We are now in a situation where, if the current course is continued, the best-case scenario is that this war will continue for years as a slow, bloody war of attrition with hundreds of thousands more dead, with progressive destruction of the Ukrainian economy and infrastructure, with progressive impoverishment of the European population. The worst-case scenario is a global nuclear war.
Total victory over a nuclear power is not possible without nuclear war
Why the Ukraine war cannot be won
by Fabian Lehr
[This article posted in 2/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.sozonline.de/2023/02/ein-totaler-sieg-ueber-eine-atommacht-ist-ohne-atomkrieg-nicht-moeglich/.]
As I write this text, in the longest, bitterest, and bloodiest battle of the Ukrainian war to date, the likely imminent Ukrainian defeat is just beginning to emerge in Bachmut, which is surrounded by three sides. Bachmut represents the failure of the hopes for a quick, great Ukrainian victory that had sprouted after the reconquests in the Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts last late summer and fall.
Admittedly, it looks equally unlikely that there will be a quick, sweeping Russian victory in this war. The Battle of Bakhmut has often been compared to the trench warfare of World War I, and indeed it bears many of its worst features: Agonizingly slow positional warfare, alternating between grueling artillery fire that turned towns and countryside into haunting cratered worlds and regular waves of assault raids in which hundreds and thousands of soldiers bled to death to move the front line a few yards. For months, the Russian invaders sacrificed tens of thousands of their soldiers to approach Bachmut through such horrific “human waves” meter by meter, village by village. First and foremost, the Moscow regime used up mercenaries from Prigozhin’s private Wagner militia in the process, largely prisoners who, out of desperation, agreed to go to the front to escape the horror conditions in Russian prisons and be pardoned if they survived.
Judging by the reports one reads from Bachmut, not many of them will live to see their pardon. Putin’s regime, one of the most socially unequal societies on earth with one of the highest incarceration rates, is obviously using the Battle of Bachmut in a cynical manner to kill two birds with one stone: on the one hand, finally inflict another serious defeat on Ukraine, and at the same time get rid of its own troublesome lower classes, whom the social conditions of the oligarch regime have pushed into criminality.
The Battle for Bachmut
The likely imminent loss of Bachmut would represent a serious setback for Ukraine. The town is central to the massive line of fortifications Ukraine has built in the Donbass since 2014 to prevent the so-called Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics from encroaching. If Bachmut falls, the second and strongest of Ukraine’s three lines of fortifications would likely collapse, and a large part of Donetsk oblast would be lost. The fierceness with which Ukrainian forces are defending the ruins of Bakhmut and have been throwing tens of thousands of soldiers into this inferno for months in order to hold the city manifestly gives the lie to frequent attempts by Western media to declare Bakhmut strategically irrelevant. Only recently, in the face of the rapidly deteriorating situation, Selensky publicly reiterated that Bachmut would be defended to the last. The dreams of throwing the Russians back to the pre-February 24 lines or even marching on Crimea in the near future are over.
Admittedly, it is not to be expected that a possible triumph in Bachmut will soon be followed by a great, decisive Russian victory. Despite the mass enlistments of hundreds of thousands of recruits in recent months, the Russian army still suffers from a shortage of half-trained infantry, there is a massive shortage of non-commissioned officers who can lead recruits effectively, and the reactivation of mothballed stocks can hardly fully replace the enormous Russian losses of tanks, troop carriers, and artillery. It is to be feared that even after the end of the Battle of Bachmut, the war will continue much as it has been waged for months: Agonizingly slow, tremendously bloody, with ever more extensive destruction of Ukraine’s infrastructure, with neither side able to incapacitate the other, may just a few hundred square kilometers fall to the Russian or the Ukrainian side.
General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, has repeatedly predicted that this war will last for years and that a decisive Ukrainian victory in 2023 is extremely unlikely even with continued massive Western weapons assistance. With casualties approaching a quarter of a million on both sides, according to U.S. estimates, and with the war estimated to last several more years, this war is indeed slowly approaching the battles of World War I not only in its fighting style but also in its dimensions.
