War in Ukraine:
Escalations, Provocations, Intensifying Danger to Humanity

The war in Ukraine—a proxy war between the U.S.-dominated NATO military alliance and Russia—grinds into its fourth month. This war has been hellish for humanity, from the death toll in fighting to millions starving in Africa due to the impact on wheat exports from Ukraine. But there is a real and serious danger the situation could get much worse.

Dangers of a direct open war between U.S./NATO and Russia are escalating, as is the potential use of nuclear weapons—with dangerous and catastrophic potential. Let’s just look at what happened and what was revealed this past week:

  • On May 21, Biden signed a $40 billion “aid” bill for Ukraine, on top of $14 billion already allotted for cutting-edge and powerful weaponry that has in large part been used up. The bulk of this money goes to weapons: $9 billion to replace used missiles, artillery shells and other expended weapons; $10 billion in new weapons already in U.S. stockpiles; $6 billion in new weapons not in stock; and $8 billion for military equipment and training in countries near or bordering Ukraine, or for training Ukrainian troops outside the country. 
Graph showing $3.3 billion in aid to Israel and $54 billion in aid to Ukraine, 2022

 

  • To put that $54 billion in U.S. “aid” to Ukraine this year in perspective: Israel is by far the largest recipient of U.S. “aid” since World War 2. U.S. “aid” to Israel is a measure of how “invested” the U.S. is in maintaining Israel as a strategic ally in the Middle East and beyond, in service of its imperialist aims. The aid package to Ukraine already this year is almost 15 times the amount of military and other aid the U.S. has given to Israel in any one of the last 10 years.
     
  • This increased and continuing supply of arms by the U.S.—along with what is being supplied from other NATO countries—is a major provocation as these are being used directly against Russian military forces, tanks, and ships and to carry out operations like the assassination of a number of Russian generals.1
  • NATO is moving quickly to grant membership requests by Finland and Sweden (in blue on the map).2

  • NATO’s potential expansion to Ukraine, on the Russian border, was seen as a strategic threat by the rulers of Russia, and was a key factor in the calculations underlying Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sweden is a significant manufacturer of military aircraft. Finland shares a long border with Russia. Bringing these countries into NATO is a provocation that ups the ante and intensifies a situation where neither side can potentially “walk away from the table.” Russia cut off vital supplies of gas for Finland after this announcement.
map NATOs expanding membership including Sweden and Finland

 

  • Avril Haines, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that “the next few months could see us moving along a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory” in this war.
     
  • Haines was presenting this year’s “Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.” The report is an assessment of threats to the position and strategic aims of U.S. capitalism-imperialism in a rapidly changing world. After identifying China as a threat to (global domination of the) U.S. “economically, militarily, and technologically,” Haines reported the assessment that difficulties Russia is encountering in the war “[increase] the likelihood that President Putin will turn to more drastic means…” She continued, “The most likely flashpoints for escalation in the coming weeks are around increasing Russian attempts to interdict Western security assistance, retaliation for Western economic sanctions, or threats to the regime at home.”
     
  • In other words, by this very publicly stated assessment by the director of U.S. “intelligence” services, increased Western military supplies and economic sanctions are the “most likely flashpoints for escalation in the coming weeks.” Yet the “West” (U.S./NATO) escalates these provocations in reckless fashion, in pursuit of their strategic goals to weaken Russia, a rival imperialist power.3
     
  • Haines went on to tell the Senate committee, “We believe that Moscow continues to use nuclear rhetoric to deter the United States and the West from increasing lethal aid to Ukraine and to respond to public comments from the U.S. and NATO Allies that suggest expanded western goals in the conflict. … [W]e will remain vigilant in monitoring every aspect of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces. With tensions this high, there is always an enhanced potential for miscalculation, unintended escalation, which we hope our intelligence can help to mitigate.” (Emphasis added.)
     
  • This is playing with fire—and with the lives of millions and millions—if not all of humanity.
     
