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U.S./NATO vs. Russia in Ukraine War: Planning and Preparing Dangerous Escalations

NATO heads meet in Germany.


The US heads an alliance of 30 imperialist powers centered in Europe.    Photo: NATO

We can no longer afford to allow these imperialists to dominate the world and to determine the destiny of humanity. They need to be overthrown as quickly as possible.
—Bob Avakian, The Bob Avakian Interviews

On February 24, 2022, Russia staged a massive invasion of Ukraine, a country with which it shares a land border of about 1,500 miles. Almost immediately, the U.S. and its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began to send tens of billions of dollars of military and intelligence support to Ukraine.

Nearly a year on in the war, the death toll has been gruesome. In mid-November a U.S. general estimated that about 100,000 soldiers on each side has been killed or wounded in the war; this week the United Nations reported that it has confirmed 7,000 Ukrainian civilian deaths, but added “… the full civilian toll is much higher.” Almost one-third of Ukrainians have been displaced by the war, and another 13 million people are stranded within the country because of the ongoing war, impassable escape routes, and lack of resources.1

In the early months of the war, Ukrainian forces won several significant victories that stalled or turned around Russian advances from the initial invasion. Short-range, portable weapons such as Javelin missiles supplied by the U.S.-NATO forces were highly effective in destroying Russian tanks and armored vehicles.

But by late May, as the war moved to a different type of terrain and fighting, the Biden administration approved shipping higher-power, longer-range HIMARS missiles to Ukraine. By September, there were a total of 34 HIMARS systems (each of which holds multiple missiles) in Ukraine. U.S. “Defense” Secretary Lloyd Austin said the HIMARS “changed the dynamics" of the war, and "created an opportunity for the Ukrainians to maneuver," particularly in the battle for the city of Kherson.

Throughout the fall and winter, Russian drone and missile attacks wreaked havoc on Ukraine’s cities and infrastructure, causing many deaths and great hardships on the civilian population. The U.S. sent hundreds of millions of dollars worth of missiles, ammunition, and supplies to counter the Russian offensive. As winter began to set in, with the two armies facing off in grinding combat in southern and eastern Ukraine, neither has so far been able to seize or create significant advantages.

During this whole period, the threat of things getting out of control and escalating to a nuclear war was very high. Biden even stated that the world faced a possible “Armageddon”—the mythical final battle at the end of the world—over Ukraine.

Today the war seems locked in a deadly stalemate. But neither side is just digging in and fighting a war of attrition through these long cold months. Each is girding and preparing for the next stage of the war, which both are committed to “winning”—however they define victory. They have made a startling series of escalations over the past month alone. All this has made the danger of an even worse, yes possibly nuclear, war much greater.

Map of countries supplying military aid to Ukraine


Map: Wikipedia

Crossing Red Lines

In November 2021, shortly before he called for the invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin warned that a “red line” would be crossed if NATO placed missile systems that could reach Russia in Ukraine. He said,If some kind of strike systems appear on the territory of Ukraine, the flight time to Moscow will be 7-10 minutes, and five minutes in the case of a hypersonic weapon being deployed. Just imagine. What are we to do in such a scenario? We will have to then create something similar in relation to those who threaten us in that way. And we can do that now."

As the war has ground on, the U.S. has repeatedly “crossed red lines.” It has increased the lethality and range of weapons it provides. It has provided intensive training for Ukrainian forces to utilize those weapons. Several times, the U.S. has provided weapons it once held backin part because Ukrainians needed to be trained in their use and, seemingly, in part because the U.S. didn’t want to provide weapons that it thought could provoke Russia.

But while on one level this war has seemed like a steady and measured escalation, in reality it has been a series of calculated risks. At each step, the level of violence increases. Each step taken by one side, faces an uncertain response by the other side. At each step, and the entire situation becomes more unpredictable.

Far from bringing stability to the conflict, this approach of incremental escalation makes the entire situation much more dangerous. It makes the likelihood of direct fighting between U.S./NATO and Russian forces more likely. It is like walking across an open minefield, knowing full well that each step could bring disaster, but unable to turn back.

