By Malik Miah and Barry Sheppard
For a time after the end of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, there were claims in the media that there was a “unipolar world” centered upon the United States.
This claim implied that there was a “bipolar world” during the Cold War.
What did exist during the Cold War was two main nuclear powers, the U.S. and the USSR, that could unleash a nuclear world war that would at the least reduce the human population to a very small number, destroying civilization and massive destruction of life on Earth.
This resulted not in nuclear disarmament, which was the sane outcome, but in a nuclear arms race and an unstable situation of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
This was not a “bipolar world,” however, because there was a Third World encompassing the majority of humanity. The Third World developed after WWII when the colonies of the European imperialist powers launched struggles to free themselves.
In this great uprising of the world’s majority, there was the possibility that these fights for national liberation would develop into socialist revolutions.
These struggles took various forms, including protracted wars like in Vietnam, Korea, and Portugal’s African colonies. As the major victor in WWII among all the imperialist powers, the U.S. intervened to thwart the dynamic toward socialism, and where this dynamic succeeded to launch wars in Korea, Vietnam and Cuba.
The existence of the Third World continues, even though the rich (imperialist) countries continue to exploit what today is referred to as the Global South, in a vastly changed context.
Capitalism was restored by a long process from above in China. The Soviet Union was broken up and capitalism was restored in its constituent countries, organized by the Communist Party of the USSR in a capitulation to capitalism. That ended the Cold War.
The imperialist countries announced the triumph of capitalism over socialism. British Prime Minister coined the phrase “There Is No Alternative to Capitalism”, shortened to TINA.
In the decades since, not only were the Communist Parties shrunk, and adopted liberal politics in the rich countries, the social democratic parties moved to the right, and what was the revolutionary socialist left for the most part also moved to the right.
The result is that today there are few groups that maintain a revolutionary socialist perspective, and socialist revolution is not on the agenda in the near or medium term throughout the world.
However, the apparent “unipolar world” centered on the United States after the end of the Cold War has seen the U.S. now in a many-polar world, and struggling to regain lost ground.
The Chinese economy has seen rapid growth as the U.S. and other rich countries shifted much simple manufacturing to China and other low wage countries. China’s GDP has risen to be the second largest after the United States, and Washington has designated China as a main competitor, and even as a “hostile” country.
China’s per capita GDP is less than twenty percent of that of the United States. That explains its low wage status. However, its sheer size, 1.4 billion people according to the UN, means it can exert power internationally and has done so with its Belt and Road initiative and other economic tools in Asia Africa and Latin America.
It has also fared better than other Third World countries because the Revolution broke subordination to imperialism economically and politically completely.
China also has a large military and is a nuclear power.
It has been designated by Washington as one of the countries it targets. The other is Russia.
Domination of Russia has been a U.S. goal since the end of the Cold War. Initially NATO was a military alliance against the Soviet Union. Yet it wasn’t disbanded but expanded as a military alliance against capitalist Russia.
The U.S. has expanded NATO up to the borders of Russia and seeks to incorporate the country with the remaining long border, Ukraine. This has been its stated goal since 2008.
Ukraine had amicable relations with Russia after it gained independence with the overthrow of the Soviet Union. It was agreed between the two countries that the Soviet nuclear arms in Ukraine would be transferred to Russia.
In the 1950s, the Soviet government transferred Crimea from the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) to the Ukrainian SSR for technical reasons. This was scarcely noted at the time, since it remained in the USSR. The historically Russian naval base in Sevastopol, Crimea, on the Black Sea had become a Soviet base.
It was also agreed between the two countries that Russia would keep the Sevastopol base, its only one on the Black Sea. Ukraine had other ports and bases on the Black Sea, which connects to the Mediterranean Sea.
In 2014, the United States, in a block with Ukrainian nationalists, staged a coup that ousted the elected president of Ukraine. The new government announced that Ukraine would join NATO. This would mean the takeover of the naval base by the NATO military alliance against Russia.
Russia responded by taking back Crimea, which had been Russian since it conquered Crimea from the Ottoman Empire in the late 1700s. Its population remained mostly Russian and supported returning to Russia.
The new Ukrainian nationalist government outlawed the Ukrainian Communist Party, made Ukrainian the only official language when previously both Ukrainian and Russian were both recognized, and launched a civil war against the Russian-speaking East Ukraine, centering of the Donbas, which fought back.
The proto-fascist Ukrainian far right armed organizations, which were prominent in the 2014 coup, formed the Azov Brigade, which became the spearhead of the Ukrainian military.
The West supported the Ukrainian side, and Russia the Russian speaking side.
Largely done by Britain, Ukraine had been massively armed and its military brought into close alliance with the military alliance of NATO after the coup.
The civil war continued, but a front line became stable between Ukraine and two Russian speaking areas, which declared themselves independent Peoples Republics, which were supported by Russia.
The U.S. provoked Russia with increasing threats to incorporate Ukraine into NATO in 2020 and 2021. This was a deliberate plan to draw Russia into war with Ukraine. The goal was to bleed Russia into submission by a protracted war with Ukraine. This remains Washington’s goal, as was publicly stated by Secretary of State Blinken this year.
This resulted in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February in North Ukraine. Russia never had enough troops to conquer Ukraine, but had hopes of establishing a Russian-friendly government in Kyiv, a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, but also a colossal military and political blunder.
Putin’s intelligence was way off the mark, as Ukraine had been massively armed by Britain, and drove the Russians back from North Ukraine. The U.S. capitalized on this blunder by rallying West Europe to its side, further expanding NATO and arming Ukraine, and joining the U.S. sanctions against Russia.
Russia then retreated to its previous stance in the Donbas and into South-eastern Ukraine, seeking a land bridge to Crimea. That’s where the main front in the war is today.
U.S. sanctions on oil and gas, embraced by the countries in Europe, is causing a big energy crisis in the European Union and Britain. In the coming winter and freezing temperatures this threatens to result in massive unrest and demands for an end to the war and arming of Ukraine, which the Ukrainian government and the U.S. fears.
One response comes from Germany, building upon NATO countries’ rearmament, and the non-existent “threat” that Russia will invade Europe unless it is defeated in Ukraine, which Russia is far too weak to do.
Writing in Consortium News, Diana Johnson reports, “German chancellor Olaf Scholz is a colorless Social Democratic Party politician, but his Aug. 29 speech in Prague was inflammatory in its implications. Scholz called for an expanded, militarized European Union under German leadership.
He claimed that the Russian operation in Ukraine raised the question of ‘where the dividing line will be in the future between this free Europe and a Neo-imperial autocracy.’ We cannot simply watch, he said, ‘as free countries are wiped off the map and disappear behind walls or iron curtains.’’’
Scholz said he wanted an expanded EU to include the “Western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldavia and, in the long term, Georgia.”
This would result, he said, in a “stronger, more sovereign, geopolitical European Union” with “Germany in the center.” He also called for “a gradual shift to majority decisions in common foreign policy” to replace the unanimity required today.
Johnson notes, “What this would mean should be obvious to the French. Historically the French have defended the consensus rule as not to be dragged into a foreign policy they don’t want. French leaders have exalted the mythical ‘Franco-German couple’ as guarantor to European harmony, mainly to keep German ambitions under control.”
Germany’s Green Party has jettisoned its advocacy for peace and is now part of the SPD led government advocating German rearmament to meet the non-existent threat of a Russian invasion. Green Party leader Annalena Baerbock is foreign minister.
Johnson reports Baerbock told the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy sponsored Forum 2000 in Prague on August 31, “If I give the promise to people in Ukraine, we stand with you as long as you need us, then I want to deliver no matter what my German voters think ….
“People will go into the street and say, we cannot pay our energy prices, and I will say, ‘Yes, I know we will help you with social measures …. We will stand with Ukraine and this means the sanctions will stay also until winter time even if it gets really tough for politicians.’ ’’
The implied threat is repression if demonstrations calling for a diplomatic solution of the war (which is supported by 77 percent of the population, Johnson reports) to end the sanctions to ease the energy crisis, get out of hand.
Will Scholz’s plan for the EU be implemented, with the backing of the United States and Britain?
The war has revealed another aspect. That is that the Global South, from China and India, the other countries in Asia except Japan, to Africa and Latin America, representing over 80 percent of the world’s population, has not lined up with Washington, but is “unaligned” and doesn’t support Washington’s sanctions against Russia.
The only countries supporting the U.S. war are in Europe, and some others allied with the U.S., including Japan, South Korea, Canada and Australia.
The countries of the Global South experienced the cruel domination of imperialist countries, including the U.S., and know that the U.S. supported the other imperialist countries in their opposition to the national liberation movements that mobilized in the colonies after WWII. They are loath to support the imperialist countries headed by the U.S. that have joined the war against Russia.
Continued imperialist policies toward the Global South were revealed in “vaccine apartheid” in the COVID pandemic and regarding climate change.
The death of the British Queen Elizabeth II and the reaction by its former colonies refusing to go along with the adulation of the Queen, and some renewing demands for reparations for what British imperialism did to them, and some saying they want to end their membership in the Commonwealth, illustrates the point.
The Third World countries know that they could be subject to U.S. wars as occurred in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, or its proxy wars like in the Israel-Arab wars or now in Ukraine. They know that economic sanctions could be imposed upon them (some have already been sanctioned) like the ones against Russia at Washington’s whim.
They know the long history of the U.S. overthrowing governments that opposed U.S. imperialism or weren’t sufficiently subservient.
The Third World still exists and has its own interests.
China, which has become the most economically developed of the countries of the Global South, is the other declared enemy of Washington.
The U.S. has helped form the military alliance between Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. against China, that could be mobilized in any military conflict with China. An aspect of the treaty is the eventual building of nuclear-powered submarines that could reach China without refuelling.
The U.S. is provoking China regarding Taiwan. The island was part of China for centuries. In the 1949 Chinese Revolution, the pro-U.S. forces of the Kuomintang were defeated on the mainland and fled to Taiwan. Both sides continued to say they were the legitimate government of all of China.
A peace between the two sides was reached in 1979, but a peace treaty was never signed.
The U.S. built up Taiwan’s economy to counter the Communist People’s Republic on the mainland, to the point where today it is part of the club of rich countries. Today the government of Taiwan has moved toward independence, although there is still pro-Chinese sentiment in sections of the population.
The official stance of the U.S. has been support for the “one China” policy, but recognition of the two governments.
The Chinese government still maintains its long-term goal of reincorporation of Taiwan in China.
The U.S. hasn’t officially changed its “one China” position but is provoking China with the visit of the Vice President to Taiwan, and Congressional delegations voicing support of Taiwan, which China regards as encouraging independence, which China would militarily resist.
The U.S. regularly sends warships through the narrow Taiwan Straits.
It also challenges China in the South China Sea, where China has built military bases.
If Chinese warships ever got as close to the U.S. as U.S. warships do to China, they would be destroyed. Of course, China has no intention of doing that.
It is unlikely that China would be provoked into war over Taiwan, like Russia was with Ukraine.
There are close economic ties between Taiwan and China. For example, Taiwan has become the source of 90 percent of advanced computer chips in the world, including for China. Taiwan exports many products to China and is dependent this trade.
The U.S. economy is also deeply entwined with China’s. China has the largest low wage labor force in the world, which U.S. companies are dependent on.
All this makes U.S. attempts to block China’s economy very difficult.
The prospects for the attempt by Washington to overcome U.S. imperialism’s relative decline by targeting Russia and China are dim.
A final comment on the U.S. proxy war in Ukraine is that the war and sanctions has meant the rush to get new fossil fuel resources by the NATO countries.
The promises to deal with global warming have been brushed aside. The catastrophe of climate change looms over the world, along with new dangers of nuclear war.