If the meeting of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies in India was intended as a show of unity against Russia, it succeeded in producing precisely the opposite result.
The final declaration of the Group, which pointedly refused to condemn Moscow, immediately provoked a wave of fury in Kyiv and exposed glaring contradictions in the self-proclaimed coalition against Russia.
The host nation, India, effectively emasculated the original statement drafted by the Americans, which placed the blame for everything squarely on the shoulders of Russia.
But the document made no mention of any Russian invasion. Instead, the statement confined itself to empty declarations about the “human suffering and negative added impacts of the war in Ukraine”.
It reiterated the routine platitude that war is bad and peace is good, which is roughly the diplomatic equivalent of expressing support for apple pie and motherhood. To put the final touches to this meaningless list of banalities, it reminded everyone present that:
“All states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible…”
In case you didn’t guess, this was a reference to the UN Charter, which has been in force for many decades, and has not once prevented a war or any other crime against humanity.
But then, to be fair, the Ten Commandments that Moses presented to humanity in tablets of stone have been around a lot longer, without having had any noticeable effect on the course of human history either.
To express it in plain language, this was a statement noteworthy only in that it stated nothing in particular. This was, in fact, the only way that Modi could get the majority of attendees to agree to any kind of final statement. And the majority of those present were well satisfied with the outcome.
This enthusiasm was not, however, shared by Washington. That is hardly surprising, because it represented a humiliating slap in the face to the Americans and their hawkish allies, who found themselves completely isolated and out-manoeuvred.
It was a particularly galling development for Joe Biden, who had taken the trouble to turn up in person in the hope of securing some positive headlines to help his campaign for re-election next year.
By contrast, both Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping pointedly stayed away. This was their way of saying: “Whatever you decide will make absolutely no difference to us. We will continue to pursue policies that we consider to be in our own interests.”
That was undoubtedly the case. Nevertheless, the Americans and their allies had expected to use the Group of 20 to win a propaganda victory, demonstrating to the whole world that Russia is completely isolated. In the event, they proved precisely the opposite. The meeting was in fact, a major diplomatic coup for Russia and China, who succeeded in getting their agenda for world affairs approved, despite the absence of their two leading figures.
The western alliance in disarray
As one might have expected, some western diplomats immediately tried to put a positive gloss on things. A senior EU diplomat told AP that the bloc “had not given up any of its position,” and said that the fact that Moscow had signed on to the agreement was important.
“The option we have is text or no text, and I think it is better [to have a] text. At least if they [the Russians] don't implement, we know once more that we cannot rely on them,” the diplomat said.
But this manufactured optimism was not shared in Washington or London. The real significance of the event was shown immediately by the men in Kyiv. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko who, attempting (not very convincingly) to swallow his anger, said:
“We are grateful to the partners who tried to include strong wording in the text. However, in terms of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, [the] G20 has nothing to be proud of,” he hastened to add.
Meanwhile, Kyiv continues to keep up the pretence that their famous counter-offensive is (despite all the indications to the contrary) continuing to advance.
The counter-offensive has failed
Ukrainian forces were said to be pressing ahead with their counter-offensive against Russian forces in southern and eastern regions. But the extreme slowness of the advance, the meagreness of the gains, and the horrific level of human and material losses tell a different story.
Few, if any, serious observers in the West are in any doubt that the counter-offensive has been a spectacular failure. That is by far the most decisive element in this bloody equation. And it is compelling even some of the most fanatical supporters of the Kyiv regime to think again.
The western propagandists, who had been confidently predicting victory, must now begin to prepare public opinion for humiliating defeat.
They have already begun, although observing the necessary degree of caution – carefully avoiding words like ‘failure’ or ‘defeat’ – confining themselves instead to phrases like: “although the results of the counteroffensive did not match expectations…” They also avoid any mention of the fact that those false expectations were created by none other than themselves.
In all this cynical chorus of liars and hypocrites, a small number have decided that it would be better to say things (more or less) as they are. Among this rare breed is one Colonel Richard Kemp.
Richard Kemp is a former British Army officer, a hawkish observer whose views are close to those of MI5. On 10 September 2023, he wrote in The Telegraph a most revealing article, which effectively exposes the real state of affairs.
