties facing the ruling elite is acknowledged. Martin Kettle wrote in the Guardian:

Do not underestimate the upheaval in British life that this dynastic moment will trigger. Elizabeth II spent 70 years as a low-key but extremely effective unifying force in a nation that is visibly pulling itself apart. Her passing will remove that force, which her heirs cannot assume they will be able to replicate. In its way, this succession will be one of the biggest tests to face modern Britain.

The Financial Times states:

The kingdom the Queen leaves behind confronts much larger questions than her own institution. Britain has lost its own strength and stay just as it is groping to define its place in the world for the decades ahead. Many other institutions of state appear outdated or tarnished and the survival of the 315-year-old UK itself is not necessarily assured.

As monarch, Elizabeth played an essential role in preserving social and political stability, especially at times of heightened crisis for British imperialism. She was placed in line to the throne as a result of the abdication of her uncle, Edward VIII in 1936, whose Nazi sympathies and those of his lover Wallis Simpson, threatened to discredit the monarchy and provoke social and political conflict. Her coronation in 1953 took place amid the protracted decline of British imperialism, just three years before the Suez crisis. She helped manage Britain’s eclipse by the US and the retreat from empire as head of the Commonwealth, a civilised veneer behind which Britain was fully prepared to respond with utmost brutality when its vital global interest were threatened. From the savage repression of Kenya’s Mau Mau Rebellion when she first took office, the bloody occupation of Northern Ireland, Margaret Thatcher’s war for control of the Falklands/Malvinas and numerous criminal wars in the MENA, Britain’s Armed Forces have shrouded their crimes in the Union Jack while playing “God Save the Queen.”

As deference towards the monarchy faded, she led a political recasting that downplayed the Royal family’s fabulous wealth while investing as much dignity as she could muster in the archaic pomp and ceremony employed to lend bourgeois rule an heir of timeless permanence and legitimise a system of hereditary privilege. This role as a symbol of national unity was never more important than at times of intensified class struggle. However, from the 1980s on, the younger royals found it impossible to restrain themselves from public displays of wealth and privilege, as first Diana, then others were feted by the global super-rich and disgraced themselves in the process. In the last years before she died, the queen was forced to endure a bitter public rift with Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, as they sought greener pastures as international celebrities and then the revelations of Prince Andrew’s involvement in billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking operations.

Today, the earnest hope of the ruling class is that Charles’ time on the throne is short so that the carefully groomed and prepared Prince William can have a chance to restore a much-reduced monarchy’s public standing. To facilitate this transition, events following the queen’s death have been meticulously planned. Operation London Bridge covers 12 days of official mourning, including her state funeral. This will be used once again to buttress the state apparatus and bury the class struggle beneath a torrent of patriotism, nationalist nostalgia and mawkish sentimentality. Calls for national unity at a time of shared grief are already being used as a weapon against a growing strike wave. The key role in these plans is being played by the trade unions and the Labour Party.

The trade union leaders will be joined in their own Operation London Bridge by the Labour Party leaders, whether nominally right or left. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer seized on the queen’s death to proclaim Labour’s commitment to national unity and class peace, pledging on behalf of his rotten party:

Jeremy Corbyn maintained his own record of acting only in the “national interest”, tweeting:

Notwithstanding her personal characteristics, however, the ability of the late queen to act as a symbol of national unity depended on the broader ability of the bourgeoisie to prevent social tensions from reaching the point of explosion. The “Second Elizabethan Age” first proclaimed by Winston Churchill spanned decades following WW2 in which capitalism was able to provide rising living standards for the working class and the reformist nostrums of the Labour Party and the trade unions appeared able to at least partially satisfy the demands of workers for a living wage, education, housing, health care and other essentials. The precipitous decline of the monarchy beginning in the 1990s is only one expression of how all the political instruments of bourgeois rule, above all the trade unions and the Labour Party, now confront workers as the defenders of a system that is plunging them ever deeper into unbearable hardship and threatening their very survival as the war against Russia rages out of control. Whatever the immediate impact of the queen’s death, a decisive conflict between the working class and British imperialism is developing inexorably.

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