As we approach one year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the devastation to families and individuals is hard to comprehend. More than eight million people who have been forced to leave their homes in Ukraine are now refugees. Close to 50,000 soldiers, mostly young men, are dead. Thousands of civilians have been killed, hundreds of them children.
On New Year’s Day, Ukraine claimed to have killed 400 newly drafted young Russian soldiers were killed in a missile strike – Russia said the number killed was “only” 89. This provoked anger and a small political crisis for the Putin regime. Russia then retaliated with missile strikes to two schools housing Ukrainian soldiers claiming a similar number of casualties.
Socialist Alternative opposed Russia’s brutal invasion and we continue to oppose it. The war for ordinary Ukrainians is about fighting to defend their homes and towns. However, for U.S. and European imperialism it is being used as a proxy war against Russia and more widely as a warning against its ally China. The struggle of the Ukrainian people against occupation has essentially been hijacked by Western imperialism for whom the interests and rights of ordinary Ukrainians are not a serious consideration.
Eastern Ukraine has not only become one of the deadliest places in the world, but it has increasingly become a hot spot for the big military contractors to try out their new weaponry. Russian imperialism’s weaponry, often outdated, is up against the state of the art armaments of the U.S. and the EU who between them have allocated $100 billion in total “aid” of all sorts for Ukraine. U.S. strategists believe this is worth every penny as the war has strengthened NATO and the position of U.S. imperialism without having to put U.S. soldiers into combat.
War Profits and the Big Money Drop
The scientists and CEOs at the U.S.’ big five military contractors (Boeing, Raytheon, Northrup, General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin) are busy developing lethal missiles that can do more strategic damage at longer ranges than their imperialist counterparts in Russian and China. Over a third of the Pentagon’s budget goes to these big five companies, and they are billions of dollars richer as a result of this relationship. In the 20 year war and occupation of Afghanistan, the U.S. government spent $14 trillion. (That’s 14 thousand billion dollars…)
In 1949 the U.S. retitled its War Department as the Department of Defense. This pretense of “defense” today includes 750 U.S. military bases in 80 countries around the globe. This compares to the U.S.’ main economic rival, China, which has has five military bases outside of its national borders although they have massively expanded their armed forces and particularly their navy in recent years.
Republicans and Democrats United
Making the world friendly for U.S. business interests through the use of its military is generally a bipartisan affair. The latest $858 billion military budget passed the Senate in December by a margin of 83-11. Nothing unites both parties like military spending. Despite the trend towards polarization in Congress, no National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) proposed by a President has been rejected by Congress since 1981. Big business and its two parties have their eyes on Ukraine and Taiwan as hot spots in the New Cold War with China. Wars and potential wars elsewhere are getting less attention and money.
Both parties play up anti-Chinese fear and ramp up the New Cold War and, while some hard-right Republicans have expressed opposition to funding Ukraine based on a different view of U.S. “national interests,” the vast majority in Congress are for funding the proxy war to the hilt. They don’t make a big fuss about this unity because both parties want to appear like existential enemies to their base, but fundamentally they are united around the idea that military spending is good for business. And America is all about business.
President Biden’s broken promises are numerous, from codifying Roe to returning the corporate tax rate to 28% or to widening Medicare, but when it comes to war expenditure he gets the job done.
The Pentagon’s budget is a massive drain on the country’s resources. That $858 billion is enough to build three million decent, publicly-owned homes, which itself would create millions of construction jobs. It could easily feed the 35 million Americans who are hungry, or cover the healthcare costs of the 30 million Americans who have no health insurance. The so-called Defense Budget is equal to $44,000 for all 18 million students currently enrolled in private and public colleges, easily enough to make college education free. It could double K-12 education spending or halve class sizes for every student.
For all the many crises facing working class families there is literally no political willpower in Congress to get things done. Because, in reality, America is run for the benefit of the billionaires and business, not for you and me. And certainly not for peace.
Ending the Status Quo
In early January the hard-right Freedom Caucus demanded McCarthy cut military spending as they voted 14 times against him becoming Speaker of the House. While they won many of their other demands, they were unsurprisingly unsuccessful on this one. In contrast, the Congressional “left” – the Squad – not only voted for $40 billion for arms to Ukraine last May but also for the $858 billion NDAA. The Squad has spent their years in DC attempting to balance maintaining their credibility without actually challenging the supremacy of capitalist America. However, as the Squad becomes indistinguishable from other Democrats their credibility as agents of change is totally collapsing.
In the opening week of the Ukraine war, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that, “any military action must take place with Congressional approval.” This confirms the general approach of the Squad and DSA supporters in Congress. They see the U.S. as a slightly flawed democracy that can be reformed, instead of recognizing that we live under a regime where corporate America utterly dominates the economy and politics through its vast wealth. And the politics of capitalism include waging war to maintain imperialist domination.
U.S. capitalism has a long history of calling for freedom and democracy abroad while often denying working people those rights at home, or backing dictatorial regimes around the world when it suits them. Congress and the billionaires have no interest in defending the national, linguistic, or cultural rights of the people of Ukraine. Or protecting them from violence. They can’t even do that here.
This New “Cold” War is another dead end that will only turn millions of working people into refugees or cannon fodder for the bigger imperialist and capitalist regimes involved.
For working people in Ukraine to win real national freedom and not be just a pawn in this inter-imperialist conflict requires building an independent working class force and making a class appeal to Russian soldiers who overwhelmingly don’t want to in Ukraine. Our task here in the U.S. is to build an independent working class force that fights all imperialism, especially “our own.”