By Charlie Kimber
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2794

Why Nato arms aren’t the answer to Russia’s brutal invasion

The best way to beat Putin’s invasion is a combination of revolt by the Russian people and a movement in Ukraine independent of the Nato powers
Issue 2794
3 generals, from the US, Nato and Ukraine, stand on a podium with battle gear

US commanders in Europe on military exercises in Ukraine in 2016 (Picture: US Army in Europe/Flickr)

The Nato military alliance is increasingly using the war in Ukraine to extend its own imperialist influence and massively increase money for the military. It is flooding eastern Europe with troops and arms. 

Their intention is not to liberate the people of the region, but to make them their pawns. And they hope that ordinary people’s completely justified horror and disgust at Vladimir Putin’s invasion can be corralled behind their project.  

Nato battlegroups in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are set to almost double from 3,400 troops at the start of the year to more than 6,000 in the near future. Around 1,000 British troops have arrived in Estonia. Britain has also sent HMS Trent and HMS Diamond to conduct Nato exercises with Merlin helicopters and RAF P8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft in the eastern Mediterranean.   

The US recently deployed 5,000 additional troops to Poland and Romania. French troops were traveling to Romania this week and an additional Nato battle group is being formed for Slovakia. It will include 1,500 troops.

President Joe Biden’s officials are also working with the Polish government on a deal to provide Ukraine with Polish fighter jets. This would involve Ukraine receiving Russian-made warplanes from Poland, which would in turn be given F-16s by the US.

These governments receive Nato support because they are useful in holding the frontline against Russia and because they will follow what the West demands. Nato is not a defensive alliance, it’s designed to push forward the West’s demands. And as part of that, Nato is massively ramping up military aid to the Ukrainian government with the aim of subordinating it to its global project.

In a statement on Wednesday Nato said, “Thousands of anti-tank weapons, hundreds of air-defence missiles and thousands of small arms and ammunition stocks are being sent to Ukraine. Allies are also providing millions of euros worth of financial assistance and humanitarian aid, including medical supplies to help Ukrainian forces.

The list of arms suppliers covers more than half of Nato’s 30  members. “Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States have already sent or are approving significant deliveries of military equipment to Ukraine,” it says. “Ukraine has already received critical weapons, including Javelin missiles and anti-aircraft missiles, from Nato allies, as well as millions of euros of financial assistance.”

Nato’s arms supplies come with a price—unconditional support for the West. Such supplies do not go to just any government facing Russian aggression. There was no such support for the Chechens when they were pulverised by Russia. 

Despite occasional objections about particularly bloody methods, Western governments publicly backed Russia’s first war in Chechnya between 1994 and 96. And they refused to recognise Chechnya’s claim of independence. This war saw up to 100,000 civilians killed.

It culminated in the destruction of Grozny, the Chechen capital. According to Russian historian and general Dmitri Volkogonov, the Russian military’s bombardment of the city killed around 35,000 civilians, including 5,000 children. 

Only during the Second Chechen War from 1999 to 2000—after the West’s friend Boris Yeltsin was replaced as Russian leader—was there some Western condemnation of the war. And even then there were no arms for the Chechens. Indeed those who supported them in the West could face denunciation and jail for being “terrorists”. Then British Labour prime minister Tony Blair flew to Moscow to support Putin.

Emboldened by Nato backing, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky continues to demand that the West imposes a no-fly zone over the country. Such a move would almost inevitably lead to Nato forces shooting down Russian aircraft—and be the opening shots of a Third World War between nuclear-armed powers.

The Ukrainian president has also asked Nato to bring forward the country’s bid to join the alliance. And he insists that Ukraine will demand promises of military intervention from Western countries even if Nato refuses the country membership of the alliance. Such moves recklessly prepare future wars—on an even more dangerous basis.

Socialist Worker opposes the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We want to see it beaten back as a blow against Putin’s imperialism. The best defeat for Putin’s invasion force would be some combination of revolt by the Russian people, mutinies in the armed forces, and a movement in Ukraine independent of the Nato powers.

None of this is impossible. Everyone must be inspired by the Russians who have so courageously opposed their own government, despite the immense risk of arrest, jail or worse. This has to be our model.

And in some of the areas that Russia has seized in Ukraine, such as Kherson in the south of the country, there are brave street demonstrations by hundreds or perhaps thousands of people. Mass protests have great potential to unnerve the Russian troops and lay the basis for organisation against the occupation.

But the more Ukraine is subordinated to Nato the less free it will be even if the Russians are pushed out. It will be a victory for the Western military, not the Ukrainian people. A spreading war will be of no benefit to ordinary Ukrainians. To those who say “something must be done” and say Nato is the only answer, we say that will make matters worse.

And the brutal assaults by Nato and the wider West in Yugoslavia in 1999, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have created a world where powerful ruling classes trample on other countries in pursuit of their imperialist aims. Putin follows in this pattern.

That’s why, while demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, it’s crucial to target Nato’s role. And how governments are finding huge new funds for war even as they squeeze health, education and wages.


