England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Rising militarism: The product of a wasteful, destructive system

By Ellie Costain, Socialist Alternative Merseyside

Ukraine has launched its Summer offensive against the Russian invasion force. Russia’s President Putin launched a war of aggression over a year ago, falsely claiming that Ukraine was not a separate country and was part of Russia. There can be no mistake, though. This is not a war that will have or has had any benefit for the ordinary working-class people of Russia, and certainly not those of Ukraine.

The sanctions imposed by the EU and UN on Russia have had a wider knock-on effect of inflation in energy and food prices as well as on the working class of the country, where the number of people living in poverty doubled in the first five weeks of the war. On top of this, any voicing of opposition to Putin’s war and the regime remains heavily repressed. Anti-war protests at the beginning of the war were put down, often brutally. At the same time, the cracks in the Russian regime are opening up, driven by months of bloody fighting. In June, this hit a new peak with the mutiny of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner paramilitary group.

The Ukrainian people are up against the realities of an invasion and the brutality of war. Six cities have been wiped out since the beginning of the invasion, leading to millions being displaced. Russian forces have attacked infrastructure forcing cities to restrict their power supplies. The destruction of Kakhovka Dam in May is an ecological disaster which will have long-lasting human and economic consequences for those in the surrounding areas for years to come, and on world food supplies.

As socialists, we oppose war, imperialism and militarism. We believe in people’s right to self-determination i.e. the right for Ukrainian people to determine their own state and to do this independently. Yet the world is divided by rival imperialist powers. In the case of Ukraine, the Ukrainian people are caught between the US and NATO on one hand, and Russia and China on the other. The US is attempting to forge a bloc with Europe and the UK which partly aims to push Putin back. But it is mainly aimed at deterring China from its expansionist moves in the Pacific, especially to prevent a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

Military spending ramps up

On 13 June, the US announced a further $325 million in military assistance to Ukraine, in addition to the $1.1 billion promised at the start of the war. At the same time the US Federal Reserve has been increasing interest rates at their fastest pace since the 1980s. As is the case elsewhere, inflation means the prices of goods and services are rising far faster than wages and ordinary workers are struggling to afford fuel, food and healthcare.

The UK government has also spent millions arming Ukraine with tanks, drones, missiles as well as training for Ukrainian pilots. Since 2022, the UK has been the second largest (after the US) military donor, committing £4.6 billion. After decades of Tory austerity and the mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic the UK’s public services and the NHS have been brought to their knees with a record of seven million people on NHS waiting lists.

While the UK government has been uncompromising in their approach to striking NHS staff, junior doctors, paramedics, and nurses, the same level of restraint when it comes to spending on public services is not shown towards arming Ukraine.

Age of disorder

The war is a product of growing tensions between imperialist powers, who seek to redivide global spheres of influence. As the US and China are the two largest economies, this trend of increased militarisation increasingly reveals a new cold war between a Western NATO bloc and a China-led bloc, aligned with Russia. China has the world’s second largest defence budget after the US with an estimated $224 billion, double the figure from 2013.

Since the beginning of war in Ukraine, Sweden has joined NATO and Finland has applied to join – although its accession was blocked by Turkey. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation represents Western imperialist ‘security’. Its members include Germany, France, UK and USA. Japan and Germany – two states that have traditionally had very low military expenditure – have, under pressure, begun to increase military spending. Japan intends to increase its military budget by 60% over five years and Germany to raise its military budget by up to €10 billion by 2024.

This trend of rising militarism around the world comes as part of bigger picture of de-globalisation, with each nation’s ruling class focused on their own interests, or of their bloc. Although capitalist wealth and resources are always interconnected through global trade, the pendulum has swung drastically toward an increased focus on strengthening national and regional blocs.

This is happening even as capitalism increasingly cannot provide for people, and the climate crisis deepens the contradictions that are inherent in the system. For example, while ordinary people have struggled to heat their homes and feed themselves, arms manufacturing companies such as BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin have made huge profits since the beginning of Putin’s invasion. Meanwhile, huge amounts of carbon are being emitted as two armies burn vast amounts of diesel and aviation fuel.

As has been seen in this conflict and others throughout history, militarism is expensive and wasteful. It is proof that capitalism as a system has not only outlived its usefulness but is increasingly a threat to human survival. We cannot depend on capitalist powers to bring peace to nations through military spending. The bosses fan the flames of conflicts, making big profits out of them.

Ukrainians have every right to their own self-defence but for it to be in the interest of working-class Ukrainian people. But for a real end to war and imperialism, this must be linked with an independent, working-class struggle across the region to drive out the capitalists and warmongers. and combined with an appeal to Russian troops to refuse orders, bring down their commanders and the Putin regime could bring an end to the war. The wealth and resources that the ruling class go to war over must be taken into the hands of working-class people in all countries so that we can have a planned socialist economy which prioritises the safety of the planet and people globally. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *