Almost 100 days since the invasion of Ukraine, the grim pattern of Russian assaults and Nato escalation continues. The US said on Tuesday that it will provide Ukraine with long-range rocket systems, as part of the recent £32 billion aid package.
The new weaponry includes long-range rocket launchers called Himars and precision ammunition with a range of up to 50 miles. “I’ve decided that we will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions,” US president Joe Biden wrote in the New York Times newspaper “That will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield.”
Then on Thursday, defence secretary Ben Wallace announced Britain would send M270 launchers to Ukraine. They can fire rockets up to 50 miles and he said Ukrainian troops would be trained in Britain to use the equipment. Wallace said the decision was made closely with the US government and was linked to the Himars move.
In addition, chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany would supply its modern Iris-T air defence system to Ukraine. He also said Germany would provide Ukraine with a radar system to locate enemy artillery.
A few days earlier Ukrainian defence minister Oleksii Reznikov said the country was taking deliveries of Harpoon anti-ship missiles from the US via Denmark. It was also receiving the M109 Paladin armoured self-propelled howitzer directly from the US. The M109 can fire shells, each weighing 100 pounds, at distances of over 25 miles.
Chillingly, Russia held exercises this week involving the Yars nuclear-armed mobile missile system, according to the country’s defence ministry.
The exercises, held in the central Russian region of Ivanovo, involved about 1,000 soldiers who practised moving the missile systems. The Yars system has a range of 6,500 miles. The missile was last test fired, according to publicly available information, on 19 February—a few days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian and Russian armed forces have been fighting fiercely in Severodonetsk, a key city in the Donbas region. By 1 June the Russians controlled 70 percent of this provincial capital, according to the governor of the eastern Luhansk region. But Ukrainian counter-attacks had retaken large areas of the city by 6 June. Severodonetsk, now largely evacuated and bombed out, had a pre-war population of more than 100,000.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) newspaper reports, “Cracks are appearing in the Western front against Moscow, with America’s European allies increasingly split.” It says that one group of countries, led by France and Germany, are increasingly worried about the cost and danger of hurling more and more powerful armaments to Ukraine. These governments feel under pressure as the cost of living crisis intensifies and anger grows over soaring prices and shortages.
A poll last month showed that 46 percent of Germans fear that heavy weapons deliveries increase the danger of the war spreading beyond Ukraine. Other polls have shown similar figures in Italy and France.
A strike in Italy on 20 May organised by the smaller, more radical trade unions included slogans against Nato’s involvement in the war as well as demands over the cost of living. France’s president Emmanuel Macron faces parliamentary elections on 12 and 19 June.
But Biden can rely on Boris Johnson. The WSJ says that Britain and the US see Ukraine as “the front line in a broader war pitching Russia against the West”.
The US is not backing off. And, even though there are divisions, the European Union continues to push to limit Russian energy supplies even as people see petrol, gas and electricity costs rise.
The West hopes it can reverse its humiliation in Iraq and Afghanistan, humble Russia and then confront China. Putin hopes that, if he can take enough territory in the Donbas, he can proclaim some sort of victory that will boost him at home—and send a signal to Russia’s other neighbours.
Ukraine’s people are swept into a proxy war between these powers—both are fixed on their own imperial interests.
As the war reaches a tragic milestone of 100 days, we need a new phase of resistance in both Russia and the West. It has to fuse opposition to imperialist slaughter and a fightback against the strangling of working class living standards.
Israel faces new crisis
Next court date 16 November