  • In his article WORLD WAR 3 AND DANGEROUS IDIOCY, Bob Avakian (BA) poses this:
     
  • If neither side in this conflict between imperialists is likely to back down and accept defeat, what will this mean—and, specifically, what would it mean if in fact the U.S./NATO were to become directly involved in warfare with Russia, and if this were to result in Russia suffering serious setbacks? Would Putin/the Russian imperialists simply say, “Okay, you win, we give up, we will turn tail and retreat in defeat back to Russia?” Does any serious, thinking person really believe that is at all likely?! No, in that situation the far, far more likely response of Putin/the Russian imperialists would be to escalate the war, very possibly by using nuclear weapons, most likely not (at first) the most powerful nuclear bombs, but “tactical nuclear weapons,” which they might use not only in Ukraine but also in the territory of NATO countries that had become involved in the war (possibly including not only countries close to Ukraine but countries in western Europe as well, such as France, Germany and the UK).

  • The high stakes in the war in Ukraine, with the potential for a disastrous outcome, have set off cautionary alarms within the ruling class, including an editorial in the New York Times (May 15, The War in Ukraine Is Getting Complicated, and America Isn’t Ready”). The editorial upheld the U.S. role in the war, not just for defending Ukraine but for constraining Putin’s “ambitions.” But the editorial warned that “it is still not in America’s best interest to plunge into an all-out war with Russia, even if a negotiated peace may require Ukraine to make some hard decisions. And the U.S. aims and strategy in this war have become harder to discern, as the parameters of the mission appear to have changed.”
     
  • The Times editorial goes on to warn that illusions that Russia can be driven out of Ukraine are “a dangerous assumption…” And voices alarm that “bellicose statements from Washington” like Biden’s demand that Putin must go (see below) are raising the stakes to a point where there may be no negotiated off-ramp for either side. It ends with a warning to “shake off the euphoria, stop the taunting and focus on defining and completing the mission.”
     
  • This warning should not necessarily be interpreted as a sign that “saner voices” are “winning out” or even getting the “hearing” in key debates within the ruling class. It is however an indication of differences in the ruling class reflecting and arising from just how dangerous the stakes are, and how dangerous Biden’s war-mongering and evolving strategy is.
     
  • In the face of all this, the belligerent tone of leading Democrats really stands out.
     
  • Speaking in Warsaw at the end of March, Biden had declared that Russian President Putin “cannot remain in power” (imagine how the rulers of the U.S. would react if Russia said the war in Ukraine could not end until the U.S. president was removed from office). And Biden demanded the $40 billion aid package be rushed through Congress while on a trip to Asia to shore up allies to confront China.
     
  • At the end of April, Nancy Pelosi staged a provocative photo-op with other members of Congress in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv (where she declared that the United States was in the war in Ukraine “until victory is won”). That followed a similar visit by Vice President Harris. Either one of those visits—in a war zone—could have resulted in an incident that would have brought the U.S. into direct conflict with Russia.

The Ukraine war may appear to be just grinding on. If that were the case, that would be intolerable. But underneath the already horrible carnage and suffering, driven by how deeply both the U.S. and Russia are invested in “winning,” there is tremendous danger that things will escalate radically or even explode into a whole other level of horror.

This situation cannot, and need not, be met by people of conscience with accommodation or demoralization. Instead, it must be met with the orientation Bob Avakian poses at the end of his piece WORLD WAR 3 AND DANGEROUS IDIOCY:

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.

Must readings by Bob Avakian:

The second and third articles above are available as PDFs that can be printed up and gotten out broadly wherever people are open to opening their eyes to what is going on in the world, why, and what needs to be done about it.

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FOOTNOTES:

1. In an interview in late April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called NATO shipments of sophisticated weapons into Ukraine, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, armored vehicles and advanced drones, provocative measures. He warned NATO that “These weapons will be a legitimate target for Russia's military… NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war." In that same interview, in answer to a question about the danger of nuclear war, Lavrov said “The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it.” [back]

2. Approval for admitting Finland and Sweden is currently being held up by NATO member Turkey, whose president, Erdoğan, is using NATO’s rule that every member nation must approve of new members to bargain for advanced arm sales to Turkey from the U.S. and other concessions unrelated to the Ukraine war. [back]

3. In late April, after visiting Ukraine, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Russia should be “weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.” [back]

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