Spring Offensives

Western leaders are openly talking about a spring offensive. On January 20, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said there is a “window of opportunity” between now and spring to provide Ukraine with “capabilities they need to go on the offensive.” Also on January 20, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said, "The fact that hundreds of new armored vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles and battle tanks are now being provided to Ukraine will make a huge difference to the country … This support will not only allow Ukrainians to defend themselves against Russia's new offensives, but also allow them to launch their own offensive operations …”

At about the same time, Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, sent a verbal warning to Western leaders who expect to defeat Russia in “conventional” warfare: “The loss of a nuclear power in a conventional war can provoke the outbreak of a nuclear war. Nuclear powers do not lose major conflicts on which their fate depends. This should be obvious to anyone. Even to a Western politician who has retained at least some trace of intelligence.”

This Dynamic Must Be Changed

Bob Avakian wrote nine months ago that both sides in this imperialist conflict remain “deeply committed to a win.” Both are fighting to impose their will on the other, to advance the interests of their empire at the expense of the other.

Neither side has shown any inclination to back down. Bob Avakian wrote in his important article “World War 3 and Dangerous Idiocy”:

With each side seriously committed to its objectives, and having become seriously involved in war in pursuit of these objectives (with Russia directly at war in Ukraine and the U.S./NATO now indirectly but deeply involved), this means that, so long as the terms are set by these contending imperialists, neither side can easily back down. (Again, so long as the terms are set by these contending imperialists, and the people, on all sides, do not effectively act, in their masses, in such a way as to force things onto different terms, which are in their interestsin opposition to those of the imperialists on either side.)

There are many factors “in the mix” as this situation intensifies. There are differences, sometimes sharp ones, within the ruling classes of all the countries involved over the goals and aims of this war, how fast to proceed, and the level of commitment by various countries. This has been sharply on display within the western alliance during their recent conference in Germany—a concerted attempt to get Germany to allow its tanks to be used in Ukraine has stalled, with Germany demanding a similar commitment from the U.S. In Russia, Putin is reportedly facing mounting dissent from others in the top political and military leadership.

There are also production, delivery, and logistical difficulties in sustaining the amount of ammunition needed by the contending armies; there are potential morale problems among troops, all of whom are fighting an unjust war, whether they know that or not; there are sharp contradictions within the Eastern European region where Ukraine is situated, and in the world as whole, that could erupt and have a dramatic impact on the war. War, especially on this scale, could quickly spiral out of anyone’s control, in unanticipated ways, even by “accident,” or through human error and miscalculation, and lead to unintended, unforeseen and disastrous consequences.

But there is one component in this mix that is missing, one that could literally make all the difference in the world, if it becomes a growing force. Words Bob Avakian wrote nine months ago ring truer and more powerfully than ever:

This Whole Dynamic Must Be Urgently, Radically Changed—in the Interests of Humanity, Not Rival and Contending Imperialists

All this emphasizes why it is vitally important for the masses of people, in this country, and other countries aligned with it, as well as in Russia—for people everywhere—to finally and fully wake up now, recognize the real, and profoundly heavy, stakes involved, and act in accordance with our actual interests—the interests of all of humanity: demanding that this war in Ukraine, and the involvement (direct and indirect) of the imperialists on both sides in this war, be STOPPED, before it not only causes even greater suffering for the people of Ukraine but possibly escalates into a far more terrible conflict which causes massive destruction and death, on a whole other level, and even possibly poses a threat to the very existence of humanity itself.

U.S. embassy delegation led by Army military attaché reviews map with Ukrainian officers who are conducting military operations against pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.


Donetsk, Ukraine, November 19, 2021, three months before Russia invaded Ukraine: U.S. embassy delegation led by Army military attaché reviews map with Ukrainian officers who are conducting military operations against pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.    Photo: AP



1.’s “Ukraine Resource Page” contains important articles and polemics by Bob Avakian on this war, as well as further analysis of the origins and developments in it over the past eleven months. We encourage readers to study and distribute these articles. [back]

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