Ukraine forces advance dozens of miles in southern offensive
Andre Damon, WSWS, Oct 4 2022

Just days after Russia officially announced the annexation of four regions of Ukraine, the Ukrainian military staged its biggest military breakthrough in southern Ukraine since the start of the war, advancing 20 miles as Russian forces carried out a precipitous retreat. The Ukrainian offensive follows a similar lightning breakthrough in northeastern Ukraine last month, in which the Russian front collapsed in a disorganized rout and Ukrainian forces advanced dozens of miles in the span of days. Reuters declared:

This weekend’s advance is the biggest breakthrough in the south of the country since the war began, bursting through the front and advancing rapidly along the Dnipro River on Monday, threatening supply lines for thousands of Russian troops. Ukrainian troops had advanced dozens of kilometers along the river’s west bank, recapturing a number of villages along the way.

On Sunday, Zelensky announced that the strategic town of Lyman had been fully occupied by Ukrainian forces. Vladimir Saldo, the head of the Russian-occupied section of Ukraine’s Kherson province, told Russian state television:

The information is tense, let’s put it that way, because yes, there were indeed breakthroughs.

Video posted on social media showed dozens of Russian corpses, alongside discarded clothing and equipment. The Ukrainian military claimed it destroyed 31 Russian tanks during the offensive. Commenting on the significance of the Ukraine victory, the WaPo noted:

Lyman is a key supply hub on the western edge of Ukraine’s Donbas region, where Russia has concentrated its military campaign for months. Russian forces have used it to supply operations to the east since capturing Lyman in the spring.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told NBC:

This breakthrough is the result of the advanced weapons that the US and other allies are providing. This is making a difference on the battlefield every day.

Stoltenberg is correct. The breakthroughs in the Russian lines were made possible by the advanced weapons systems provided by the US to Ukraine since April. In particular, Russia has been denied air superiority by the NASAMS anti-aircraft system, and radar installations have been pulverized by the HAARM anti-radiation missile. This has allowed the American HIMARS system to strike targets unobstructed dozens of miles behind the Russian front, systematically dismantling the Russian logistics and supply system, as well as its command structure, leading Russian troops to effectively melt away before the Ukrainian advances. Oleg Zhdanov, a Ukraine military analyst, told Reuters:

The fact we have broken through the front means that the Russian army has already lost the ability to attack, and today or tomorrow it could lose the ability to defend. A month of our work destroying their supplies and reducing the combat effectiveness of this group means that they are functioning on minimal rations in terms of ammunition, fuel and food.

The collapse of the Russian line in southern Ukraine led to a wave of triumphalism among US military figures. Former National Security Advisor HR McMaster claimed that the Russian military is at the “breaking point.” McMaster told CBS on Sunday:

What we might be at here is really at the precipice of really the collapse of the Russian army in Ukraine. A moral collapse.

A DoD official told Politico that such claims were premature and that as Russian forces retreat to established defensive lines in the Donbas, both sides are likely in for a bloodbath. The official told Politico:

There’s lots of heavy fighting ahead.

Another added:

It’s important strategically, but they still have a long way to go.

The disaster has prompted a series of recriminations within the Russian political and military establishment. On Saturday, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov openly criticized the Russian military command, encouraging Putin to use nuclear weapons. Kadyrov said:

More drastic measures should be taken, up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons.

Putin confidante Yevgeniy Prigozhin, founder of mercenary group Wagner, said of the Russian military command:

I think that we should send all these bastards barefoot to the front with machine guns.

Elena Panina, a former lawmaker, commented:

According to numerous estimates, Russia is facing an enemy that is more numerous, better armed, better prepared and better motivated.

In a further indication of the crisis of the Putin government, the Kremlin’s press secretary Dmitri Peskov could not specify the borders of the Russian Federation following the referendums and the military debacle this weekend, declaring:

In terms of the borders, we’re going to continue to consult with the population of these regions.

The growing crisis for Russia’s armed forces only escalates the danger that the Putin regime, backed into a corner, could use nuclear weapons in the face of battlefield defeats. The US is actively making preparations for such a scenario. The NYT reported on US preparations to respond to a nuclear escalation of the war:

For months now, computer simulations from the Pentagon, American nuclear labs and intelligence agencies have been trying to model what might happen and how the US could respond. It is no easy task because tactical weapons come in many sizes and varieties, most with a small fraction of the destructive power of the bombs the US dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

In the most troubling development yet, the British Telegraph reported potential indications that Russian nuclear forces may be moving toward the front. The Telegraph reported Monday:

A train operated by the secretive nuclear division and linked to the 12th main directorate of the Russian ministry of defense was spotted in central Russia over the weekend heading towards the front line in Ukraine.

