As missiles dropped across Ukraine last week, US president Biden announced a return to Cold War politics. He launched his National Security Strategy report saying the world is at an “inflection point”. He now plans to “shape the future of the international order” and “outmanoeuvre” competitors.
“This decade will be decisive, in setting the terms of our competition with the People’s Republic of China, managing the acute threat posed by Russia,” said the 48-page document. Biden makes it clear that this requires a massive shift of resources towards the military and that China is marked as the main enemy. The potential of nuclear war is always in mind.
China “is the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do it,” the administration declares.
It continues, “Nuclear deterrence remains a top priority for the nation. “By the 2030s, the United States for the first time will need to deter two major nuclear powers. “To ensure our nuclear deterrent remains responsive to the threats we face, we are modernising the nuclear triad—nuclear command, control, and communications—and our nuclear weapons infrastructure.”
To be sure we are getting the message, it continues, saying, “Nations are seeing once again why it’s never a good bet to bet against the United States of America”. Even mainstream commentators are shocked at the way the report echoes the language of the previous national strategy document—written by Donald Trump’s team in 2018.
Biden’s policy shows us that the West’s war in Ukraine has nothing to do with democracy or the rights of small nations faced with imperialist aggression. The US sees the conflict as a way of both containing and diminishing Russian power as part of its long term strategic goal of economic and military domination.
The strategy document was published just as the Nato military alliance announced a ten-year plan to rebuild Ukraine’s military and arms industry—and fully integrate them into Nato command.
“We will be looking at defence planning requirements to get Ukraine fully interoperable with Nato,” a senior Nato official said. That would mean that Ukraine would become a member of Nato “by default”, even if its formal request for membership is denied.
It would also be a huge strategic gain for the US. But the move can only inflame the war and risk spreading it across the region. Seeking to surround Russia with Nato, or Nato-aligned, countries ramps up the threat making a nuclear conflict even more likely.
But for now the West seems content to pour in ever more weapons and prolong the conflict indefinitely. The Washington Post newspaper reported last week that US officials have ruled out the idea of pushing the Ukrainian leadership to negotiate with Russia.
That’s despite the administration believing that neither side can win the war “outright” and Biden saying last week that the war in Ukraine could trigger “Armageddon”.
Russian attacks on Kiev and a dozen other cities last week saw renewed calls for the West to supply Ukraine with missile defence shields. Some have already arrived. The first shipment of new heat-seeking missiles from Germany reached Ukraine on Tuesday.
France, the Netherlands and Spain last week pledged to send more. And the US said it would hasten the delivery of two missile launchers of the type already used around Washington. But the drive to “clear the skies” can only intensify the war, rather than make civilians safe.
Placing “defensive shields” around the Ukrainian capital and other potential Russian targets will inevitably cause Russia to send ever more missiles. Russian planners will seek to overload Ukrainian defences by inundating them with all manner of weapons.
Its military will direct attacks towards those areas in the majority of the country that remain unshielded. And even more than is already the case, they will target less well-protected civilian areas, rather than military assets where the missile batteries are based. war
The introduction of Western anti-missile technology will also push Russia towards other, even more dangerous strategies. That includes the possible use of battlefield nuclear weapons and longer-range ballistic missiles fired from deep within Russia. war
Ballistic missiles generally fly too fast and at too high an altitude to be hit by anti‑missile shields. That would mean missiles with even more deadly payloads could start to smash into Ukraine.
What would then be the West’s response? Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly asked for the US-made Patriot missile system. war
This can shoot down both ballistic missiles and supersonic aircraft. It has a range long enough to hit targets well within Russia and at high altitudes. war
If the West agreed to such a demand it would signal an escalation so grave that so far even US military officials have rejected it. Far from keeping Ukrainians safe from Russian bombs, missile shields only make them a target of even more deadly weapons.
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