It begins with the following statement:
“Time is running out for Ukraine. After 18 months of war, it is no longer a question of if the Western alliance will falter, but when.” (My emphasis, AW)
And he adds:
“The West remains committed to Ukraine’s counter-offensive – but there’s scepticism over Zelenskyy's ultimate objectives.”
But what does this mean? In every speech Joe Biden makes, he hastens to reassure us that the USA will stand firmly behind Ukraine “for as long as it takes.” But what is the precise meaning of these deliberately obscure phrases? As long as it takes – for what, exactly?
From the perspective of the Kyiv government, the answer is quite clear: in order for the war to end, or even for meaningful negotiations to commence, the Russians must first withdraw all their forces – including from Crimea.
Until very recently, that was also the view firmly held by Washington and at least its most belligerent allies (read: servile lickspittles) in NATO: the Poles, the Baltic states and, of course, the Brits. They have been constantly falling over each other to push the most warlike agenda, up to and including an open military conflict with Russia.
So eager were these ladies and gentlemen to plunge the world into an all-out war, that they felt the need to criticise the Americans for their pusillanimity. Why don’t you arm the Ukrainians with your most modern tanks and fighter jets?
Even now, these criticisms still find a belated echo, even in the article of Colonel Kemp, who clearly wishes to place the blame for the defeat of the counteroffensive at the door of Biden and the Americans.
America is the principal backer of the Kyiv regime and the provider of the lion’s share of its money and arms. Yet according to Kemp:
“President Biden has been dragging his heels, giving just about enough military assistance to keep Ukraine fighting, but intentionally not enough to enable a victory.” (My emphasis, AW)
This is clearly a criticism shared by MI5, the Tory government, and the crazy gang of warmongers in London, who attempt to disguise the collapse of Britain’s role as a major world power by barking loudly like a small dog with an attitude problem, snapping at the heels of passers-by.
Such annoying, yapping animals are liked by no one, and have to be silenced by an occasional kick. Such a kick was delivered by Washington recently when Joe Biden vetoed the former British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace for the post of NATO general secretary – a decision that provoked his resignation and fury in London.
Biden had absolutely no interest in allowing the Brits – or anyone else – to usurp America’s control over NATO, or to dictate its policy over Ukraine.
However, the difference of opinion with London did not affect the fundamental line of the Biden administration, which was convinced that a Ukrainian offensive could succeed in inflicting a major defeat on Russia and create a favourable scenario for negotiations on Kyiv’s terms.
The Americans and their supporters therefore applied pressure on Zelensky to commence his long-promised offensive.
In a recent article, I asked how it was possible that the Ukrainian generals were unaware of the colossal problems facing such an offensive. I assumed it was a desperate move, designed to prove to the Americans that the Ukrainian army was still capable of fighting, and thus ensure the continuation of the flow of arms and money to Kyiv.
That was obviously a very important element in the equation. But it was not the only one, or even the most important one. It has since emerged that a significant part of the Ukrainian generals was very reluctant to launch the offensive and only did so under extreme pressure from the Americans.
The latter made the fatal mistake of believing their own propaganda. Ever since the commencement of hostilities, they have been repeating the same mantra: Russia is weak; its army is a shambles; its generals are incompetent; it is running out of missiles and ammunition; the morale of its soldiers is very low, and the people of Russia are ready to revolt against Putin at any time. And so on, and so forth.
Since nobody is allowed to depart a single millimetre from this narrative, it is hardly surprising that the leading layer around Joe Biden has swallowed it, hook, line and sinker. This layer is made up of incompetent second-raters, just as incapable of any original or independent thinking as their semi-senile Boss who listens only to what he likes to hear.
On such a shaky basis, it is impossible for the most powerful nation in the world to develop a coherent foreign policy – let alone an intelligent one. In any case, the majority of the American public have very little understanding of world affairs, and even less interest in them.
That provides a powerful psychological basis for the idea of isolationism, which has for so long been a major factor in American foreign policy, and which re-emerged with redoubled force in the person of Donald Trump. It is no accident that he loudly advocates disengagement from Ukraine, nor that this view strikes a chord with US public opinion.
