It will soon be reported that Bakhmut has fallen. With Russian bombs raining down, and GPS guided bombs destroying Ukrainian positions, Ukrainian forces will have little option but to retreat to a new front line having suffered, like the Russians, thousands of casualties.
It is generally assumed that NATO and Kyiv are planning a counter-offensive. Behind the scenes, a mobilisation of around 50,000 troops and equipment is taking place to push the Russian forces back. On 27 April, NATO claimed to have sent more than 1,550 armoured vehicles, 230 tanks and ‘vast amounts’ of ammunition to Ukraine.1
Tens of thousands more conscripts will be injured or die as a result. This is turning into a very expensive war in human terms and with no certain outcome. The military expenditure required to fight the war is also enormous.
News from Stockholm
According to new data on world military spending, published on 24 April by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Ukraine’s military spending reached $44 bn in 2022 an increase of 640 per cent. This was the highest single-year increase in a country’s military expenditure ever recorded by in SIPRI data.2
Almost half of the increase was military supplies from the United States, with US arms companies reaping a huge dividend from their government’s proxy war. By the end of the war Ukraine is going to be highly indebted to the United States and at the behest of the corporations that make up the US military industrial complex. It will make Hunter Biden’s reported activities in Ukraine seem relatively benign.3
Russian spending grew by an estimated 9.2 per cent in 2022, to around $86.4 bn. This was equivalent to 4.1 per cent of Russia’s gross domestic product, up from 3.7 per cent in 2021. This compares to military expenditure’s 37% share of Ukraine’s GDP.
Any country that is prepared to break the EU $60 a barrel price cap on Russian oil will also be able to cash in and support the Russian war effort. CNN reports that there are many oil tankers on the high seas, with their identification beacons turned off, delivering shipments at prices that break the EU cap with Russian oil on board. 4 According to the 14 April International Energy Authority oil market report Russian oil exports in March soared to the highest since April 2020, returning to levels last seen before Russia invaded Ukraine. There is simply no loyalty amongst capitalist thieves.5
Arms race takes hold
SIPRI reports that in Asia and Oceania, combined military spending was 45 per cent more in 2022 than in 2013. Ever since hopes were expressed for a peaceful new world order following the fall of the Berlin Wall, spending in this region has risen year on year. It now stands at $575 bn.
Japan’s military spending increased by 5.9 per cent between 2021 and 2022, reaching $46 bn. This was the highest level of Japanese military spending in real terms since 1960. According to SIPRI researcher Xiao Liang, ‘The post-war restraints Japan imposed on its military spending and military capabilities seem to be loosening.’ That is putting it mildly.
Looking west across the East China Sea from Japan, China was the world’s second largest military spender at $292 bn, 63 per cent more than in 2013 but still less than Western and Central Europe and just a third of US military expenditure which stood at $877 in 2022. Spending by Western and Central European states will be 30 per cent higher than in 1983.
En route to WW111
The SIPRI data shows that ruling classes are engaged in an arms race produced by a global capitalist inter-imperialist conflict.
The division and redivision of the worlds resources has been a recurrent phenomenon since the first colonial conquests made by the Dutch and the Portuguese. The British Empire was built on military victories across the globe over Spain and then France. Germany’s ambitions for ‘a place in the sun’, with its own colonial possessions, was a rising power disrupting British hegemony in the first half of the 20th century. Now China threatens the United States’ global dominance.
Capitalism produces a never-ending drive by national ruling classes to find and secure new markets and tap new resources, irrespective of the wishes of local populations who might envision a different future for themselves than living in a vassal state of one major power or another. As the United States continues to encircle China and develops the AUKUS alliance, it is self-evident that the present war in Eastern Europe is not a standalone war but one of a series of regional conflicts that are the staging posts en route to a third world war.
At the same time, in its heartlands, capital is attacking the living standards of the working class while spending billions more on militarism – both are two sides of the same coin – and both must be opposed by the international working class.