By Stephen Gowans

November 30, 2022  What’s Left


Apart from hardliners in Moscow, Washington, and Eastern Europe, no one wants a war in Ukraine. And for good reason: It’s damaging most peoples’ lives.

According to The New York Times, “The combination of punishing sanctions, championed by Mr. Biden and his allies, and Russia’s retaliation has ricocheted through global food and energy markets, exacerbating already high inflation and undercutting global growth.”

The IMF and World Bank have been sounding alarms for months. Recently they were joined by the G20 (sans Russia).

“The war, leaders of the Group of 20 nations said in a declaration at the end of their summit in Bali, ‘is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy — constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity and elevating financial stability risks.’”

The “war needs to end,” said Gita Gopinath, the first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, “because the consequences for the economy are very high.” This view was “a common refrain from everybody” at the G20 summit, she added.

Not too long ago, a common refrain from everyone was that the Covid-19 pandemic needed to end, because the consequences were very high. What’s more, the World Health Organization’s secretary general said humanity had all the tools to end the pandemic.

So why is it, that despite consensus, and despite having the tools, the pandemic didn’t end? And why is that the war in Ukraine continues with no end in sight?

What are the G20 countries doing to bring the war to an end?  Nothing.

The United States and its NATO subalterns are prolonging the war by pumping billions of dollars of weapons into Ukraine.

Russia continues to fight a war it hasn’t the resources to win.

Allies Who Are Not Aligned

While the G20 collectively is doing precious little to end the war, the leader of one its members, France, is. Emmanuel Macron “wants to find a way of ending the war around the negotiation table, not the battlefield.” No wonder. The war has not been kind to Europe. (The US is another matter.)

“The U.S. has stepped in to help replace Russia as one of the continent’s biggest natural-gas purveyors, but its shipments of liquefied natural gas have come with much higher prices, straining Europe’s manufacturing base.”

“French officials worry that manufacturers stung by Europe’s high energy prices are starting to think about shifting production to the U.S. to reap the subsidies on top of cheaper fuel supplies.”

Macron recently entreated a host of giant European firms “not to move production to the U.S.”, where energy prices are cheaper, and Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, incentivizes firms to produce in the USA.

“We need a Buy European Act,  like the Americans,” said Macron. “You have China protecting its industry, the United States protecting its industry, and Europe is an open house.”

A senior adviser to the French president said of US-France relations, “we are allies who are not aligned.”

Is it because the US is not suffering that Washington is willing to tolerate a continuing war in Ukraine, or because the US stands to gain?

Biden’s “aides note the United States, as a large energy producer, is not suffering like Europe from a lack of access to Russian oil or natural gas.” What Biden’s aides don’t acknowledge is that not only is the United States not suffering, it’s reaping innumerable benefits from the war. The Wall Street Journal recently mentioned just two: (1) a reinvigorated North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which will mean a gusher of profits for US arms makers. (For example, the war has spurred Germany to commit billions of dollars to Lockheed Martin for F35 warplanes); and (2) “a boom in trade and investment between the U.S. and Europe.” An important part of the boom in trade involves reorienting Europe’s energy markets from Russia to the US.

Another benefit: With Europe dependent on the US for energy, Washington can extract concessions from Brussels by threatening to close the tap.

Doing what is right for who?

“Mr. Biden has repeatedly said that” the threats the war in Ukraine pose to the world economy “would not deter him from doing what he believed was right in Ukraine.” Yet threats to US oil company profits have deterred one US president after another, including Joe Biden, from doing what is right in Saudi Arabia and Palestine. What Biden really means is that threats to the world economy, which largely affect Europe, low income countries, and ordinary people in the US, won’t stop him from doing what is right in Ukraine, for US LNG exporters and US arms manufacturers.

 “Global Poor Lose Services as Developing Countries Face Higher Debt Payments” reads a Wall Street Journal headline

Here’s the causal sequence that ends in the world’s poorest people facing even harsher conditions as the war in Ukraine grinds on.

  • Cut-throat competition among major capitalist powers for markets, raw materials, investment opportunities, and strategic territory breaks out into a war between the United States and Russia over the question of who will control Ukraine.
  • The war disrupts supply chains and energy markets.
  • Food and energy prices soar, in turn pushing up general price levels.
  • Most people worldwide see their standard of living start to decline.
  • To fight inflation, central banks tighten the money supply, driving up the cost of borrowing, in order to slow economic activity.
  • Tighter money drives up housing costs and tips the world into recession.
  • Higher debt payments force low income countries into retrenchment, making the lives of the poor even harsher, at a time they’re already struggling with rising food and energy prices.

Existential threat?

Russia has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

According to a June 2022 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute,

  • Russia has 5,977 warheads,
  • the U.S. has 5,428, and
  • China has 350.

Moscow says that NATO expansion is an existential threat. Seriously?

Setting a Precedent

“A perceived victory for Moscow” would set “a dangerous precedent that political goals can be achieved through brute force,” remarked NATO general secretary Jens Stoltenberg, offering an excuse for why the war in Ukraine cannot be brought to an end short of Russia’s humiliation, despite the growing economic damage the war is causing around the world.

But didn’t the organization Stoltenberg serves as Washington’s errand boy already set the precedent when it used brute force to achieve US political aims in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Libya?

That’s not to justify Moscow’s use of brute force; only to condemn NATO as equally repugnant (and equally full of shit. Regarding Moscow’s own addiction to mendacity, it will be recalled that in “the tense weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian officials denied that it planned anything of the sort, denouncing the United States and its NATO allies for stoking panic and anti-Russian hatred. When it did invade, the officials denied it was at war.”)