No interest in peace
So far, neither side has shown any willingness to negotiate. The Selensky government has declared negotiations with Putin taboo by decree and proclaims the maximum goal of restoring the borders of 2014, including the conquest of Crimea. Putin still hopes for the great victory and avowedly wants to realize at least the annexation of the entire territory of the Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhya, and Kherson oblasts, which he had announced in full, possibly even a new attempt to attack Kiev, even if that does not seem too realistic militarily.
And the NATO bloc, which now provides virtually all the funding and equipment for the Ukrainian armed forces and without whose permanent massive support Ukraine would be unable to fight in a few weeks, shows no intentions of influencing its Kiev satellite state to seek a compromise peace. Indeed, just recently, then-Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett confirmed rumors that a compromise peace between Russia and Ukraine would probably have been possible as early as March 2022 if Britain and the United States had not intervened and motivated Kiev to keep fighting.
The NATO bloc does not even have to believe in a Ukrainian victory to have an interest in prolonging the war. As top U.S. military officials have explicitly stated, the main U.S. interest is to inflict such heavy casualties on its geopolitical rival, Russia, in this war that Russian forces will be barely able to operate for years to come. Whether the Russian or Ukrainian flag flies over the smoking ruins of Mariupol and Bachmut at the end of this war will be of relatively little concern to Washington, provided that so many Russian soldiers have died along the way and so many Russian tanks have been shot down that Putin’s forces will cease to be an international power factor in the medium term. So the signs are for years of tough war, with hundreds of thousands more dead, with large-scale destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure, with increasing depopulation of Ukraine through mass flight, with a protracted global economic crisis, and with further impoverishment of the entire European population through the economic war between the EU and Russia and galloping inflation fueled by the war.
Admittedly, whether such a years-long continuation of the war is even possible depends on whether the NATO bloc is willing to continue funding and equipping the Ukrainian armed forces to the extent necessary even to maintain a stalemate. Ukraine no longer has a significant arms industry of its own. Almost all the weapons it uses it gets from NATO. Almost all of the ammunition that those weapons fire, it gets from NATO. Almost all the medical equipment to care for the tens of thousands of wounded soldiers it gets from NATO. It gets the targeting coordinates that allow the NATO-supplied artillery to be used efficiently in the first place from NATO’s intelligence services. The Ukrainian officers, artillerymen, tank drivers are trained by NATO. And the money with which the Ukrainian troops are paid comes from NATO, because the Ukrainian economy, which was already very weak before 2022, has completely collapsed due to the war. The Ukrainian state lives almost only on handouts from Washington, London, Berlin, Paris and Co. The NATO bloc thus decides by the amount of its financial and military contributions whether and to what extent Ukraine can continue the war.
In recent weeks, this Western arms assistance has once again taken on a new quality. The increasing deterioration of the Ukrainian position on the front, the slowly emerging effect of Russian mass mobilization seem to have triggered some panic sentiment from Washington to Berlin and led NATO countries to decide not only on the delivery of a three-digit number of Western Bradley and Marder infantry fighting vehicles, but also, shortly thereafter, on the delivery of the most modern Western heavy battle tanks of the Leopard 2, M1 Abrams and Challenger 2 types. After that, it took barely a few days for discussions to begin about sending Ukraine modern Western combat aircraft – Kiev is now begging for 200 F-16 fighters, and even submarines, to fight Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. This frantic activity by the NATO bloc to flood Ukraine with masses of ever heavier weaponry at an ever-increasing rate indicates a growing escalation of the conflict, which is moving ever closer to the stage of direct and all-out war between Russia and NATO – Baerbock’s statement that Germany is at war with Russia may have been a slip, but a slip that is moving ever closer to reality.