It is clear that Biden and his clique put pressure on Zelensky to launch his offensive. There were two clear reasons behind this. Firstly, misled by their own propaganda, they were convinced of the possibility of a Ukrainian victory, a conviction strengthened by the widely-touted idea that the “super-weapons” provided by America and its NATO allies would act as “game-changers”.
Secondly – and even more important – was the comforting idea that, even if the cost was to be counted in large numbers of killed and wounded, the body bags would be filled with Ukrainians, not Americans.
Of those calculations, only the second turned out to be correct. The first one was entirely false and was cruelly exposed as soon as the theory was translated into practice.
How many times have we heard the same story of amazing new weapons from the West that would represent a dramatic change on the battlefield?
We recall the big fuss that was made about the delivery of Leopard tanks from Germany and Challenger tanks from Britain. But the latest news from the battlefield shows these same tanks stuck in minefields, where they serve as useful target practice for the Russian artillery.
The offensive is stuttering along at a snail’s pace, at enormous cost of equipment and manpower. Ukrainian units are sitting ducks as they traverse dense minefields directly facing Russia’s layered defences. But what conclusions have the Americans and their friends drawn from this debacle?
The western imperialists, having pushed Zelensky into a war he did not want, and then pressed him into launching an offensive for which neither he nor his generals were prepared, now inform him, in so many words:
“While we, of course, support your offensive [it was not his, but their offensive, but that is a small detail], we now think that your ultimate objectives [which they all supported one thousand percent] are unrealisable.”
Zelensky can be excused for being not a little annoyed by this language.
Kemp continues his bitter jeremiad:
“This at least partially reflects sluggish progress in Ukraine’s counter-offensive, which has seen only limited gains so far.”
“Only limited gains” is a considerable understatement. Like all other western commentators, Mr. Kemp is terrified of calling a spade a shovel. He cannot bring himself to say what is glaringly obvious, namely, that the much-vaunted Ukrainian counter-offensive has failed – and failed catastrophically.
However, for anyone prepared to read between the lines, the spin merchants of the capitalist press are cautiously preparing public opinion for this most unpalatable truth. In this respect, Richard Kemp’s article is actually franker than most. He says:
“Western military analysts and the media built expectations that, this summer, Kyiv would repeat its striking victories of last autumn at Kharkiv and Kherson. Now, people are wondering how much bang they are getting for their buck, and whether the significant investment made by their countries will ever achieve anything concrete.”
That is very well said. How can the expenditure of so many billions of dollars be justified at a time of economic crisis and soaring inflation, when the living standards of millions of people are being cut to the bone?
And how can the continuation of this colossal drain be justified, when, despite all the modern, state-of-the-art military hardware sent to Kyiv, the Ukrainian army has hardly advanced at all in three months, and has suffered a horrific number of dead and wounded?
These are questions that should be asked – that must be asked. Yet hardly anybody is asking them. There is a conspiracy of silence – not only in the prostitute media (laughingly described as the ‘free press’), but also on the part of what are supposedly the ‘opposition’ parties. And from the so-called Left, all we hear is a deathly silence.
But no lie can maintain itself forever.
Is NATO united?
Day in and day out, the media repeat the same monotonous message: NATO is united. Russia is isolated. But is this really the case? As we have seen, the meeting of the G20 nations clearly showed that it was not Russia but America that is increasingly isolated.
Most of the world does not back America in this war. And even in the ranks of NATO, divisions are gradually appearing, which will undoubtedly deepen as time goes on.
“Since the start, despite making many of the right noises and supplying some military hardware, France and Germany, in particular, have been reluctant partners. Their leaders have often seemed more concerned with finding an ‘off-ramp’ for Vladimir Putin than ejecting his forces from Ukraine.”
Already, on 22 January, Simon Heffer wrote in The Telegraph: “Germany’s main fear appears to be its lights going out and its factories closing down if the Russians switch off their energy supplies.”
Kemp complains: “Now, polls in both Europe and the US show public support for military aid to Kyiv dropping, with one recent survey indicating that less than 50 percent of Americans are in favour of additional spending.”