It cited Polish defense analyst Konrad Muzyka, who wrote:

This is actually a kit belonging to the 12th Main Directorate of the Russian MoD. The directorate is responsible for nuclear munitions, their storage, maintenance, transport, and issuance to units.

The latest military debacle suffered by Russia only presages a further bloodbath for Ukrainian and Russian forces alike, as Russian forces retreat to well-entrenched positions in the Donbas, and the Ukrainian forces, at the instigation of the US military officers now in full command of the operation, press to retake the entirety of the Donbas and Crimea.

Despite Russian nuclear threats, Germany announces new arms deliveries to Kiev
Johannes Stern, WSWS, Oct 4 2022

The German government has reacted to the Russian annexation of Ukrainian territories and Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons by intensifying its own war offensive, which is ever more directly leading to a third world war. Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) travelled to Ukraine at the weekend for the first time, inspected German tanks on site and announced further massive arms deliveries for the anti-Russian war regime in Kiev.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Alexei Reznikov celebrated Lambrecht’s visit on Twitter, stating:

I received my German colleague Christine Lambrecht in southern Ukraine. The Minister brought good news and other tools to strengthen the Ukrainian army. We had a discussion about the current geopolitical and security situation. The Minister was pleased to speak with our soldiers and to see the Cheetah system in combat.

Lambrecht announced in Odessa the delivery of further Cheetah anti-aircraft guns and the accelerated delivery of the IRIS-T air defense system. The system manufactured by the German defence company Diehl Defence is one of the most modern of its kind and according to the manufacturer, is suitable for 360-degree all-round defence against aircraft, helicopters, drones, cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles. Even the Bundeswehr does not yet have such a system in its arsenal. Immediately after her return from Odessa on Sunday, Lambrecht went one step further. On public broadcaster ARD Bericht aus Berlin, she announced a further round of weapons deliveries. She said:

We will continue to engage in a variety of ways, as we have done with partners so far. That is why we will be able to deliver 16 ‘Zuzana’ self-propelled guns to Ukraine next year, financed by Germany together with Denmark and Norway and produced in Slovakia.

According to media reports, the cost of the announced delivery amounts to €93m. According to the Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany, the Iris T system, consisting of high-performance radar, launching device and control car as well as missiles, will cost €140m. In other words, Lambrecht promised Ukraine military aid worth well over €200m during a single weekend. Overall, German military aid now amounts to several billion euros, making Germany one of Kiev’s leading supporters. The Dutch military news website Oryx wrote in early September:

Contrary to popular perception, Germany has delivered significant amounts of arms and equipment to Ukraine to aid the country in its fight against the Russian military. In fact, the volume of arms deliveries by Berlin exceeds that of every other country save for the US and the UK. The support already provided to Ukraine includes 30 Gepard anti-aircraft guns, three M270 MLRS, ten PzH 2000 self-propelled guns along with guided artillery rounds, 3.2k MANPADS, close to 10k Panzerfaust 3 and RWG 90 Matador anti-tank weapons, hundreds of vehicles, nearly 22m rounds of ammunition and a plethora of other equipment including 28k helmets and MiG-29 spare parts. These weapons are soon to be followed by a further four PzH 2000s and two M270s, four IRIS-T SLM SAM batteries, 20 laser-guided rocket systems, 43 reconnaissance UAVs and up to 20 unmanned ships. The German government also contributed at least €2b to Ukraine’s security capacity building fund with which the Ukrainian government can purchase armaments from other countries, including a further 100 PzH 2000s and 18 RCH-155 SPGs from German arms manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.

Despite this vast military support, Lambrecht insisted to ARD that it is clear that Germany and its allies are not parties to the war. She claimed:

This has guided us from the very beginning. And that hasn’t changed.

This is utterly preposterous. As early as March, a report by the Parliamentary Research Service stated that the training of Ukrainian soldiers on German soil amounted to participation in the war under international law, which says:

If, in addition to the supply of weapons, the instruction of a conflict party or training in such weapons were also up for discussion, one would leave the secure area of a noncombatant.

