Lindsey German: As the NATO summit starts in Vilnius the true nature of those who promise ever more arms to Kyiv is becoming clear

No one should be in any doubt that the decisions from western governments over arming Ukraine will damage the Ukrainian people. As the NATO summit starts in Vilnius the true nature of those who promise ever more arms to the country is becoming clear.

A recent Financial Times article demonstrated that the arms manufacturing companies see the war as a test laboratory for their weapons. They are able to see in real time – and at cost to real people – the impact of their highly sophisticated systems, and are able to finesse their production after seeing how they work on real battlefields.

Now US president Joe Biden has authorised the sending of cluster bombs to Ukraine. This is a quite remarkable turnaround. Last year the US representative at the UN denounced Russia for using these weapons in Ukraine. This week, the transcript of her speech has been altered to take out the most damning phrases in order to justify this volte-face by the US government.

The reason behind it is straightforward enough but that in no way makes it more justified. The Ukraine counter offensive is not going well, the Ukrainians are running out of artillery and the western powers are not able to manufacture replacements fast enough. So instead they turn to a weapon which has been outlawed by many countries and which has been condemned by human rights organisations around the world.

This is the latest red line crossed by one or another of the NATO powers. Again Ukraine is part of a hideous escalation justifying deadly weapon use and based on the lie that Ukraine is likely to score complete victory over Russia. The recent visits by CIA chief William Burns and other key figures to Kyiv raised the question of peace talks…but only after Ukraine gains more territory. The decision to send cluster bombs is intended to help them gain more territory so that any peace deal will be on terms that the US can accept.

But at what cost? Cluster bombs kill on impact but many of their components fail to detonate immediately so they pose a risk to civilians years after use. Around 60% of casualties are those not directly involved in military action. This is why 120 countries prohibit their use, manufacture or stockpiling. Countries who have refused to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions include the US, Russia and Ukraine.

Both Russia and Ukraine have been using these weapons which are likely to kill civilians for years to come. This should be a warning signal to those supporting the war who claim to do so in the name of human rights.  But the danger is ignored. Instead, representatives of the Ukrainian government have attacked Human Rights Watch for opposing their delivery.

While Ukraine has every right to defend itself from the invasion and war with Russia it does not have the right to demand weapons which even the British government has said it will not send. It does not have the right to encourage escalation of a war where there will be no winners.

The NATO summit will discuss Ukraine’s membership of the body, and will discuss membership for Sweden (now looking to be agreed by Turkey), further arms supplies, and its role in the ‘second front’ of the Pacific. It will be a further sign that NATO and the western powers are preparing for an even greater war. Yet a ceasefire and peace talks are the only means to end this bloody spiral.

The alternative is that it grinds on, with battles such as Bakhmut increasingly resembling those of the First World War. And that further ‘red lines’ are crossed – more cruise missiles, more cluster bombs. And then what? Tactical nuclear weapons?

Those on the left who support sending more arms to Ukraine really need to ask themselves where they would draw the line – or do they think that anything is justified in the name of defeating Russia? Because in arguing that they are giving a green light to their own government and the US government  to increase the levels of weaponry used and to in the process increase the probability of all-out war between the major imperialist powers.

I’m not the only person to have noticed that the contrast between support for Ukraine against Russia in the British establishment and that of the same establishment’s very different attitude to the conflict over Palestine. No one suggests sending arms to aid the Palestinians, no one questions that Israel’s ‘major military operation’ is justified, the country is allowed to describe the attack on a Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin as a fight against terrorism.

Instead we are always told of two intractable sides, without being told about the history of the Nakba dating back to 1948, the destruction of Palestinian homes and stealing of their land, the illegal settlements composed of increasingly antagonistically ideological settlers, and their related attempts to drive out Palestinians.

That’s why Palestinians fight back and why young people and children are among their number. So why the double standards? Because those in Ukraine are fighting against an enemy of the US and British states whereas the Palestinians are fighting against their friend, the single most important ally of western imperialism in the Middle East.

It’s about time we recognise that the concern about human rights from our governments is about political expediency – not actually about who is suffering and why. The notion of a ‘rules based international order’ run by the warmongers, crooks and charlatans who have brought us endless war in the name of democracy and human rights is simply sickening.

10 Jul 2023 by Lindsey German

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