The crisis in Ukraine
In the West, there is a growing discontent with the war that will grow more intense as time goes on, and also a growing realisation that all is not well in Ukraine itself. Even some of the most hardened warmongers, like Richard Kemp, are compelled to ask some embarrassing questions, as we see:
“There is also growing disquiet about Ukrainian corruption, amplified by those voices who oppose American engagement in Europe for other reasons.”
Recently, it emerged that Volodymyr Zelensky has sacked all of Ukraine’s regional military commissars over corruption. He obviously fears that such scandals will undermine western support for Ukraine, which is already showing signs of weakening.
These measures indicate his growing alarm. He has, for example, jailed a corrupt tycoon and former provincial governor Igor Kolomoisky and sacked defence minister Oleksii Reznikov.
These actions speak louder than words. How can it happen that in the middle of a war, the President of a country has to sack his defence minister? This must be an unprecedented event. Just imagine that Winston Churchill had sacked Field Marshal Montgomery in 1944. Such a thing would be unthinkable.
It must mean that the level of corruption is so vast and runs so deep even in the upper echelons of the armed forces, that such a drastic step had to be taken. But it does not stop there. Corruption is at the heart of the Ukrainian oligarchy, just as it is at the heart of the Russian oligarchy.
And it has close links to Zelensky’s ruling clique. Let us recall that Igor Kolomoisky was a long-term ally and supporter of Zelensky. But all these ‘anti-corruption’ measures are merely window-dressing, designed to impress the western donors. As Kemp is compelled to admit:
“None of this will make a significant difference. No strategic adjustment can turn the war around without dramatically increased military aid. And whether or not corruption is tackled, Olaf Scholz, Emmanuel Macron and, most importantly, Biden will be exerting pressure on Kyiv to come to terms, sooner or later.”
Will there be negotiations?
Last summer, Biden wrote that the US was arming Ukraine not to defeat Russian aggression, but to “fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table”.
This was the assumption of all the strategists of American foreign policy and their military advisers. The forthcoming offensive was therefore presented in the media as an unstoppable, triumphant march which, with the aid of the most-advanced weapons provided by the USA and its allies, would slice through the Russian defences like a knife through butter.
The western ‘experts’ were blinded by their own propaganda, which presented the Russians as incorrigibly stupid and incompetent, with generals totally incapable of matching the high standards of a modern NATO army. Moreover, they said, the Russians were running out of missiles and ammunition and would not be able to resist.
This nonsense was repeated endlessly, day in, day out, with tedious regularity, like a well-oiled machine churning out sausages. Since repetition is the Mother of Learning, most people in the West, totally unaware of the realities on the battlefield, accepted these lies as good coin.
The victorious Ukrainian army would punch a hole in the Russian defences and soon find themselves waving their flag on the Sea of Azov. Russia’s lines of communication with Crimea would be severed and Moscow would find itself in an impossible position. The triumphant Kyiv government would then be able to dictate terms to a defeated and demoralised Russia. Such was the official fairy tale. But it was rapidly exploded by events.
Some of the Ukrainian generals, who, unlike the pundits in the White House, had actual experience of the Russians’ fighting abilities, raised objections to the plan. But they were quickly overruled. In fact, anyone in the British media who raises even the slightest reservations to the official narrative is quickly silenced. Their articles are not published and they will be very lucky not to be demoted or even dismissed from their position.
The West – especially the Americans and British – overruled all objections. From the comfort of their offices in Washington and London, they were eagerly pressing the Kyiv government to launch its long-announced counter-offensive – and moreover with maximum force. They were willing to fight to the last drop of blood – Ukrainian blood, that is.
Finally, Zelensky obliged them. He did not really have much choice, since he who pays the piper, calls the tune. But the harsh reality was cruelly exposed the moment the offensive commenced. At this moment in time, no serious observer can be in any doubt that the offensive has failed. And it has failed in such a spectacular way that it could hardly have been foreseen even by the most convinced sceptics.
The failure of the counter-offensive means that, far from getting a stronger position at the negotiating table, the Kyiv regime is in a far weaker position than before. And, having won on the battlefield, Putin is hardly likely to accept compromises.
It seems that the Americans are suggesting that, in exchange for peace, Russia might keep some, or most, of the Ukrainian territory it has won and in exchange, Ukrainian membership of NATO will be kept permanently off the table.
