Sunday, 24 April 2022 — MROnline
Thick smoke billows from the Azov steel plant on April 20, 2022. Photo credit: Guancha.
by John Ross
This article by John Ross (Luo Siyin) was also published in slightly edited form in Guancha as “It’s pointless to count on American ‘kindness’.”
The international escalation of U.S. military aggression over a period of more than two decades is clear. However, even within that framework, the events leading to the Ukraine war represent a new qualitative step in this U.S. military policy. Before the Ukraine war, the U.S. carried out military confrontations only against developing countries which had far weaker armed forces than the U.S. and which did not possess nuclear weapons. In chronological order these major U.S. aggressive military actions against developing countries were:
- Bombing of Serbia in
- Invasion of Afghanistan in
- Iraq Invasion in
- Bombing of Libya in
However, the U.S. threat to extend NATO into Ukraine, which is the fundamental cause of the present war in that country, is a qualitative U.S. escalation from simply attacks on far weaker developing countries than itself. The U.S. was aware in advance that the threat to extend NATO into Ukraine affected the most fundamental national interests of Russia—a country with very strong military forces, including a nuclear weapons arsenal which is equal to the U.S.. U.S. policy towards Ukraine, therefore, explicitly crossed Russia’s “red lines”—something the U.S. entirely understood and which it was prepared to take the risk of undertaking.
While the United States has not committed major units of its own military forces to the war in Ukraine, at least as yet, the U.S. stating explicitly that this is because it would threaten to create a world war with the nuclear armed state of Russia, the U.S. is strongly intervening in the form of a proxy war against Russia. This is made clear not only by the original proposal that Ukraine could join NATO, but by the training of Ukraine’s army by the U.S. in the lead up to the war, by massive supplies of military weapons to Ukraine, by the U.S. passing of satellite and other intelligence information to Ukraine during the war etc.
How the U.S. pushed Ukraine into the war
Because it is important to understand the U.S. goals in the Ukraine war it is necessary to grasp factually just how carefully and consciously the U.S. prepared the war. Therefore, before proceeding to the main subject of this article, which is to analyse the forces propelling the U.S. on an escalating aggressive military policy, it is worth noting in detail the U.S. military build-up in Ukraine. This is comprehensively summarised in an analysis by Vyacheslav Tetekin, member of the Central Committee of the Russian Federation (KPRF). This makes clear the way that Ukraine was used as a part of a consciously aggressive policy by the U.S.:
Ukraine… was prepared for war for a long time. Along with that, on the basis of similarity of events happened in another time and in another part of the world one can talk about the standard model used by the United States to achieve its geopolitical goals…
Russia was purposefully brought into this situation. It all started with a coup in Ukraine in February 2014, when extremely anti-Russian forces came to power in Kiev with the support of the United States and local neo-Nazis…
During the “reforms” launched in 1991 the Ukrainian army has suffered considerably and by 2014 was not a powerful military force. Military equipment fell into disrepair, the morale of officers and soldiers was low due to extremely low salaries. The Ukrainian army did not want and could not fight….
Therefore [after the 2014 coup], the country’s finances were redeployed from the tasks of improving the welfare of the nation to strengthening the armed forces. Ukraine’s military budget has grown from $1.7 billion in 2014 to $8.9 billion in 2019 (5.9% of the country’s GDP)… Ukraine… spent three times more [as a percentage of GDP] for military purposes than the developed countries of the West…
Military spending figures show that the country was preparing for a large-scale war… Hundreds of instructors from the United States and other NATO countries participated in training of the Army. Ukraine was preparing for war under the supervision of the United States.
Huge funds were spent on the restoration of military hardware. During the war against Donbas [the Russian speaking part of Eastern Ukraine] in 2014-15, Ukraine has not used air combat support, as all combat aircraft required repair. However, by February 2022, there were already about 150 fighters, bombers and attack aircraft in the Ukrainian Air Force. Such a buildup of the Air Force would make sense only for the capture of Donbas.
At the same time, powerful fortifications were created on the border of Donbas and Ukraine… It is significant that the salary of soldiers at the end of 2021 increased 3 (!) times, from 170 to 510 dollars. The Government of Ukraine has been dramatically increasing the size of its Armed Forces.
The first stage of Ukraine’s preparation for war was successfully completed by the end of 2021. The combat capability of the Ukrainian army has been restored, military equipment has been repaired and modernized…
However, even the modernized Ukrainian army could not attack Russia. The balance of forces was clearly not in favor of Kiev. Therefore, the United States has planned two options for using the new, militarized Ukraine… The first one was to capture Donbas and, in case of a successful combination of circumstances, proceed for invasion to the Crimea. The second option was to provoke Russia’s armed intervention…
Russia understood that Ukraine being under the heel of the United States creates a very real danger. In December 2021, Moscow put forward a demand to the NATO on measures to ensure Russia’s legitimate interests. The West…. ignored these demands, knowing that preparations for the invasion of Donbas are in full swing. The most combat-ready units of the Ukrainian Army numbering up to 150,000 thousand people were concentrated on the border of Donbas. They could break the resistance of the People’s militia of Donbas within 2-3 days, with the complete destruction of Donetsk and spill so much blood of the defenders of the DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic]…
the blame for what is happening in Ukraine now lies entirely with the United States and its allies, who have used the… people of Ukraine as a weapon.
Ukraine is a qualitative escalation of military aggression by the U.S.
It is therefore clear from both the fundamental political facts, U.S. insistence on the “right” of Ukraine to enter NATO, and the military facts, the U.S. build-up of Ukraine’s armed forces, that the U.S. was preparing a confrontation in Ukraine despite the fact that this would inevitably involve a direct clash with Russia. Consequently, in assessing the Ukraine crisis, it is fundamental to note that the U.S. was prepared to escalate its military threats from simply those against developing countries—such threats are unjust but do not directly risk great power military conflicts or world wars—to aggression against very strong states such as Russia which do risk global military conflict. Therefore, it is crucial to analyse what creates this escalating U.S. military aggression? Is it temporary, after which the U.S. will resume a “peaceful” course, or is increasing military escalation a long-term trend in U.S. policy?
This is obviously a key issue for all countries, but it is particularly important for China—itself a very powerful state. To take only one key example, in parallel with U.S. escalation against Russia, the United States has not merely imposed tariffs against China’s economy, and carried out a systematic international campaign of lying against China over the situation in Xinjiang, but has attempted to undermine the One China policy regarding Taiwan Province.
Among these actions by the U.S. regarding Taiwan Province, as is well known:
- For the first time since the commencement of United States-China diplomatic relations Biden invited a representative of Taipei to the inauguration of a U.S. president.
- Speaker of the S. House of Representatives, Pelosi, announced that she is to visit Taipei—before becoming ill from Covid.
- The S. has called for Taipei’s participation in the UN.
- The S. has intensified sale of armaments and equipment to the island.
- Visits by U.S. delegations to Taipei have
- The S. has increased its military deployment in the South China Sea and regularly sent U.S. warships through the Taiwan Strait.
- S. Special Operations Forces have trained Taiwanese ground troops as well as Taiwanese Navy sailors.
As is the case with the Ukraine and Russia, the U.S. is fully conscious that the One China policy affects China’s most fundamental national interests, it is the fundamental basis of U.S.-China relations for the 50 years since Nixon’s 1972 visit to Beijing, and that to abandon it crosses China’s “red lines”. It is therefore crystal clear that the U.S. is attempting in a provocative way to undermine the One China policy in the same way that it deliberately decided to cross Russia’s red lines in Ukraine.
Regarding the question of whether these U.S. provocations against both China and Russia are temporary or long term/permanent, the clear conclusion given in this article is that the trend of U.S. military escalation will continue. However, as such an issue, potentially involving wars, is of the utmost seriousness, with extremely major practical consequences, any exaggeration, or mere propaganda, in any direction on such a subject is unacceptable. The aim of this article is therefore to present in the most factual, objective, and calm way possible the fundamental reasons why the U.S. will attempt to further escalate its military aggression over the coming period. It also analyses which trends may, on the contrary, push back this dangerous U.S. policy or which may strengthen it further.
Comparison of the U.S. economy in the old cold war against the USSR and new cold war against China
Reduced to the most essential facts, the key forces that have driven this escalating U.S. policy of military aggression, which has now lasted over more than two decades, are clear. It is that the U.S. economy has permanently lost its overwhelming weight in world production, but that at the same time the U.S. still retains its preponderance in military power and spending. This, therefore, creates a very dangerous period for humanity during which the U.S. may attempt to compensate for its relative economic failure by use of military force. This already explains the U.S. military attacks on developing countries and also its escalation to confrontation with Russia in Ukraine. The question is whether this U.S. military aggression will increase further—to confrontation with China and, in the most extreme case, for U.S. willingness to consider a World War? To answer this it is necessary to make an accurate analysis of the economic and military situation of the U.S.
The first crucial issue to assess this issue is to analyse factually that, contrary to its own propaganda on the “dynamism” of its economy, the U.S. economy is in long term decline in terms of its weight in the world economy. To clarify the scale of this, and to determine its relation to present U.S. military policy, it is clarificatory to make a comparison of the present global situation of the U.S. in the “new cold war” compared to the “old cold war” of the U.S. against the USSR.
The economic and military position of the U.S during the “old cold war” and the “new cold war”
To start with the economy, in 1950, near the commencement of the first cold war, the U.S. accounted for 27.3% of world GDP on the data of Angus Maddison, the top expert on world long term economic growth. In comparison the USSR, the largest socialist economy of that period, accounted for 9.6% of world GDP. The U.S. economy was therefore 273%, almost three times, as large as the USSR’s.
Taking economic development in this first cold war, during the entire post-World War II period the largest percentage of U.S. GDP that the Soviet Union ever achieved was 44.4% in 1975. That is, even at the peak of the relative economic achievement of the USSR, the U.S. economy was 225%, more than twice, the size of the Soviet economy. In summary, throughout the “old cold war”, the U.S. enjoyed a crushing economic lead over the USSR.
Turning to the present situation, even at market exchange rates China’s GDP is already 74% of that of the U.S.—a far higher level than the USSR ever achieved. It means that at market exchange rates the U.S. economy is only 131% of China’s. Furthermore, China’s economic growth rate is much faster than the U.S.
Calculated in purchasing power parities (PPPs), the measure Maddison used, China’s economy is already 18% larger than the U.S. By 2026, on IMF projections in PPPs, China’s economy will be 35% larger than the U.S. The economic gap between China and the U.S. is therefore far closer than anything the USSR ever achieved.
Taking other measures, China has become, no matter how measured, by far the world’s largest manufacturing power. In 2019, the latest available data, China accounted for 28.7% of world manufacturing production compared to 16.8% for the U.S.—that is China’s manufacturing production was more than 70% higher than the U.S.. The USSR never came close to overtaking the U.S. in manufacturing production.
Turning to trade in goods, the defeat of the U.S. by China in the trade war launched by Trump is even somewhat humiliating for the U.S. In 2018 China was already the world’s largest goods trading country. But at that time China’s trade in goods was only 11% larger than the U.S. By 2021 China’s goods trade was 35% higher than the U.S. In terms of goods exports the situation was even worse for the U.S.. In 2018 China’s exports were 53% larger than the U.S., by 2021 China’s good exports were 92% larger than the U.S.. In summary, not only has China become by far the world’s largest goods trading nation but the U.S. had suffered a clear defeat in the trade war launched by the Trump and Biden administrations.
Even more fundamental from a macroeconomic viewpoint is China’s lead in capital which can be invested, that is savings (not simply household savings but also company and state savings)—the driving force of economic growth. In 2019, the latest available data, China’s gross capital savings was in absolute terms 56% higher than the U.S.—the equivalent of $6.3 trillion compared to $4.3 trillion. But this figure greatly understates China’s lead over the U.S. because it does not take into account depreciation. Once depreciation is taken into account China’s net annual capital creation was 635% of the U.S.—the equivalent of $3.9 trillion compared to $0.6 trillion. In summary China is greatly adding to its capital stock each year, while the U.S. is in comparative terms adding little.
The net result of these trends was that China’s economic growth has been overwhelmingly outperforming the U.S. not merely in the entire four-decade period since 1978, as is well known, but this has continued into the recent period. In inflation adjusted prices since 2007, the year before the international financial crisis, the U.S. economy has grown by 24% while China’s economy has grown by 177%—China’s economy has grown by more than seven times as fast as the U.S.. In summary the U.S. capitalist economy is suffering a severe defeat by China’s socialist economy on the terrain of peaceful competition.
A multi-polar world economy
Summarising the trends above, the U.S. lead in productivity, technology and company size means that its economy overall is still stronger than China’s, but the gap between the U.S. and China is far narrower than the gap between the U.S. and the USSR. Furthermore, whatever is the exact judgement on the relative bilateral strengths of the U.S. and Chinese economies, it clear that the U.S. has already lost its global productive economic predominance. By 2021, in PPPs, the U.S. accounted for only 16% of the world economy—that is 84% of the world economy is outside the U.S. Purely economically the global era of multipolarity, instead of unipolar domination by the U.S., is not ahead it has already arrived.
But the conclusion which he U.S. policy derives from this, as will be analysed, is that it must therefore try to use military and political means to prevent this economic multipolarity from expressing itself.
US military strength
These economic setbacks for the U.S. have led some, particularly in a few circles in the West, to believe that the defeat of the U.S. is inevitable or has already occurred. A similar view has been expressed by a small number of people in China who have expressed the view that China’s comprehensive strength has already overtaken the U.S.. These views are wrong and an illusion. They forget, in the famous words of Lenin, that “politics comes before economics that is the ABC of Marxism”. And, regarding politics, in the famous dictum of Chairman Mao “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” The fact that the U.S. is losing in peaceful economic competition does not mean that it will simply allow this economic trend to peacefully continue—that is to make the mistake of placing economics before politics. On the contrary, the fact that the U.S. is losing in peaceful economic competition, both to China and to other countries, pushes the U.S. to attempt to use other means, military and political, to attempt to overcome the consequences of its economic defeats.