This is exactly what has happened, and the training of the Ukrainian armed forces is being massively expanded. On Monday, Der Spiegel reported:

The EU Member States have agreed in recent weeks at working group level to train as many as 15k Ukrainian soldiers outside the country as quickly as possible. 3k Ukrainian soldiers should receive special training, including tactical combat training for commanders or training courses for privates.

Germany’s support for the war goes far beyond arms deliveries and the training of the Ukrainian army. Last week, ARD Kontraste reported that the German foreign intelligence service BND is supplying Ukraine with “militarily useful data.” In other words, Berlin is directly involved in the war and played a central role in Kiev’s recent offensive, which led to severe defeats for the Russian army. ARD writes:

The information that the BND transmits to the Ukrainian secret service with the approval of the Federal Government includes not only analyses, for example on the fighting power and morale of Russian units in Ukraine, but also intercepted radio messages and bugged mobile phone calls as well as satellite images. These BND reports can help Ukraine prepare for military operations.

The fact that Germany and NATO are in reality at war with Russia and pursue the goal of defeating a nuclear-armed power militarily is openly stated by representatives of the German government. On Oct 1, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) wrote on Twitter:

Let’s face it: What is grovelling before Putin supposed to achieve? We’re at war with Putin, not his psychotherapists. Victory in the form of the liberation of Ukraine must continue to be decisively pursued. It doesn’t matter whether Putin’s psyche can handle it.

Comments like this give a shocking insight into the mindset of the ruling class. Eighty years after the Wehrmacht’s invasion of the Soviet Union and the war of annihilation in the east, the capitalist governments are once again prepared to sacrifice millions for their predatory interests. After 150k deaths in the pandemic alone in Germany, Lauterbach should explain how many lives he is willing to sacrifice in the “war with Putin.” Although the latter threatens the use of nuclear weapons, the leading representatives of the NATO powers insist on defeating Russia “decisively” in Ukraine. The only way to prevent a nuclear disaster and a third world war is to mobilize the working class independently on the basis of a socialist program. This is what the Sozialistische Gleichheitspartei and its sister parties in the International Committee of the Fourth International fight for. Read and distribute the WSWS statement “Stop the war in Ukraine!” and participate in the building of a new anti-capitalist, anti-war movement.

UK crisis fuels warnings on the stability of global financial system
Nick Beams, WSWS, Oct 4 2022

There is a growing sense among media commentators and analysts that the financial crisis in the UK signifies the emergence of an inflection point in the operations of the global financial system. That is, to use the often-employed metaphor, it is the canary in the coal mine for the eruption of a crisis, suppressed for more than a decade and a half by the provision of trillions of dollars by central banks to the financial markets. The UK events, involving an emergency £65b intervention by the Bank of England last week, doled out in daily injections of £5b until Oct 14 in order to halt a collapse of the bond market, are a case in point. The crisis centred on pension funds. In the past these funds were able to meet their liabilities by investing in long-term government bonds of 10- and 30-years duration, known as gilts, confident they were able to secure an adequate of return. But the initiation of quantitative easing after 2008, combined with central bank interest rate cuts, meant that bond yields fell to historic lows.

To meet their obligations in conditions where their traditional sources of income were drying up, pension funds had to undertake investments in riskier assets such as corporate credit, equities and property in order to meet their liabilities. They sought to hedge their risks from such investments through financial market operations via derivatives. They borrowed funds for this purpose using their holdings of government bonds, regarded as the safest of all assets, as collateral. However, the price of bonds plunged following the Tory government’s mini budget of Sep 23, which cut taxes on the corporations and the super-rich to the tune of £45b, financed by an increase in government debt of £72b. So the value of the collateral fell, and the pension funds were faced with margin calls from their lenders. This led to a further bond selloff as the funds sought to meet these demands, exacerbating the plunge in bond prices and leading to demands for more collateral. Had this situation continued some 90 percent of pension funds, holding £1.5t of assets, could have been rendered insolvent.

Like all crises, this one had its own national forms. But the concern is being voiced that in the final analysis it was the outcome of global processes. The ultra-low interest rate regime of the past 15 years, which has boosted stock markets, is now being reversed as central banks around the world. Led by the US Fed, the central banks are tightening monetary policy as they seek to suppress workers’ wage demands in the face of the highest inflation in four decades. In a recent comment on the UK crisis, WSJ columnist James Mackintosh wrote that it had sent a shock wave through global markets. It is “providing a warning to governments everywhere of the dangers of the new economic era we are entering,” expressed in Britain through a toxic mix of politics, inflation and higher interest rates. He noted that while superlatives were often used in market reporting “the ructions” in the UK were “truly extraordinary.” He wrote:

The government’s measures had such a big effect because of the broader background of soaring interest rates, high debt, dire communications and the erosion of the country’s institutional credibility, with most of those conditions applying to a greater or lesser degree across the developed world. The most apocalyptic risk is that Britain is merely the first major victim of higher rates. As has often happened in the past, it is problems in an area regarded as safe, in this case pension funds, that cause difficulties.

