Russia trumpets victory in Soledar – a name translated as ‘gift of salt’. A town no more than a dot on a landscape that once held 10,000 residents, primarily working in the salt mining industry. Slightly smaller than the old ex-mining town of Bargod in the Welsh valleys. Thousands of workers have died in a deadly Stalingrad cosplay for dust and rubble. The strategic significance is negligible. The significant consequence is disproportionate in its dramatic escalation.
The desperate Putin military machine will accept any portrayal of victory no matter how small, after 6 months of abject failure piled on retreat just weeks before the war’s first anniversary. It also pilots a resurrected military project of franchising out imperialist conquest to private capital in the form of the Wagner Group.
Once a small elite of experienced military adventurers that could grace any Bond film, it has become a ruthless and desperate army of violent criminals promised riches and freedom in exchange for unquestioned obedience and sacrifice. Now their estimated 40,000, accounting for a quarter of effective Russian combat forces, has become a law unto itself with the political implications that go with it, like Caesar letting in the barbarians to protect it from barbarism.
The value to Putin is clear, their desperate dead is not officially a Russian body count and more than that, this paid mob are not bound by the so called ‘rules of war’. Atrocity has been privatised and not a government issue. A successful model of colonial expansion in the 17th-19th centuries.
This onslaught, aided by an estimated $1 billion worth of 2,400 Shadad (meaning ‘Witness’) drones from Iran’s blood-soaked Islamist regime, demonstrates the unholy nature of barrel scraping before escalation.
The West has recognised Russian weakness for the opportunity it offers. Rather the defeat them, leaving a vengeful adversary in intact, Russia can be bled, impotently, to death. The piecemeal upgrading of Ukrainian military technology – always sufficient to avoid defeat but never enough to win – now has added tanks.
No longer Soviet T72 leftovers from the Poles or the Czechs (backfilled but the UK and US with our sophisticated yet outdated upgrades) but 14 British Challenger 2’s. Insufficient in themselves but lifting the escalation taboo, anticipating a Europe wide tithe that could see around 300 first line (primarily the ubiquitous German Leopard) tanks equalising ground forces as the war grinds on. The aim is prolongation not end, though when that happens, Western capital plans to be the victor in every sense.
As the stakes are raised, crisis ridden Iran has decided to shackle itself to Putin’s fate, squaring another circle for Western imperialism. Russia is believed to be paying with technology not just cash for this alliance, just at the point Iran’s nuclear program reaches critical mass.
While it’s workers revolt, the Mullah’s seek to create a unifying external crisis by waving a red flag at bullish markets eying their downfall. It would be hard to imagine that Israel, so long eager for a preemptive strike and emboldened by its new nationalist government, is still being kept on as tight a leash by its military underwriter, the USA.
At home we get colder and poorer, in line with our fellow workers either side of the war’s frontiers. The war is meant to distract us from our rulers abuse as much as it is in Russia and Iran.
Our hope lies neither in the success of millionaire Zelensky’s fire sale of his country’s resources to western bankers than it does in mullahs or authoritarian dictators. The conflict escalates towards our annihilation with every victory and defeat on the battlefield.
Our victory lies in the defeat of everyone planning their fortunes on the corpses of our class. We keep on about the war because it is always aimed at us, by bombs or poverty they scrabble for riches from our lands and our labour, our picket lines are a tank trap against their plans. At home and abroad we have to refuse their call for unity in the national interest. Our interests are only internationalist, against boss’s greed, robbery, militarisation and crises, whatever the side of their frontiers we find ourselves. Their war is stepping up, our resistance through class war must too.
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