German chancellor Olaf Scholz
Much of the British far left — groups such as the Communist Party,Socialist Worker, and Socialist Appeal — see the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a war between NATO and Russia, fought on Ukrainian soil. They argue that the US and NATO provoked Russia, in order to isolate Russia and destroy its military power. They oppose Ukraine’s self-defence and struggle for self-determination which they equate with a Western war to subordinate Russia to the West.
So it is difficult to know what these groups make of the US and German denial of advanced tanks to Ukraine. Surely, if this was a war which the NATO powers wanted and plotted for, in order to do-down Russia, the West would provide all the weaponry Ukraine needed to do that job.
And yet the US and the Europeans have not acted in this way. They have donated just enough weaponry to stop Ukraine losing, but not enough to allow Ukraine to force Russia out.
The West has refused to donate attack aircraft, long range artillery, tanks and advanced missile systems capable of being used for offensive military operations.
Last week’s negotiations between pro-Ukraine states at a US military base in Germany are an example of this continuing policy.
Ukraine is demanding modern battle tanks which it says, plausibly, it needs to overrun Russian positions. In particular Ukraine wants Germany to donate Leopard 2 tanks and to allow these German-made weapons to be donated to Ukraine by other European states which use them. European armies have about 2,000 Leopard 2s in total. Ukraine says it needs 300; some Western military experts say 100 would shift the balance against Russia, which is increasingly using more modern T-90 tanks against Ukraine.
On Friday 20 January the Ukrainian allies agreed to provide billions of dollars of military supplies, including armoured vehicles. But no Leopard tanks (although Britain is sending 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks).
The German government says it will only allow Leopards to go to Ukraine if the Americans send their Abrams tanks. The US says the Abrams is unsuitable for use in Ukraine.
Why is the West prevaricating? The US and Germany are alarmed by the possible consequences of Putin being defeated in Ukraine and so are denying offensive military equipment. The German state is scared of the Russian reaction to the provision of offensive military weapons to Ukraine; they are frightened of the war spreading and spiralling out of control.
That is not just a stupid German-US calculation. It is a real possibility.
The US is balancing between not wanting Putin to win in Ukraine, and not wanting to deal with the consequences of nuclear-armed Russia losing.
Yet Ukraine is being destroyed, bit-by-bit, as we watch. Russia is planning a new offensive in the Spring and seems to be massing troops, now, in Zaporizhzhia oblast. On 17 January Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced Russia’s intention to increase the numbers in its armed forces to 1.5m. Putin seems determined to continue the war in Ukraine. If Putin and the Russian state win in Ukraine, that will not be the end of Putin’s aggressive nationalist-driven imperialism.
Workers’ Liberty believes Ukraine should be given the weapons it needs to fight and defeat the Russian attempt to subjugate it. The West should not give in to Putin’s blackmail. Ukrainian victory is the only way to a stable, democratic peace.
The US believes that Russia has suffered 188,000 casualties in Ukraine, including 47,000 killed. That is a staggering death-toll in one year of war. By comparison Russia suffered 15,000 killed in eight years of war in Afghanistan. We should not assume that Russia’s terrible war in Ukraine will not lead to political consequences for Putin inside Russia, even in his increasingly intolerant, repressive Russian state.
International solidarity means:
Help Ukraine fight and defend its self-determination!
Solidarity with the Ukrainian left and labour movement!
Solidarity with the left and anti-war protesters in Russia!