The Fed is basing its program on the belief that higher interest rates will be able to halt inflation as took place in the class war launched under Fed chair Paul Volcker in the 1980s. But as Financial Times columnist John Plender commented:

Changes in financial structure since Volcker’s day point to looming financial instability. The chief role of the financial system is no longer to take deposits and make loans, but to refinance the debt that sustains global growth and consumption. This complex system is increasingly dependent on shaky collateral.

Another FT columnist, Robin Wigglesworth, noted:

The pension fund measures were not some flashy hedge fund strategy, but the financial market equivalent of doing your family taxes. True cataclysmic financial debacles tend to involve investment strategies and financial securities that everyone thought were boring, raising the question of what else like this may be lurking out there, in some unlikely corner of the global financial system.

In a recent comment on his Chartbook blog, dealing with the “bond market massacre of Sep 2022,” economic historian Adam Tooze, the author of a major study on the global financial crisis of 2008, wrote:

It is not just the UK that is under stress. On the other side of the Atlantic too, tremors are running through the US treasury markets, the foundation of the dollar system. A recent Bloomberg report, based on data from JP Morgan, states that “liquidity in the treasury market in extremely low” as conditions resemble “those seen in the pandemic and the period after the Lehman crisis.” It is unclear who exactly benefited from the Bank of England bailout, and this suggests we are dealing with a system riven with conflicts of interest. Does it really make sense to perpetuate a system in which disastrous risks are built into the profit-driven provision of basic financial products like pensions and mortgages? This crisis is not the result of some some metaphysical uncertainty; it is the result of a contradictory, incoherent and hazardous profit-driven system, which the status quo underwrites.

But as Tooze, who describes himself as a “left liberal,” essentially defends that status quo, the capitalist profit system. He regards it as the only viable form of economic organisation, and therefore halts at drawing the necessary conclusions arising from his own indictment of its operations. This is because to do so would raise the necessity for its overthrow and the establishment of socialism, a perspective he abhors above all else. And so, he holds out the vacuous prospect of some kind of reform. The working class, however, must reject these bromides and, basing itself on its own life situation, advance its own independent solution to the crisis. Faced with the ongoing decay and disintegration of the capitalist economy, bringing a future of social and economic devastation, combined with the ever-growing danger of war, the continuing mass death inflicted by COVID and the disastrous effects of climate change, it must undertake the struggle for political power to open the way for the reconstruction of the economy on socialist foundations.

US holds anti-China summit with Pacific Island leaders
John Braddock, WSWS, Oct 3 2022

The summit convened by the Biden administration with Pacific Island leaders in Washington on Sep 28-29 pushed through a “partnership” agreement designed to undermine Beijing’s growing influence in the region. The two-day summit, held at the US State Dept, was the first of its kind. For much of the post-WW2 period the US regarded the Pacific as America’s “lake,” with colonial oversight largely outsourced to its local allies, ANZ. As the entire Pacific emerges as a geostrategic tinderbox that has rapidly changed. The summit, overseen by US Sec State Blinken, involved 14 Pacific leaders with observers from ANZ. The only absentee was Kiribati, which had previously bypassed a Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Fiji in July. The final document is cynically couched as a vision of the Pacific as a place of “peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity, where individuals can reach their potential, the environment can thrive, and democracy will be able to flourish.” In fact, the summit was designed to advance Washington’s campaign to reassert its imperialist hegemony. A tour by China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in May saw multiple bilateral deals signed with almost a dozen Pacific nations. The Solomon Islands and China finalised a security agreement, prompting threats by Washington and Canberra of a possible “regime change” operation if a Chinese military base was established in the country.