Neither side can lose the war
Russian bellicists now hope for the great, finally decisive victory when Bachmut has fallen and the Ukrainian line of fortifications in the Donbass collapses. Western bellicists hope for the great, finally decisive victory when the promised hundreds of Western tanks have arrived in Ukraine and Selensky undertakes his longed-for great spring offensive. Both Russian and Western war-mongering militarists, however, forget one simple fact in all their feverish dreams about the great victory finally coming in Ukraine: regardless of what may happen on the battlefields of Ukraine in the coming months, neither side can really lose this war, provided they are truly determined not to allow defeat. Indeed, both sides still have potential for escalation to the point of nuclear inferno.
Let us assume that the hoped-for major Ukrainian spring offensive really does take place and that it succeeds in recapturing appreciably more occupied territory. Is Putin then forced to capitulate? Not at all. Russia has both a much larger population and much greater industrial potential than Ukraine. If Putin is determined not to lose this war, he can launch the next wave of hundreds of thousands of enlistments and continue to push the conversion of Russian industry to war production, which is already underway. Infantry weapons, battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and guns of simple Soviet types can be produced by Russian industry in practically unlimited quantities if it converts to a war economy, and as far as metals and energy are concerned, the huge Russia, immensely rich in raw materials, is virtually self-sufficient.
Also, the sanctions regime has so far affected the EU economically much more than Russia – sanctions will not break Russia’s ability to continue the war in the foreseeable future. Even if any Ukrainian offensive had any great success, and even if any number of Russian soldiers were killed and any number of Russian tanks were shot to pieces – Putin can always just call up the next 100,000, 200,000, or 300. 000 recruits and wait until the next 1000 tanks come off the factory lines or the next one to two thousand old tanks in storage are reactivated – it is estimated that Russia still has over 6000 old Soviet tanks in storage that can be made operational again within a few months.
Ukraine can keep up this game for a far shorter time than Russia. The Ukrainian population is three times smaller than Russia’s, so in a war of attrition lasting years, it will inevitably run out of recruits sooner than Russia. And even more so, Ukraine cannot replace its losses of tanks, troop carriers, guns, helicopters, etc. Ukraine, as I said, no longer has a significant defense industry of its own, let alone an industrial base for years of mass production of war materiel, all the more so because the Donbass, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, is partly conquered by Russia and partly a combat zone.
Any Ukrainian equipment destroyed or captured in combat must be replaced by new arms donations from the NATO bloc. And the stockpiles of this NATO bloc are slowly reaching critical lows. It has been difficult enough to find even 100-200 operational and expendable modern Western heavy battle tanks in NATO stocks that can now be sent to Ukraine. Leopard 2s, Abrams, Challenger 2s and co may be vastly superior to Russian T72s, T80s and T90s, but Russia has several thousand of them available, can reactivate many thousands more and produce many hundreds more each year. Even if each of these modern Western battle tanks shoots down several Russian tanks, these 100-200 tanks will be used up within a few months in the massive material battles now being fought in Ukraine, and Russia will still have thousands of Soviet-type tanks.
The same applies to infantry fighting vehicles: The maximum of a few hundred Western infantry fighting vehicles of the Bradley, Marder and other types that have now been promised to Ukraine will not last long in such a war. In a few months, Ukraine will need new ones, and many, many more of them, if it is to mount serious large-scale offensives that have any chance of restoring the Feb. 24 lines, let alone the 2014 borders. Given that Russia has already half-converted its industry to a war economy, the current, already immense level of Western arms deliveries to Ukraine will be sufficient at most for maintaining a stalemate, but definitely not for reclaiming the occupied territories.
But the NATO bloc, which after 1990 massively reduced its stockpiles and focused its armies primarily on small-scale overseas interventions rather than large-scale field battles, does not have much more in store than is now being scraped together. Very soon, NATO countries will be faced with three options:
First, accept Ukraine’s defeat.
Second, supply massive amounts of weapons from the active, self-used stocks of their armies, thus undermining their own defense capabilities.
Or, third, likewise convert their economies to years of war economies with continuous mass production of weapons moving from the assembly line directly to the Ukrainian front.