Years of pouring in arms from the West

Western military backing for Ukraine is a long-term project.

A House of Commons research briefing released this week underlines how the West has encouraged the Ukrainian government with accelerating supplies of weapons.

The arms programme is why Ukrainian leaders now press for a no-fly zone and other direct Nato reinforcements. Previously, the Ukrainians kept asking and eventually, they received. 

Because of the present crisis, the killing technology handed over without fanfare in the past can now be openly trumpeted.

The briefing tells us that since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and “the request of the Ukrainian Government, Western allies significantly stepped up their support. Military assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces has been a key part of their overall approach.

At first this was all said to be “non-lethal” support. But last year, “for the first time, several countries, including the UK, started supplying defensive lethal weaponry to Ukraine.”

On 30 January this year the government confirmed that “2,000 anti-armour missiles had been supplied”.

The government sent Royal Navy ships to the Black Sea region on numerous occasions to conduct joint training exercises with the Ukrainian Navy, most recently in summer 2021 as part of exercise Cossack Mace.

In June 2021 HMS Defender also stopped off in the Black Sea in “a show of solidarity with Ukraine and regional NATO allies”.

This led to a potential battle, with the Russian Ministry of Defence saying  that warning shots had been fired.

The document also details US military support for Ukraine. This switched quicker than the British to supplying armaments. 

“Ukraine has been a leading recipient of US foreign and military aid since the early 1990s. In the first decade after independence, Ukraine received almost $2.6 billion (£2 billion) in aid.

“From the onset of conflict in 2014, the US Congressional Research Service estimates that the US provided Ukraine with more than $2.5 billion (£1.9 billion) in security assistance .” 

 

Donald Trump stepped up the shipments, encouraging the Ukrainian government to build its military strength, “In 2018, and again in 2019, the US provided Ukraine with Javelin anti-tank missiles. Among other things, the US has also provided sniper rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers and two retired US coastguard patrol boats to the Ukrainian Navy.”

This turn to pouring in military support continued under Joe Biden. “On 1 March 2021, the US Department of Defense announced a further $125 million (£95 million) military assistance package for Ukraine. The DoD stated that ‘This action reaffirms the US commitment to providing defensive lethal weapons to enable Ukraine to more effectively defend itself against Russian aggression’

“A further $150 million (£114 million) for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative was announced in June 2021, followed by an additional $60 million (£45 million) package for lethal and non-lethal equipment, including Javelin anti-armour missiles, in September 2021.”

The briefing admits that, with good reason, “Russia said Western military assistance to Ukraine was a provocation and accused the West of supporting Ukraine in militarising eastern Ukraine and dismantling the 2014 and 2015 Minsk Agreements, which had been the basis for a political solution to the conflict there.”

But that didn’t hold back the supply of arms—because they were central to strengthening Western influence.


Ukrainian president Zelensky and Trump energy secretary Perry in smiling embrace in 2019

Ukrainian president Zelensky and Trump energy secretary Perry enjoying their alliance in Kiev in 2019

Zelensky’s deals with Trump’s energy boss

The military support came at the same time as economic ties between the government of Volodymyr Zelensky and the Trump regime.

In 2018 US energy secretary Rick Perry said that Ukraine could be the “Texas of Europe”.

And the next year two of Perry’s close political supporters grabbed a potentially lucrative oil and gas exploration deal from the Ukrainian government. This happened just as Zelenskiy’s new government was seeking military aid from the US.

Ukraine awarded the contract to Perry’s supporters little more than a month after the energy secretary attended Zelenskiy’s inauguration. In a meeting during that trip, Perry handed the new president a list of people he recommended as energy advisers. One of the four names was his longtime political backer Michael Bleyzer.

A week later, Bleyzer and his partner Alex Cranberg submitted a bid to drill for oil and gas at a government-controlled site called Varvynska. 

Their proposal was millions of dollars lower than their only competitor. But their newly created joint venture, Ukrainian Energy, was awarded the 50-year contract.


Arms firms are already making a killing

For the wealthy, war means profits.

The price of arms shares rocketed after Germany announced an additional £82.4 of military spending this year.

Raytheon Technologies has over the last month seen its market value increase almost six percent. The US firm makes the “Stinger” portable rocket-propelled missile launcher.

Nato armoured vehicle supplier, Rheinmetall saw its market value jump over 30 percent.

Britain’s leading weapons manufacturer, BAE Systems, hit a record high share price.

Over the past month BAE investors saw their profits jump by over 26 percent. The arms company added almost £3 billion to its value.

Defence company Elbit Systems has also experienced a surge in share prices.

Israel’s largest private arms company saw an 18 percent increase in shares over two days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Western governments are also increasing spending on cyber warfare.

Hilary Frisch, an analyst at ClearBridge Investments, said, “Anytime there is a new threat announced, or there’s a hack or ransomware attack, that’s effectively an advertisement for cybersecurity as something that companies and other organizations need to be investing in.”

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance
One-off