The Worker

All the USA’s “victories” in the Ukraine proxy war have come at the cost of its hegemonic decline accelerating

When Russia decided to stop letting the imperial hegemon attack it (and those in its cultural diaspora) without consequence, this represented the moment the strength of American power got tested. Even two decades into the process of terminal decline of U.S. influence—a process that started with Washington’s self-destructive invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq—it was still a serious question as to whether a country could strike back at the hegemon, and then come out of the fight in a better position. That’s the argument the social pacifists, who’ve denounced Russia’s special military operation out of political expediency, have used to justify their opposition towards substantially defying U.S. hegemony: Washington is supposedly too strong to be able to lose an international battle, so Russia shouldn’t have entered into this one. The events from the last year and a half have vindicated Russia’s decision; Russia (and the wider pro-Chinese geopolitical bloc) hasn’t experienced a net loss from the war, the U.S. bloc has.

After looking at the disadvantages which have come to NATO as a consequence of its deciding to provoke Russia, commentator Radhika Desai has concluded as such about the new balance of global power:

It has been clear for some time that Ukraine is losing and has no prospect of winning. President Biden acknowledged this in his turnaround on offering Ukraine membership of NATO or even giving it a timetable for the same and his new-found insistence that not only should things not be made easy for Ukraine to join, not only should Ukraine demonstrate progress on requisite reforms, but it should conclude a peace treaty with Russia before it can join NATO, a point repeated more than one by Jens Stoltenberg at Vilnius. This is the Biden administration’s off-ramp from the Ukraine conflict, one he also needs thanks to the unpopularity of war at home amid an election campaign about to go into full swing. In the face of this military defeat, patching up no other differences in NATO will matter. The US has only military might to offer allies. So, Biden’s impending military failure in Ukraine is likely to prove the effective undoing of NATO. If the US cannot ensure military victory, its utility to Europe can only be limited.  And if Biden’s has failed in this intermediate Russian stage, it can hardly go onto its final, Chinese one.

The reason why Washington’s Ukraine gamble has failed, and why in the long term the war can only do more harm to NATO than good, is reducible to one word: credibility. In the view of the “swing state” countries (as in the countries that can determine how entire regions side on the China or USA question), which of the two great powers is now better able to claim it offers the more advantageous series of benefits? The swing states, the peripheral countries, and even a growing number of the European countries must side with the Chinese bloc if they care about protecting their own interests.

The majority of the countries I’m talking about have, to an extent, already decided as such; over 80% of the globe’s population lives in countries that have either been directly advancing the special operation in Ukraine, or refused Washington’s calls to participate in the sanctions. The only reason Europe has overwhelmingly sided with Washington is because the war caused such a shock across western Eurasia, and Washington was showing itself to still be capable of so much violence, that at the time it looked best for them to side with the hegemon. But by “them,” I don’t mean the peoples of these countries in general, who are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the militarist drive as it destroys their living conditions; I mean the bourgeois dictatorships of these countries, which are primarily led by sycophantically pro-American factions of the bourgeoisie. Factions that don’t even represent every part of the capitalist class; for example, Germany’s Green Party. This is the social fascist force that’s been disgracing the country’s people, continuing to help Washington’s war even after Biden has blown up Germany’s own infrastructure.

These pathetically opportunistic liberal politicians may think it’s okay for the hegemon to destroy the Nord Stream pipeline, while subjecting German workers and the wider European proletariat to an engineered energy crisis; but Europe’s working class can’t be expected to go along with it forever. That’s why Desai believes Washington’s recently restored dominance over Europe can’t last forever. The U.S. empire’s internal economy has been ravaged by neoliberal austerity policies of its own making, and that’s hurt its perceived reliability as a global economic partner. China, at the same time, has been continuing to carry out a worldwide marvel of development, both in its own borders and in the countries it trades with. 

Washington’s blatant violation of national sovereignty in Iraq made it impossible to take seriously as a “Ukrainian sovereignty” protector in the view of the Global South; if Europe doesn’t see this hypocrisy as a reason for abandoning Washington, pure material self-interest may be why it finally breaks from the hegemon. And the blowback from the proxy war has made this scenario far more likely; as not only have the sanctions damaged Europe, they’ve accelerated the USA’s capitalist collapse.

The inter-imperialist disputes that were threatening NATO’s unity prior to the proxy war are going to come back, now in a situation where the competing countries are more desperate than ever to escape their capitalist crises. For Europe to go along with Washington’s war against China at this point would be absurd; both because the proxy war has made Europe more in need of the economic benefits China offers, and because the war has made China’s global development projects more expansive. 

This conflict has forced the world to make choices, and that most have chosen China makes the USA’s exploitative old international relationship model look less attractive than ever. All can see that a viable alternative exists to the IMF, the WEF, and the dollar; why would the swing states choose to reinforce their dependency on the power that’s been prioritizing its own interests over theirs for generations? Like the ruling bourgeoisie in Europe, the comprador leaders across the peripheral and semi-peripheral countries at some point have to embrace the emerging multipolar world. If they don’t, they’ll die along with the unipolar world.

This is what we’ve been seeing occur in swing states like South Africa, which as Xinhua has reported is growing even closer to China:

China is willing to further push China-South Africa relations to a higher level and expand cooperation in new fields, said China’s top diplomat on Monday. Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, made the remarks here while meeting with South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor. During the meeting, Wang said the BRICS mechanism is the most important platform for representatives of emerging markets and major developing countries to strengthen dialogue and cooperation, as well as the most important channel for strategic communication in the Global South. China fully supports South Africa as the BRICS chair in hosting the 15th BRICS Summit and actively responds to the strong call of relevant countries to participate in BRICS cooperation, Wang said, calling for efforts to further strengthen BRICS cooperation, practice multilateralism and provide more stability to a world full of uncertainties.

This is the part of the new cold war that truly matters: the part that has to do with material interests, with which side gets access to the globe’s wealth, resources, and strategic assets. That South Africa is a member of the International Criminal Court, and that Putin was consequently unable to attend this month’s BRICS summit, hasn’t stopped his government’s act of defiance against U.S. hegemony from furthering this shift in the global power balance. The special military operation has already achieved its purpose: to prove that the hegemon can no longer violate the rights of others without seeing an overall damage to its interests. It’s the job of communists to take advantage of this weakening the hegemon has experienced; to carry out the global wave of revolutions which the hegemon has for so long been trying to prevent.

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By Rainer Shea

All the USA’s “victories” in the Ukraine proxy war have come at the cost of its hegemonic decline accelerating (

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