This would be extremely difficult to implement politically and would accelerate the impoverishment of Europe in particular. But of course: NATO’s combined economic capabilities are immeasurably superior to those of Russia. If the NATO bloc decides to fight this war as a world war that it wants to win at all costs, then after a while the NATO bloc will be able to produce many more tanks, many more troop transports, many more guns, many more combat aircraft and many more munitions than Russia. Of course, at some point NATO will have to send hundreds of thousands of Western ground troops to fight in Ukraine, because the recruitment potential of Ukraine with its small population, which has been thinned out enormously by mass exodus, is very limited and its reservoir of trained artillerymen, tank drivers, pilots, etc. even more so.
The nuclear catastrophe
Let us assume that this does not yet lead to nuclear escalation, and let us assume that such a year-long war economy and mass mobilization of NATO lead to such a preponderance of Western Ukrainian forces over Russian ones that all Russian-occupied territories can be recaptured – at this point at the latest, the war will probably become a nuclear war. Putin has tied his political fate to this war. His Bonapartist dictatorship would not survive if, after a decade of Russian rule over Crimea, after a decade of secession of Donetsk and Lugansk, after the solemn announcement of the annexation of Ukraine’s four eastern oblasts, he loses this war, the Russian army is fully humiliated, and territory is conquered that, at least in the case of Crimea, is generally considered Russian territory at home.
If Putin allows this to happen, he will likely be overthrown. NATO troops entering Sevastopol without Putin releasing the use of tactical nuclear weapons against them is hard to imagine. And even if such a full Western conventional victory in Ukraine succeeds without nuclear escalation, even if NATO ceremoniously hands over Donetsk and Lugansk and Mariupol and Sevastopol to Selensky, would Putin be forced to end the war? Not at all. Even the total defeat of Russian invading forces in Ukraine would not change the fact that Russia still has millions of recruitable young men across the border, still inexhaustible raw materials and energy sources, and still huge industrial capacity.
If victorious NATO troops are in Donetsk and Crimea, without that having led to nuclear escalation and without Putin having been overthrown, the Moscow regime would have to respond by training hundreds of thousands more recruits and producing thousands more tanks and guns to take back in a counteroffensive what it has only recently declared untouchable Russian territory. If this war is being fought by both sides as a world war, then this world war will not end with victory in the Donbass, but only with one side becoming completely incapable of fighting.
However, Russia’s combat capability can only be definitively broken by occupying Russia’s industrial areas, Russia’s population centers, Russia’s political nerve center in Moscow, i.e. by a massive invasion of Russia’s core territory. At the very latest, however, this would be the point at which the war would practically inevitably escalate massively nuclear and turn into a global nuclear war, endangering the continuity of modern civilization. One cannot expect to inflict total defeat on a nuclear power without waging nuclear war.
Western bellicists may now cry out indignantly that such concerns are, after all, a cowardly bowing to Russian blackmail. That may be so. But the blackmail has an undeniably real basis. The 6000 Russian nuclear warheads are real and it is insane to assume that they will not be used when the Moscow Bonapartist regime is fighting for the possibility of its continued existence as a great power or even as a state. A total victory over the world’s greatest nuclear power, you may twist it as you like, is most likely not possible without a global nuclear war.
The escalation potential of NATO
Conversely, it is hard to imagine that Russia could end this war with a total victory if one understands by it a breakup of the Ukrainian state, an invasion of Kiev, a regime change. Let’s assume that the fall of Bachmut would lead to a major Russian frontal breakthrough and a collapse of Ukrainian forces in the Donbass. It is unlikely that Russia would be able to transition to a successful war of movement across the board at the moment. The enormous losses of recent months have left their mark. Russia still suffers shortages of reasonably well-trained infantrymen. There is a shortage of non-commissioned officers. Logistics for supplying fuel, ammunition, and food are poor. There are bottlenecks in ammunition production despite intensified production. Even if the Ukrainian fortress line in the Donbass were to collapse, the Russian army would hardly be able to storm into Kiev immediately, but would have to fight its way forward for months with heavy losses.