In June, the US announced a “Partners in the Blue Pacific” project involving the ANZUS, the UK and Japan, all with long histories of ruthless colonisation in the region, to address “growing challenges to the regional rules-based order.” The phrase refers to the post-WW2 “order” established by the US in which it sets the rules globally. At the Washington summit the Pacific leaders unanimously endorsed an 11-point “vision” statement committing to joint endeavors on “priority areas” including security, the climate crisis, natural disasters and economic development. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare had objected to an initial draft which specified that security arrangements with “outside powers” would require region-wide “consultation,” a key demand raised by ANZ following the Solomons’ deal with China. After this was removed, Sogavare signed the final document. Addressing the final day of the meeting, Biden bluntly declared:

The security of America, quite frankly, and the world depends on your security and the security of the Pacific islands.

A paper presented by the US State Dept explicitly targeted China, declaring “pressure and economic coercion by the PRC” risked undermining “the peace, prosperity and security of the region, and by extension, of the US.” The Declaration begins by proclaiming a commitment by the US to bolster “Pacific regionalism,” a term used to exclude China, and to promote “greater connectivity” between key organisations such as the PIF and “other partners who share Pacific objectives and values.” In reality, this means aligning the PIF and island nations directly with the rapidly developing militarist “architecture” uniting the imperialist powers against China. These include the Quad and AUKUS. Plans are afoot to add other powers to some of these arrangements, including Canada and even Germany. The declaration notably condemns “all wars of aggression, including Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine.” Since most Pacific nations do not formally recognise Taiwan, it remains unmentioned. However, the document affirms that “international law” and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provides for “freedom of navigation and overflight,” thereby implicitly justifying US military provocations in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.

Several initiatives will vastly expand the reach and involvement of US military and state agencies. The US Coast Guard, already present throughout the Pacific, well beyond US territorial waters, will get an extra $US3 million for “training and capacity building” in maritime security. The FBI will carry out “law enforcement training” in Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. The US, already engaged in bilateral security negotiations with Fiji and PNG, intends to pursue such “opportunities” across the board. Underpinning its presence, the US will appoint a permanent envoy to the PIF, increase the role of USAID, return the Peace Corps to the region, and finish renegotiating compacts of “free association,” meaning neocolonial relationships, with the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia. The White House had previously announced new embassies in Tonga, Kiribati and Solomon Islands. In a surprise move, the US will recognise New Zealand’s “realm” countries of the Cook Islands and Niue as sovereign states “following appropriate consultations.” Both are self-governing but New Zealand provides ongoing colonial oversight, including over foreign affairs, defence and security policy. Both territories have independent diplomatic relations with China, and US formal recognition of their “sovereignty” portends more direct involvement.

Much has been made in the establishment media of a US promise of an $810m aid package for a series of initiatives to meet “Pacific priorities.” While the Declaration acknowledges the climate crisis as “the highest priority of our partnership,” there is a paltry $130m to improve climate change “resilience” along with a commitment to finding another $400m from “private investors.” The amount is entirely inadequate to meet the urgent existential needs of Pacific islands already reeling from rising sea levels. Acknowledgement is given that the COVID-19 pandemic has “wreaked havoc on Pacific economies.” While it is noted that economic recovery will be “a top priority requiring finance,” there is no dedicated funding and only vague, non- committal references to “strengthening” health systems which are, in fact, near collapse.” There is, however, an urgent warning about “vulnerability to debt,” a refence to repeated false charges of China’s purported “debt trap diplomacy” in the region. There is nothing in the package that will make a material difference to the lives of impoverished Pacific Islanders, A significant $600m will support the South Pacific Tuna Treaty over the next decade to provide ongoing access for American trawlers into the waters of Pacific nations. The Declaration promises to combat “illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing,” a veiled threat against the fishing fleets of China and other Asian nations.

The document also promises to “strengthen democratic institutions across the Pacific, including through support for accountability, transparency, anti-corruption, civil society, human rights, and an independent and free media environment.” This is especially hypocritical. ANZUS have long histories of interference in the affairs of Pacific nations, including Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Washington’s agenda of putting “boots on the ground” across the region will be used to undermine and even remove any Pacific government that falls out of line. As for “democracy,” the most prominent Pacific figure pushing the “partnership” is Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama who seized power in a military coup in 2006 and has kept office ever since on the basis of anti-democratic elections. Bainimarama postured as the self-appointed “leader” of the Pacific delegation. Afterwards he tweeted:

I say goodbye to President Biden and our new friends on Capitol Hill and in the US private sector. I return to Suva with a new reassurance that America’s might and resources are with our people across the Pacific in the greatest battles we face.

Just a week prior, Fiji had hosted an unprecedented five-nation military exercise, including troops from Fiji, UK and ANZUS, explicitly preparing for war on Pacific soil against China.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: