Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s trip to the United States today aims to cement a perilous policy of escalation that prolongs the war and the suffering that goes with it. While the politicians in Washington and Zelenskyy congratulate each other for their “shared values” and supposed commitment to democracy, this conflict is at its core about the longstanding goal of the U.S. government to strengthen its domination of the world by weakening Russia.
Speaking at a press conference alongside Zelenskyy, Biden remarked that, “The Ukrainian people continue to inspire the world … not just inspire us but inspire the world with their courage.” But this is just hollow rhetoric. To the officials at the Pentagon and the White House, Ukrainians are pawns to be used in a proxy battle as part of the new Cold War it is imposing on the globe. If the United States were just magnanimously interested in helping beleaguered Ukraine, then it would have long ago negotiated a security arrangement with Russia that demilitarized the region and took the core interests of all parties into account.
Instead, the U.S. government did everything it could to make war inevitable. Beginning in the 1990s, the United States pushed to bring more and more countries in Eastern Europe into the NATO military alliance — reaching Russia’s borders with the incorporation of the Baltic states in 2004. It sponsored the 2014 coup in Ukraine that installed a pro-western, anti-Russian government that waged war on the majority-Russian areas in the country’s east. In 2018, the United States withdrew from the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, raising the specter of advanced nuclear weapons being stationed by NATO in Eastern Europe. The U.S. exit from the Open Skies Treaty in 2020 — another important arms control agreement — further turned up the temperature. And in the lead-up to the Russian invasion, the United States stubbornly refused to engage in negotiations.
While Ukrainians and Russians suffer and die — and the economic and social effects of the war radiate throughout the world — U.S.-based arms corporations are making a fortune. To coincide with Zelenskyy’s visit, the U.S. announced a new shipment of $1.85 billion worth of weapons to Ukraine. This package includes for the first time the state-of-the-art Patriot missile system, a move that will undoubtedly be seen by Russia as yet another provocative escalation. This comes just a day after Congress passed a new spending bill that includes $45 billion in additional funding to keep the war in Ukraine going. War profiteering corporations like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin get the contracts to produce this enormous arsenal.
While the proxy war strategy is showered in endless money by Congress, no such urgency exists when it comes to addressing the dire social crises working people are facing in the United States. The tens of billions of dollars going to cause death and destruction could instead be used to improve schools, fix water systems, and make housing affordable.
Zelenskyy’s visit comes as the war is entering a pivotal stage. In his address to Congress, Zelenskyy praised the United States for “uniting the global community” to supposedly “protect freedom and international law.” But the unity of the U.S.-led anti-Russia bloc may be fracturing. The prospect of economic turmoil caused by severe energy shortages in Europe and the possibility that the fighting will enter a protracted stalemate has led some powerful figures to consider a negotiated settlement to the war. French President Emmanuel Macron, for instance, said earlier this month that western powers need “to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table” and that “One of the essential points we must address, as President Putin has always said, is the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors, and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia.” This attitude conflicts with the strategy that has been favored by the Biden administration up to this point — refuse to negotiate, pour weapons into the war zone, and hope that the war exhausts Russia to the point that its ability to stand up to U.S. imperial foreign policy is diminished in the long run.
This approach is guaranteed to lead to immense loss of life, deepen the severe economic problems gripping the world, and could even lead to a catastrophic confrontation of global proportions. We need peace negotiations now, not the callous and reckless policy of escalation pushed by the U.S. government.