During that time, the NATO bloc keeping Ukraine alive would have time to react. NATO could then thin out active army stocks to stabilize the situation, send hundreds more tanks and guns, and then probably numerous fighter planes. If that is not enough, NATO countries could participate directly in the fight by, for example, firing their large stocks of cruise missiles at Russian weapons and fuel depots, loading yards, barracks, and bases. And if that is not enough, NATO countries could convert their industries to war economies and send ground troops into Ukraine – in which case Russia would be in a direct, conventional world war with the world’s most powerful imperialist bloc, whose economic capacity exceeds Russia’s many times over.
And in the extremely unlikely event that Russia could defeat a NATO expeditionary force operating directly in Ukraine in conventional combat, the NATO bloc also has a combined total of some 6,000 nuclear warheads with which it could immediately stop any Russian advance if necessary. So again, for Russia, total victory over NATO without global nuclear war is impossible.
To the extreme?
Admittedly: all this is true on the premise that both sides consider this war so important that they would not be willing to give it up under any circumstances. How likely is it that the two warring parties would go to the extreme of not admitting defeat?
Let’s look at the NATO bloc first. For the US and EU, this war is undoubtedly important. Ukraine has gone from a Russian semi-colony to a Western semi-colony since the 2014 overthrow. Western capital dominates the Ukrainian economy, most of Ukraine’s arable land has ended up in the hands of Western agribusinesses, and Ukrainian governments, kept financially alive since 2014 only by huge Western loans, must obediently pursue the economic policies that Washington and Brussels dictate to them in return for those vital loans, in other words, pursue neoliberal policies in the interests of Western investors.
For Western capital, the loss of this semi-colony to Russian capital would certainly be an unpleasant blow, but Ukraine is not a first-rate market for American and European capital. The Ukrainian domestic market is relatively small and poor, and Ukraine has no raw materials that could not be obtained from elsewhere. The loss of Ukraine would not be an economic disaster for the West. What tends to be more important for the U.S. and EU is the security benefit of ruling Ukraine as a bulwark against expansionist efforts by geopolitical rival Russia. As long as Ukraine stands as a NATO-armed anti-Russian bulwark, Russia cannot dominate the Black Sea or reach out toward Moldova. Not to mention that annexation of Ukraine would lead to a considerable strengthening of Russia’s economic and military power potential: through a population increased by 40 million, through annexation of the raw materials and industry of eastern Ukraine.
Even such a Russia would be hopelessly inferior to NATO in Europe, but to a greater extent able to cause trouble for the NATO bloc in imperialist conflicts elsewhere, in the Middle East or in the Caucasus, for example. Russia swallowing Ukraine would be a serious defeat for American and Western European imperialism, and accordingly they have been trying vigorously for a year to prevent this by massive deliveries of arms and money to Ukraine. But a victory in Ukraine is not vital for NATO. Even a Russia enlarged by Ukraine would still be geopolitically vastly inferior to the NATO bloc. The U.S. world power position does not depend on the outcome of the war in Ukraine, and not really the security of the EU. No Western government would fall because Ukraine would eventually be abandoned. Accordingly, it seems quite unlikely that the NATO bloc would go berserk and launch a nuclear first strike in the event of a looming failure in Ukraine.
For Russia, things look different.
First, precisely because of its relative weakness on a global scale, Russia clings all the more fiercely to what little it still commands. There is nothing left of the Russian sphere of power in Europe, apart from Belarus, if it were to permanently lose all of Ukraine, until 2014 a Russian semi-colony.
Second, because a resounding, total defeat in Ukraine would mean such a humiliation of Russian forces that the last vestige of Russia’s international prestige would collapse. What state in the world would still be inclined to enter into an alliance with Russia, and thus into enmity with the NATO bloc, when it has been proven that Russia is not even militarily capable of defending the paltry Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics lying just outside its border in an emergency?
