Analysing The Political Economy

The Proxy War Of The Superpowers Gets Under Way

By Graham Vanbergen: There is a new reality unfolding in Ukraine that is now more visible.  The horrific images and stories coming from Ukraine is the result of two dynamics. The first is brutal Russian aggression and the second is now turning into what looks more like a protracted proxy war between NATO and Russia over Ukraine.

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is supposedly a non-governmental organisation in the United States, founded in 1983 to encourage ‘democracy’ in other countries by promoting democratic institutions such as political groups, trade unions, free markets and business groups. It is primarily funded by two groups – mostly by Congress and by private enterprise. Carl Gershman was head of NED from its founding in 1984 until 2021. Its involvement in Ukraine is quite clear when The Centre for Strategic Studies (a think tank that advises the US on foreign policy, strategy, diplomacy and war) wrote in July 2020 – “It was U.S. support for democracy in Ukraine, however, that, cemented the link between American democracy promotion efforts and regime security fears for Putin and Russia. Since 1991, the U.S. had spent an estimated $5 billion dollars in democracy promotion aid in Ukraine to help achieve what the head of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) Carl Gershman called “the biggest prize.” 

There are numerous reports spread across the internet about these international tensions – and it is dependent on what you read that forms your opinion. The Russian diplomats will believe something entirely different to that of the Americans, the EU, China or elsewhere. But the reality on the ground has not changed. A build-up of forces on training exercises turned into an incursion, an escalation and then a full-on attack of sovereignty. Who is winning right now is a matter of strategy, determination and resources.

There is, however, no denying anymore that a global conflict has escalated between the superpowers involving conventional warfare, cyberwarfare, political warfare and lawfare.

This week, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for Russia to be suspended from the Human Rights Council. The US, G7 and EU agreed on new sanctions to cripple Vladimir Putin’s economy and war effort and Foreign Affairs reports of cyberattacks of satellite systems, described as “a really huge loss in communications in the very beginning of war.”

The FT reports today that –  “Nato member states have agreed to supply new types of advanced weaponry to Ukraine, alliance representatives said, as Kyiv prepares for an offensive by Russia in the country’s east. The pledge came after a plea from Ukraine’s foreign minister for western countries to move faster with supplies or risk seeing “many people die . . . because this help came too late”. Six weeks since Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, ordered the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow’s troops have largely withdrawn from territory north of Kyiv after failing to seize the capital but are regrouping and rearming ahead of an attempt to advance in the eastern Donbas region, Ukrainian and Western officials said. That has sparked demands from Kyiv for western countries to supply more heavy weapons, armour and more advanced systems. Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said he would use a Nato meeting in Brussels to ask for aircraft, missiles, armoured vehicles and heavy air defence systems, among others.”

The reality is that many Western nations are supplying something to the war effort in Ukraine just as many are giving support to Russia (by way of energy purchases, technical or physical support) even if doing so somewhat ‘under the table.’

Liz Truss, UK foreign secretary, told reporters after this week’s NATO meeting that member states had backed giving more weapons. “There was support for countries to supply new and heavier equipment to Ukraine so that they can respond to these new threats from Russia.

NATO said it would not intervene. It is now doing so.

The big problem – is where will the conflict in Ukraine – now a global proxy war – eventually end.

Alexey Navalny, the Russian opposition leader warns that Russia – “demands a war to the bitter end, storming Kyiv, bombing Lviv. Even the prospect of a nuclear war does not scare them.

Carole Cadwallldre states the obvious when she says – (an excellent thread and explanation worth reading) “I think we may look back on this as the first Great Information War. Except we’re already 8 years in. The first Great Information War began in 2014. The invasion of Ukraine is the latest front. And the idea it doesn’t already involve us is fiction, a lie.”

The chairman of the Human Rights Foundation wrote this week –  “Recoil at the war crimes revelations, but realize that worse is still going now on while we choose not to take stronger action” and “No more half-measures. Ukraine must be 100% free and whole.”

It should also be noted that Ukraine appears to have one of the world’s largest reserves of lithium. Its reserves are estimated to be something in excess of 500 million tonnes.  Lithium is the new oil. It is critical to batteries such as those used in electric vehicles and obviously seen as essential to the world’s transition ambitions away from fossil fuels. If you want to starve Russia of long-term sales of fossil fuels, you’ll need a lot of Lithium. If you want long-term sales of fossil fuels, you’ll not want geo-strategically significant resources like Lithium handed over to your enemy without a fight. One feels less confident of a peaceful ending in Ukraine knowing just this one fact when considering how many sovereign nations have been attacked over oil since WW2.

As it stands, Russia is now in a position where backing down is no option unless forced. That’s when we find out what a nuclear standoff might look like as the proxy war of the superpowers continues to escalate.



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