War in Ukraine – two years



The Russian victory shakes the military power of the West and demolishes its image of invincible powers that the States and the ruling classes of the central countries made the whole world believe

The following brief text presents considerations arising from our research on the War in Ukraine, which seem to us to be compelling after two years of war. First, we return to the discussion about the causes and character of war that we presented in the article The War in Ukraine from the perspective of International Relations Theories: discussion on causes and character of the war (available here). Second, just as in previous article, posted on the website the earth is round We again present the dynamics of forces on the battlefield. Third, we make some considerations about trends in the formation of a multipolar world.

Causes and character of the war

The bloc of Western capitalist powers and their allies under US leadership, formed after the end of the Second World War, aims to preserve and defend global capitalism and its conduct by transatlantic leaders. This imperialist chain seeks to destroy any project that is not under its tutelage, whether autonomous capitalism projects (as appears to be the Russian case) or anti-capitalist projects (as appears to be the Chinese case). The military side of the imperialist chain is NATO.

In the 1990s, with the defeat of the USSR, there was a change in the balance of power, led by the American State, with the aim of further increasing its supremacy. From this perspective, our concrete analysis finds that NATO led by the Americans is expanding to the borders of Russia with the aim of making it its satellite.

However, Vladimir Putin's government has a project of autonomous development of national capitalism and autonomous international insertion of the State, largely disconnected from the imperialist chain, which is intolerable for the West and NATO. We understand that Russia, despite being a capitalist State, is not a capitalist power and would be more in the position of a semi-periphery country with very particular characteristics. Likewise, its foreign policy is not imperialist, despite its arrogance. But it is also not a subordinate foreign policy, like many of the countries on the periphery of global capitalism. Therefore, it makes no sense to treat this war as inter-imperialist.

We assess that the main cause of the war is the expansion of the imperialist/NATO chain and the character of the war is counter-imperialist. We prefer to use the term “contra” and not “anti”, as the former denotes a state and bourgeois character of the Russian position. That is, opposition to the expansion of the imperialist chain is a mobilization of the State and fractions of the bourgeoisie. Furthermore, related to NATO expansionism, the term “counter” also denotes that it is a defense war. The term “anti” would denote a proletarian and popular character, against the imperialist powers and the State and the dominant classes of peripheral countries and a tendency towards socialist transition. Counter-imperialism is not the anti-imperalism of the struggles and writings of Mao Tse-tung, Ho Chi Minh, Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara and many others who fought imperialism and capitalism on the periphery of the system. In this sense, Vladimir Putin's Bonapartist government is definitely not anti-imperialist.

Phases of the war

The first was the Russian counteroffensive in the face of the NATO advance and Ukrainian pressure on the separatist provinces Donetsk and Luhansk, in Donbass. During this phase, Russia conquered a large part of the entire territorial extension that it still maintains under its control today. The second phase was the reaction of NATO and Ukraine, which caused losses and setbacks for the Russians. The third phase was the long battle of Bakhmut, with Russian victory in a strategic region for complete control of Donetsk.

The fourth phase was the Ukrainian offensive which failed to penetrate the Russian defense lines. The fifth phase is a new Russian counteroffensive, whose battles are concentrated on the banks of the Dnipro River, in the south, near the city of Kherson, and in the city of Avdiivka, in the Donestk region. The Russian objective at this stage is to control the integrity of the four provinces, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, in addition to maintaining Crimea.

The map below shows that Russian territorial conquest in the first and second phases of the war (November 2022) remains unchanged to this day (February 2024).

Map 1

Source: BBC and Institute for the Study of War

Map 2

Source: BBC and Institute for the Study of War

On map 1 on the right is the territory conquered in November 2022; on the left, in February 2024. At this moment, Russian troops are on the offensive, mainly in the city of Avdiivka (map 2), considered important for the total control of the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk. At the moment we write these lines, the Western press itself is reporting the Russian victory in the city.

On the Ukrainian side, American military assistance is increasingly unlikely and the armed forces – which face a change of command, a shortage of soldiers, weapons and ammunition – are still waiting for F16 fighters to combat Russian air superiority. Its Western allies, authorities and intellectuals, are already talking about the impossibility of retaking the territories and negotiating peace on terms favorable to Moscow.

A multipolar world

If the Russian victory on the battlefield is emerging, it also has an impact on international politics. Such a triumph shakes the military power of the West and demolishes its image of invincible powers that the States and the ruling classes of central countries made the whole world believe. Likewise, from a more general point of view, against the domination of capitalist powers led by the USA, it lays solid foundations for the construction of multipolarity. Revolts mainly in Africa openly question warlords.

We don't know what a multipolar world will look like. But three trends appear today. First, its construction will not be peaceful. Countries' defense spending reached the highest level in 2023 since World War II. Second, second-order capitalist powers have problems in their economies. The United Kingdom, Germany and Japan are in recession (would India, China and Russia give way to the new order?). Third, the expansion of the BRICS and the requests for membership from around 30 countries form a bloc opposing the West. Under the Russian presidency, Vladimir Putin proposes an active and combative role in the international system plagued by instability, in addition to projecting the de-dollarization of commercial relations between the members of the coalition.

Faced with the uncertainties of the path to multipolarity, the possibility of the Third World War, the climate catastrophe and the re-emergence of fascism, the lessons of proletarian internationalism are of great value. Marx and Engels called (and called for) the international organization of the proletariat for the Socialist Revolution in the midst of conflicts between five European powers as the sixth great power. Lenin called on workers around the world to transform world war into international civil war. And Trotsky taught that fascism cannot be discussed, it is destroyed! Peace, prosperity, social justice and environmental sustainability go through such teachings.

* Caio Bugiato Professor of Political Science and International Relations at UFRRJ and at the Graduate Program in International Relations at UFABC.

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