Third, because Putin’s domestic fate is now completely tied to this war. It is at the core of Putin’s bonapartist regime to ideologically cement the immense social polarization of his oligarch regime, in which a layer of corrupt billionaires faces a mass of poor pigs living in moldy apartments, through strident nationalism and the evocation of Russian power and greatness. In Putin’s Russia, all the social achievements of the Soviet Union may have been destroyed, but at least one is again a player on the world stage, Russia is again taken seriously and feared. With a major, crushing military defeat, this basis of Putin’s regime’s existence collapses. All the more so if this defeat takes place in Ukraine, which a large part of the Russian population precisely does not regard as some foreign country but, fueled by Putin’s nationalist lessons in the philosophy of history, as a natural part of the Russian world. This is all the more true since Putin first solemnly and officially declared Crimea and then the four eastern Ukrainian oblasts to be Russian territory.
That Putin could withdraw his forces behind the 2014 borders without being overthrown, whether by revolution, palace intrigue, or military coup, seems hard to imagine. An open, total defeat in Ukraine would be widely perceived as the end of Russian great power. If Ukrainian or even NATO troops invade Crimea and Donetsk, it will be neck and neck for Putin and his clique. And accordingly, in the event of a catastrophic defeat in Ukraine with the threat of total loss of the occupied territories, there will be a high probability that his regime will play its last trump card and use nuclear weapons. A NATO-enforced restoration of the 2014 borders will hardly happen without nuclear war.
The recklessness with which this is accepted in the war-drunk Western media and political world, clamoring for victory and punishment of the enemy, is frightening. From the Greens to the CDU, from the Taz to the Faz, the entire bourgeois establishment, in its bellicose frenzy, seems not to realize that total victory over a nuclear power is hardly possible without nuclear war, and that the goal of militarily restoring the borders of 2014, or even permanently breaking Russia militarily, probably implies World War III, which not many Europeans would survive.
To recap what has been said so far:
1.) A continuation of Western arms deliveries to Ukraine at the current level will most likely be at most sufficient to cement a long, bloody stalemate with countless more deaths and slow, economic and demographic bleeding of Ukraine, but certainly not for recapturing all territories conquered since Feb. 24, let alone restoring the 2014 borders.
2) In order to militarily force the goal of restoring the 2014 borders proclaimed by the Ukrainian government and endorsed at least by the U.S. and the U.K., Western arms deliveries would have to increase to a degree that is only achievable by converting NATO economies to a years-long war economy with further impoverishment of the European population.
3.) Such a years-long war economy to wage total conventional war against Russia would probably mean, sooner or later, a direct and explicit entry of NATO countries and NATO ground forces into the war in Ukraine.
4.) Such a total NATO war against Russia would very likely result in a nuclear war that would devastate at least Europe, possibly endangering the continuation of modern civilization altogether. Total victory over a nuclear power is not possible without accepting nuclear war.
What does it follow from all this for the left in the NATO countries and about how to relate to the arms deliveries and the increasing escalation of the war?
More than half a year ago, in my video “What is being fought for in the Ukrainian war?”, I already went into detail about the character of this war and I do not want to repeat its content here, but only briefly go into some key points.
Unlike, for example, the Korean War or the Vietnam War, the Ukrainian war is not a systemic conflict in which two contrary social designs are at war with each other, one of which is advancing humanity. Putin’s Russia and Selensky’s Ukraine are two extremely similar states with an almost identical social system. Both are bourgeois class states that emerged from the ruins of the Soviet Union, in which the ruling class is an oligarch mafia that has enriched itself fabulously by plundering the former planned economy. Both are among the most socially inegalitarian societies on earth. Both are dictatorial systems in which there is no freedom of the press, no freedom of demonstration, no real trade union freedom, no real legal political opposition. Both are among the most corrupt states in the world.
