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Ukraine: all the ruling class offers is escalation

Russian Shahid combat drone flying over Ukraine. Photo Anelo/shutterstock.com.

Despite the huge sums of money, the vast quantities of ammunition, and the covert presence of soldiers on the ground, the war in Ukraine is not going well for imperialism. Their answer: double down…

The war in Ukraine is deadlocked, and there are always two ways to break a military deadlock: settle or escalate into a far wider war – stick or twist.

The ruling class here in Britain is making its choice – for escalation. It is interfering more and more in Ukraine. The deeper that involvement becomes, the greater the danger that we will see the total war against Russia that some are clamouring for. If workers here don’t assert their own interests, the ruling class will draw Britain into wider war.


Total war demands total mobilisation, so the head of the army, General Sir Patrick Sanders, said in January that the government may have to “mobilise the nation” in the event of war against Russia – alarming news for all, but especially for young people. We need to campaign against conscription, but also against the kind of war that would bring conscription.

‘The ruling class in Britain is making its choice – for escalation…’

The war in Ukraine is particularly dangerous because it is in Europe. That’s where rival powers have started all too many wars, where NATO is directly involved, and where nuclear-armed Russia has attacked one country and is seen as threatening others. And dangerous because, regrettably, there is so much popular support in Britain, and in other European countries, for the Ukrainian side (see the YouGov poll in February 2024).

According to that poll, most people in Britain think Ukraine should be supported until Russia is beaten. Those who want to encourage a negotiated peace are in a significant minority, even if most people do not want Britain to provide additional support. At least there seems to be a majority against sending troops into Ukraine, and against the British forces’ ongoing role of coordinating air strikes against Russian targets in the country.

The Sunak government and the Labour government-in-waiting, both desperate to win support, grossly exaggerate the threat to Britain from Russia. Even after two years of war, Russian forces only occupy the south-eastern fringe areas of Ukraine populated largely by Russian speakers. It is absurd to claim that they could go on to seize Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Germany, Britain, and so on.


In Ukraine, the NATO-backed counteroffensive last year failed to recapture Russian-occupied territory. Kyiv’s subsequent move to “active defense” marked the end of its hopes to regain control of all the Russian-occupied territory. It cannot hope to expel all Russian forces from Ukraine.

NATO’s sanctions have failed to cripple the Russian government’s war effort. The Russian government has now adopted an attrition strategy that is exhausting Ukraine’s forces, draining American military stocks, and sapping Europe’s peoples’ support for the war. Quite simply, Ukraine is running out of soldiers.

‘The government and Labour grossly overestimate the threat from Russia…’

NATO cannot fix this manpower shortage without sending troops, directly intervening in the war. Some may be there now. Leaked US documents revealed in March last year that the British government had deployed up to 50 Special Forces troops active in Ukraine. NATO wants to escalate the war by giving Ukraine’s forces long-range cruise missiles to target Russian cities (Britain has already supplied short-range cruise missiles capable of striking eastern Ukraine).

The war is stalemated, with no prospect of outright victory for either side without a drastic change of policy. The danger of escalation is growing. The need for peace is also growing.

How might peace come about? A standstill ceasefire, for example – a ceasefire-in-place based on where the armed forces are today – would leave all but the south-eastern fringe of the country free of Russian control. While this would not be a complete victory for Ukraine, its government could still hail its defiance of the Russian aggression as a great achievement.

But NATO governments reject the ceasefire-in-place and instead recently committed to expanding the war. On 26 February, French President Emmanuel Macron convened a meeting of 20 European leaders, including British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and a US representative, where they called for more weapons and financial aid to be sent to support Ukraine’s war effort.

Wider war

Macron said, “We are convinced that the defeat of Russia is indispensable to security and stability in Europe.” But this course of action is more likely to provoke than to deter a wider war.

They discussed sending troops to Ukraine. Macron admitted after the meeting that there was no consensus on sending Western ground troops to Ukraine, but said that “nothing should be excluded”.

Ukraine’s government has formally banned all negotiations. Its current “peace formula” of complete Russian withdrawal, followed by war crimes trials, implies a total Russian defeat that is ever less likely.

The Biden administration says that it will discuss “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine”. It has managed to get Congress to pass his $61 billion weapons package for Ukraine. The British government also rejects negotiations.

MPs support escalation, at whatever cost to the British people (see Box). They insist that the people of Ukraine fight on until total victory, in a forever war which means that yet more Ukrainians will be killed or displaced.

Britain has no interest in being involved in wars abroad. Empathising with “plucky little Belgium” led British workers into the mass slaughter of World War One. Identifying with the sufferings of the people of Ukraine could sucker us into another world war. We must not allow the ruling class to drag us into war as happened in 1914. Instead workers must continue to assert their class interests.

As with all wars launched by imperialist powers, the necessary peaceful settlement will not mean an end to all wars. As long as we allow imperialisms to exist, they will generate wars.

For us in Britain, our contribution must be to end the rule of imperialism here. And to do this, we must unite and act to end the rule of the British ruling class.

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