Lindsey German: The real nature of this war and the imperialist conflict it is generating are becoming more obvious to many people

The prime minister’s announcement that Britain will train Ukrainian fighter pilots and that the provision of fighter planes is ‘complicated’ but will be happening fairly soon is the latest in a deliberate ramping up of weapons provision which demonstrates that the British government is leading the way in sending arms to Ukraine.

The announcement – coupled with that of a package of military assistance which includes hundreds of air defence missiles and long-range attack drones with the ability to hit targets 200 kilometres away – gives the lie to the claim that the weapons are defensive. In fact, they are weapons which, along with the cruise missiles announced last week, are aimed at supporting the Ukrainian planned offensive and which are already a dangerous escalation.

The support from Britain makes it part of Ukrainian president Zelensky’s grotesquely named ‘jets coalition’, made up of some of the most right-wing and warmongering governments, who want the war to continue for as long as possible. The provision of cruise missiles already committed marks a step change in Britain’s support for the war but for these people there are never enough arms being sent, and public spending is always there in abundance to provide weapons, while they deny money for nurses or teachers.

The war and Russia’s illegal invasion have been a catastrophe for the Ukrainian people. But sending more arms only involves prolonging that catastrophe. Already casualties have been extremely high and these weapons are likely to prolong the fighting, not end it. The alternative is a ceasefire and peace talks. Almost certainly these will take place at some point in the future, but in the meantime at what cost are they being vetoed by governments like the British?

Many countries including the US have refused to send fighter jets so far, recognising that air warfare would turn the war between NATO and Russia from a proxy one to a hot war, which would be disastrous for the people of Europe and the world. But the purpose of Zelensky’s European grand tour in the last week has been to put pressure on governments to accelerate their arms supplies. We know from a variety of sources that western governments are not confident of the now delayed Ukrainian counter-offensive being successful. This is to shore up any wavering support and maximise the number of weapons.

The effect of Zelensky’s visits to Italy, France, Germany and now Britain is to amplify those warmongering voices for whom the war is an opportunity to urge more spending on ‘defence’ and who want to strengthen the hand of the EU, UK and US governments. His demand to speak at the Eurovision contest, rejected by the organisers, was backed by Sunak and Starmer, and the event itself was highly politicised in favour of the Ukrainian government but also its much more powerful and well-armed allies.

The Tories refuse to even countenance peace and discredited former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss both spoke in parliament earlier this year urging the provision of fighter jets. Truss is planning to visit Taiwan as conflict with China grows and the threat of war there gets stronger.

The real nature of this war and the imperialist conflict it is generating are becoming more obvious to many people. Sunak likes to think that his policy covers his right flank in the Tory party and also deflects from his domestic unpopularity over the cost-of-living crisis. In this he is abetted by Keir Starmer and the Labour MPs who refuse to stand up for peace.

Anti-war campaigners must oppose these weapons being sent – both because they increase the danger of all-encompassing war, and because the money spent on arms would be much better spent on helping people here and Ukraine. But we also need to constantly link the war with domestic issues. It simply beggars belief that politicians who are systematically and callously presiding over the reduction of living standards here in Britain, and the persecution and criminalisation of refugees, are acting in our interests, or indeed those of the Ukrainian or Russian people.

15 May 2023 by Lindsey German

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