Both represent as their state ideology an extreme ultranationalism, which is becoming more radical on both sides in the course of the war, and which is to be implemented by military force: The Russian state wants to subjugate the population of Zaporizhzhya and Kherson and force them by force of arms to admit that they are in fact Russians, whether they like it or not. The Ukrainian state wants to subjugate Crimea and Donetsk and force their people at gunpoint to admit that they are in fact Ukrainians, whether they like it or not.
Whether Russian mafia clans rule in Kherson and the Russian state nationally oppresses the population there or whether Ukrainian mafia clans rule in Crimea and the Ukrainian state nationally oppresses the population there is completely irrelevant to the progress of humanity. Neither side in this war represents any forward-looking political idea. It is not a war about freedom and democracy, but an imperialist war about whether Ukraine will remain a semi-colony of the US and EU or become a semi-colony of Russia again.
Even if Ukraine or NATO wins this war without turning Ukraine into a nuclear-contaminated desert, a victorious Ukrainian state would not be free in any way. The final collapse of the Ukrainian economy due to the war and Ukraine’s absolute military dependence on NATO mean that the Ukrainian state now continues to exist both militarily and economically exclusively at the mercy of the NATO bloc. And this means that in the foreseeable future, in order to be able to think about reconstruction at all and to be protected against a Russian revenge, Kiev would have to carry out every order from Washington and Brussels. The result of a Ukrainian “victory” would be that a destitute, impoverished Ukrainian population would be oppressed and sucked dry by a corrupt comprador bourgeoisie in the service of the U.S. and the EU, instead of being oppressed and sucked dry by a corrupt comprador bourgeoisie in the service of Moscow.
Such a war is not worth a single human life, much less hundreds of thousands. That is why it was right from the start for Western leftists to oppose their own bloc’s imperialism by agitating against arms supplies and exposing the glorification of this imperialist slaughter as a struggle for freedom and democracy – just as it was and is the task of Russian leftists to sabotage Russian warfare and expose the Putin regime’s lies that the Russian invasion is a struggle for national self-determination and against Nazism.
Time is pressing
The urgency of this task, however, has become much more acute in recent months. On the one hand, because it has become clear that this is a long and extremely bloody war of attrition. On the other hand, because the danger of a nuclear world war becomes all the greater the more the NATO bloc, by intensifying its war effort, seems to be striving for the goal of total victory over Russia, which will hardly be achievable without nuclear escalation.
We are now in a situation where, if the current course is continued, the best-case scenario is that this war will continue for years as a slow, bloody war of attrition with hundreds of thousands more dead, with progressive destruction of the Ukrainian economy and infrastructure, with progressive impoverishment of the European population.
The worst-case scenario is that this war becomes a global nuclear war, killing most of the population of Europe. Resistance to the perpetuation and intensification of this war today means fighting for the future of Europe.
It is the task of Western leftists to show that this war is about the military enforcement of imperialist power interests and not about the freedom of the Ukrainian population, which even a Western victory would not mean in any way. It is their task to explain that the officially desired, finite great victory cannot be achieved by even so many arms deliveries and that a nuclear power cannot be brought to its knees without nuclear war. That the ever more and ever heavier Western weapons being pumped into Ukraine are most likely not intended to achieve a decisive victory at all, but rather to enter the peace negotiations, through which this war must end anyway, with a somewhat better negotiating position by continuing the slaughter for months to years.
It is their task to demonstrate that the nuclear escalation risk is a danger to all humanity if the struggle continues and intensifies.
It is their task to demand an immediate cease-fire and the opening of peace negotiations – a demand that Western leftists must make of NATO governments and Russian leftists must make of the Kremlin.
And it is their task to give public emphasis to these demands by taking to the streets: in every city, in all NATO countries, demonstrations should be held every week against militarism and high armament, against the export of tanks and combat jets, and for an immediate cease-fire, in view of the highly dangerous escalation of the Western war effort that is currently taking place. Any left mobilization for these goals should be actively supported without sectarianism.
Fabian Lehr is a Marxist blogger and Youtuber living in Vienna.