By Charlie Kimber
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The arms deals flow after Johnson’s Ukraine trip

Nato is pouring in armaments and putting 100 aircraft into the skies each day
Issue 2800
Boris Johnson in Ukraine to meet Volodymyr Zelensky pictured here with armed guards

Boris Johnson went to Ukraine on Saturday to meet Volodymyr Zelensky (Pic: Number 10/Ukrainian government, Flickr)

Boris Johnson flew into Kiev, Ukraine, on Saturday to posture as a war leader and pledge yet more weaponry for president Volodymyr Zelensky’s military. Johnson said Zelensky had achieved “the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century”. In another big escalation of the war, he said Britain would now send Ukraine 120 armoured vehicles, anti-ship missile systems and further economic support.

This is on top of the £100 million of military equipment announced on Friday—including anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles—and huge arms shipments previously. The announcement came days after the Ukrainian foreign minister said he had one demand of Nato—“Weapons, weapons and weapons.”

Nato countries including Britain and the US had already agreed to provide Ukraine with “new and heavier” weapons during a meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers last week. Secretary of state Antony Blinken said the US was looking at “new systems” to send into Ukraine without elaborating on exactly what these would be. Since the invasion started on 24 February, the Joe Biden administration has pledged £1.3 billion in new military aid for Ukraine.

So far, the US and its allies have given Ukraine shoulder-fired anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and armed drones. The Czech Republic has provided Ukraine with just over a dozen Soviet-era tanks. Ukraine is asking for more tanks and wants fighter jets and land-based anti-aircraft missile systems.

When it comes to heavier equipment, Ukraine’s forces are only trained to use older Russian-designed systems. But foreign secretary Liz Truss said Nato wants to change that. It’s a long-term strategy of wrapping Ukraine into Nato, formally or not.  “We agreed to help Ukrainian forces move from their Soviet-era equipment to Nato standard equipment,” she said. 

Meanwhile Zelensky last week gave a horrifying but potentially truthful vision of Ukraine if the war is won by Nato weaponry. He said post-war Ukraine will be like a “big Israel” and won’t be “liberal” like Europe. “We will not be surprised if we have representatives of the armed forces or the National Guard in cinemas, supermarkets, and people with weapons. I am confident that the question of security will be issue number one for the next ten years. I am sure of it,” he added

The warmongering is having broader effects. South Korea’s right wing president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol asked for the US to return nuclear bombers and submarines to the Korean peninsula during talks in Washington last week.

The US removed its strategic nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991. Yoon has vowed to take a more aggressive attitude towards North Korea than outgoing president Moon Jae-in. He wants the return of US nuclear weapons as part of that plan. The US is also now looking to South Korea to oppose Chinese influence in the region. 

100 Nato aircraft patrol the skies

Nato is operating a major aerial operation in support of Ukraine’s military. The Financial Times newspaper reports, “Deep inside a reinforced bunker in north-western Germany, a dozen Nato air force troops bustle around computers set up in front of a huge screen showing a map of eastern Europe’s airspace. About 30 green dots, representing Nato planes, cluster the skies on the alliance’s eastern flank bordering Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

“The mix of fighter jets, reconnaissance aircraft and support planes are both a show of strength, and operations gathering intelligence on the war in Ukraine which could be fed back to Kyiv.”

There was a terrifying example last week of the potential for this to lead to clashes between nuclear-armed powers. During a visit by journalists, the command centre scrambled an F-35 jet from Norway to monitor a Russian aircraft that was flying off the country’s northern coast.

The Financial Times article details that Nato owns and operates more than a dozen Boeing E-3A radar planes, with about six of its long-range “eyes in the sky” craft in the air at any time. They form part of about 100 Nato planes flown each day as part of the alliance’s expanded presence in eastern Europe. This includes fighter jets and manned and unmanned intelligence aircraft operated by individual member countries. 

This air armada goes alongside a huge increase in troops so that 40,000 soldiers are now under Nato’s command on the alliance’s eastern flank. There are battle groups set up in all member states bordering Russia, Ukraine or on the Black Sea. In addition, Nato has put naval carrier strike groups in the North Sea and eastern Mediterranean, with more than 140 ships at sea. 

Nato has also assisted in placing US-built Patriot air and missile batteries with the ability to shoot down enemy aircraft or missiles in southern Poland and Slovakia.

Seven activists with placards and a banner against the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Nato expansion pictured on the balcony of a shopping centre

A banner drop in the Westfield shopping centre on Saturday by the Newham Stop the War group

Campaigning against war 

Stop the War Coalition (STWC) groups in many parts of Britain held campaign stalls and small protests last Saturday. They displayed posters saying “Stop the war—Russian troops out, no Nato expansion.”

In the evening STWC was one of the groups supporting an international rally. Others backing it were the Irish anti-war movement, CND, the No to Nato network and Codepink—a women-led grassroots organisation working to end US wars and militarism. It heard powerful calls for a genuine movement against imperialist conflict.

Vijay Prashad, director at the Tricontinental Institute, said, “On this day, 9 April, in 2003, the US army entered Baghdad in Iraq and the looting began. We say Russia out of Ukraine, but that won’t solve the problems that provoked the war. We have to end the illusion that the US can be dominant forever.”

Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek Minister of Finance, said, “It doesn’t matter who the leader is of a country that is invaded. We have to stand by Ukraine. But Nato leaders are putting the theoretical right of Ukraine to be part of Nato above their right to live, and breathe.”

Clare Daly, a Member of the European Parliament in the Independents 4 Change group, said, “All the worst people empowered by war—arms merchants, war hawks, the far right. At no point in the last half-century have we been closer to generalised conflict.”

Tariq Ali quoted the Tory prime minister Stanley Baldwin in a speech from 1932. Baldwin said that in modern warfare, “The only defence is in offence, which means that you have to kill more women and children more quickly than the enemy.” Tariq Ali said this was now the US’s military ideology.

He attacked the Tories in Britain. But he also denounced the “so-called opposition for acting as understudies for Johnson on most things”. And he said Labour opponents of the war in parliament were “running scared”.

Author and activist Noam Chomsky said the choice in Ukraine was “a negotiated settlement or to fight to the last Ukrainian”.

Richard Boyd Barrett, an Irish TD for People Before Profit, denounced Putin’s “bloody, imperialist, inexcusable invasion”. But he added it had been “cynically exploited by the US and others to rehabilitate Nato, to expand Nato”. 

Indian academic and author Anuradha Chenoy said the Global South did not “support unilateral sanctions” that are “impacting the hungry”.

The meeting put out a call for an international day of action on 7 May,  and another on 25 June—in the run-up to the Madrid Nato summit.

  • For Stop the War events go here

The US admits its claims are not ‘rock solid’

US officials said last month they had indications suggesting Russia might be preparing to use chemical weapons in Ukraine. US president Joe Biden later said it publicly. But three US officials told NBC News last week there is no evidence Russia has brought any chemical weapons near Ukraine. 

They said the intelligence wasn’t “rock solid” but helped to keep Russian president Vladimir Putin “off-balance”. In some cases one official said, the US is just “trying to get inside Putin’s head”.

Recently US spokespersons told reporters they had intelligence suggesting Putin is being misled by his own advisers, who are afraid to tell him the truth.

But when Biden was asked about the disclosure— after it made headlines around the world— he couldn’t offer any evidence. “That’s an open question. There’s a lot of speculation,” Biden told reporters. “But he seems to be—I’m not saying this with a certainty—he seems to be self-isolating.”

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