But this has two major difficulties. Firstly, it only offers Russia what it has already won. Secondly, the issue of Ukrainian membership of NATO is not abolished, but only postponed sine die. That would obviously be far too little for Moscow, but far too much for Kyiv.
For that reason, it does not seem that negotiations are on the agenda, at least not anytime soon. The war will therefore drag on until a critical point is reached, where it can no longer be continued.
One sometimes hears talk of a “frozen conflict”, in which neither side can win anything resembling a decisive victory. But that assumes what cannot be assumed. All these calculations leave out of consideration the most important factor, which is the morale of both the military and civilian population.
The plain truth is that Ukraine cannot win this war. On the most basic level, it is a far-smaller country than Russia and this has a direct bearing on the balance of forces from the standpoint of human resources.
“The Russian Federation has concentrated more than 420,000 servicemen in our territories that are temporarily occupied, including Crimea,” Deputy Intelligence Chief Skibitskiy explained at a conference in Kyiv.
The fact that they have such large numbers enables them to rotate troops constantly, which is certainly not the case for the Ukrainians who have lost most of their experienced soldiers. They are stationed behind the third line of defence, from where the Russians can keep up a steady onslaught of fire from artillery and drones on the Ukrainian forces, which are trapped in minefields.
The losses on the Ukrainian side are really staggering. Huge numbers of untrained or semi-trained young soldiers are, in effect, being sent to their deaths in what amounts to suicide operations.
The Ukrainian leaders seem to be as indifferent to this criminal loss of life, as were the generals in the First World War. But, leaving aside all moral considerations, from a purely military point of view, this policy is simply unsustainable.
Even assuming that the Russians are suffering large losses (and the guesstimates of Russian fatalities in the western media are as fictional as the claims that Russia is running out of missiles and ammunition), Russia can sustain losses the likes of which Ukraine cannot.
The question of morale
All wars come to an end when the main war aims of one or other of the belligerent powers are achieved, or when there is a collapse of morale that makes it impossible to continue fighting. Recent events suggest that such a collapse is being prepared in Ukraine.
It is true that the Ukrainian forces have fought with incredible tenacity and bravery. But wars are never won by heroism alone. And it was the height of irresponsibility to assume – and such an assumption was indeed made both in Washington and in Kyiv – that it would be possible to make a dramatic breakthrough in Russia’s defences by sending brave soldiers to get blown to bits in vast and deadly minefields.
It is impossible to say just how many brave young men were sent to certain death in those terrible killing fields. The images of the victims are too appalling to contemplate. Their mutilated bodies furnish a grim testimony to the futility of those attempts and the criminal irresponsibility of those who ordered them.
An appalling price was paid in blood for the failed offensive. And for what? A couple of kilometres here or there, a few shattered shells of deserted villages.
News of the defeats at the front will have a devastating effect as they percolate down. The terrible loss of life affects almost every family. Young men are being recruited by force and sent to the front with little or no military training, like sheep to the slaughter.
But the offensive must be maintained at all costs! The front needs more men, always more men! Those who fall must be constantly replaced by new victims. But where are they to come from?
The patriotic propaganda begins to have a hollow sound as the realisation grows that the sacrifices demanded by the government are far greater for some Ukrainians than for others.
Naturally, the burden falls most heavily on the families of the poor. Those with sufficient resources can pay a bribe that ensures that their sons will not have to go to the army and can disappear conveniently over the border to foreign lands.
The rich evade army service by paying lavish bribes. They continue to live a life of idle luxury. The poor shoulder the full burden of loss of life, collapsing living standards, soaring inflation, rampant corruption and black marketeering.
Recently, Zelensky appealed to foreign countries to return Ukrainians citizens who have fled abroad to avoid military service. These facts are well known to the population, and are provoking a growing sense of injustice.
“And what of our gallant allies? What are they doing – the ones that pushed us into this war in the first place and encourage us to keep on fighting ‘for as long as it takes’? What of them?”
The Americans can afford the luxury of sitting back in their comfortable armchairs and watching as Ukrainians and Russians kill each other. They continually encourage the Ukrainians to fight, but without committing any of their own troops.
Inevitably, the war-weary, shell-shocked Ukrainian soldiers will be asking the obvious question: ‘how much longer do the Americans wish to fight to the last drop of my blood?’
Demoralisation and war-weariness will inevitably spread from the soldiers to the civilian population, who are witnessing the systematic devastation of their country.
The ruling clique sees no alternative but to keep up the merciless pressure on an exhausted population. Already, a section of the generals are demanding the continuation of the offensive into the autumn and even the winter.
But sooner or later, the critical point will be reached where people can stand no more. When that moment arrives, Ukraine will suffer a catastrophic collapse.
That is, of course, only one scenario. But at this moment in time, it seems to me to be increasingly the likeliest one.
How could the West react to defeat?
A Russian victory would be a humiliating blow to the West. How might the West react? This is a scenario which the so-called strategists of the West have never been willing to contemplate.
For them, a Ukrainian defeat was unthinkable. Their one and only perspective was a Russian defeat and the fall of Putin. Consequently, they have no ‘Plan B’. A Russian victory would find them plunged into disarray, while Vladimir Putin’s Bonapartist regime would be temporarily strengthened.
The possibility of a serious military response is virtually nil. Here, Russia would hold all the cards. Far from being weakened by the war, the Russian army has been built up into a formidable force, not only in numbers, but in the quality of its weaponry, which, despite all the western boasting, is easily comparable to the best that NATO possesses – if not superior to it.
Despite the poor showing in the first phase of the war, the Russian army has learned many lessons (as happens in any war). Its troops and cadres are battle-hardened and their morale will be boosted by success.
There is absolutely no way that NATO, as presently constituted, could hope to prevail against it. Nor is it likely that any US administration could persuade a reluctant public to accept the commitment of significant numbers of American troops to a war on European soil.
All the simmering splits in the transatlantic alliance would immediately come to the fore. The pro-war faction would find itself isolated and discredited and governments would fall.
The reactionaries will demand the building up of NATO forces as insurance “against Russian aggression”. But in the first place, Russia has no intention of waging war against any European country. Its central war aim is to stop Ukraine from joining NATO and to ensure its own security by making Ukraine into a neutral country.
In the second place, there is as yet no sign that any programme of rearmament has been seriously approached on either side of the Atlantic. There is no indication, for example, that Germany is budgeting to reach the minimum NATO defence spend of 2 percent of GDP, despite promises. And the UK, for all its bellicose rhetoric, continues to make further cuts to its undersized army.
Western governments must address domestic priorities, starting with the cost-of-living crisis. But how can this aim be squared with a programme of rearmament?
Economic crisis and the war
The second option would be to continue the economic warfare aimed to undermine the Russian economy, “to emphasise the price for waging aggressive war”. But Kemp says that this variant is “highly problematic”. That is quite correct.
The sanctions imposed on Russia have completely failed to cripple the Russian economy and have had a negligible effect on Putin’s ability to wage war, as the New York Times commented recently:
“Russia has managed to overcome sanctions and export controls imposed by the West to expand its missile production beyond prewar levels, according to U.S., European and Ukrainian officials, leaving Ukraine especially vulnerable to intensified attacks in the coming months.”
On the other hand, these sanctions have had a catastrophic effect on the world economy. By cutting off the supply of Russian gas and oil to Europe, the sanctions have deepened the crisis and sharply increased inflation, enormously exacerbating the cost-of-living crisis.
A recent report states: “Inflation in the eurozone remained at 5.3 percent in August, which is higher than the ECB had been expecting. Worse yet, the economy is slipping, especially in Germany, the largest member of the currency union.”
The economy has stalled, but prices are still rising quickly, and there is no way out in sight. And this problem cannot begin to be solved until Russia is re-integrated into the European economy.
This fact is understood by an increasing number of European bourgeois politicians, such as former French President Nicholas Sarkozy. From his class point of view, he can see the danger of increased class conflict arising out of the unresolved economic crisis.
The Ukraine war did not cause the crisis, but it has served to exacerbate the contradictions at all levels. However and whenever the war ends (and end it must, sooner or later), the perspective is one of a colossal intensification of the class struggle on a global scale. The barometer of world politics points to a gathering storm.
15 September 2023