More precisely, the danger to all countries is that while the U.S. has irreversibly lost global productive dominance it has not yet lost military supremacy. U.S. military spending is greater than the next nine countries in the world put together. Only in one area, nuclear weapons, is U.S. strength equalled by another country, Russia—which is due to Russia’s inheritance of nuclear weapons from the USSR. The exact numbers of nuclear weapons held by countries in general are state secrets, but as of 2022 a leading Western estimate, by the Federation of American Scientists, estimates that Russia possesses 5,977 nuclear weapons, while the United States has 5,428. Russia and the U.S. each have about 1,600 active deployed strategic nuclear warheads. The U.S. has far more nuclear weapons than China. Meanwhile in the field of conventional weapons U.S. spending is far greater than that of any other country. In summary, if the U.S. has already lost its ability to completely dominate global production it maintains a huge lead over any other country in military spending—with the single exception of nuclear weapons.
This divergence in the position of the U.S. in the economic and military spheres therefore determines the U.S.’s aggressive policy and creates the distinction between the economic and military positions of the U.S. in the present “new cold war” compared to the “old cold war” waged by the U.S. against the USSR.
In the first cold war the U.S. and USSR’s military strength was approximately comparable, but, as already noted, the U.S. economy was much larger than the USSR’s. Therefore, in the “old cold war” U.S. strategy was to attempt to shift issues onto an economic terrain. Even Reagan’s military build- up of the 1980s was not intended to wage war against the USSR but to engage it in an arms race damaging the Soviet economy. Consequently, despite tension, cold war never turned to hot war.
The present U.S. situation is the opposite. Its relative economic position has weakened greatly, but its military power is great. Therefore, the U.S. attempts to move issues onto the military terrain. This explains its escalating military aggression and why this is a permanent trend.
This therefore means that a very dangerous period has been entered for humanity. The U.S. is losing in peaceful economic competition. But it still retains a military lead over China. Therefore, the temptation is for the U.S. to attempt to use “direct” or “indirect” military means to attempt to halt China’s development.
Direct and indirect use of U.S. military strength
By using the term “direct” and “indirect” military means used by the U.S. it does not mean only the possibility that the U.S. launches a frontal direct war against China—that is the most extreme variant. There are other means, already used or which are being discussed, to use U.S. military strength.
- To use other countries subordination to the U.S. military to attempt to pressure these contries to adopt more hostile economic policies towards China—the S. has particularly been doing this in relation to Germany and the European Union.
- To attempt to overcome the multipolar economic character of the world, which has already been created, and instead to created alliances dominated in a unilateral way by the U.S.—this is clearly the case with NATO, with the Quad (U.S., Japan, Australia, India) etc.
- To attempt to force countries which have good economic relations with China to weaken these relations—this is particularly obvious with Australia and is now being attempted with
- To potentially wage wars against allies of
- To consider attempting to draw China into a “limited” war with the S.—this is actively discussed in the U.S. regarding Taiwan Province.
An example of the U.S.’s integrated use of direct and indirect military pressure was given by the Financial Times chief U.S. political commentator Janan Ganesh, who noted, following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine created by the U.S. attempt to create the conditions for the Ukraine to join NATO:
From 2026… liquefied natural gas will arrive via tanker on the shores of northern Germany, will pour into cryogenic storage vats set to minus 160C, and then “re-gasify” before coursing through the grid in place of Russian imports.
Germany has no LNG terminal at present… Of the exporters that stand to profit, the U.S. is nearer than Australia…
And those exports are the least of it. If Germany honours its recent pledge to splurge on defence, then the U.S. should be able to share more of Nato’s financial and logistical burden…. A Europe that is more tethered to America and at the same time less of a drain on it…. Far from ending the U.S. turn to Asia, the war in Ukraine might be the event that enables it.
As for that [Pacific] part of the world… Japan could hardly be doing more to side with Kyiv, and therefore with Washington.
In short, the U.S. used its military pressure to increase the economic subordination of Germany and Japan to itself. Many other variants than these can be envisaged. But their common feature is that the U.S. uses its military strength to attempt to compensate for its weakened economic position. Understood in this way it is clear that the U.S. has already embarked on this fundamental policy of directly and indirectly using its military strength.
Of course, China’s more rapid economic development than the U.S. means that, after a certain period of time, China’s military strength can be the equal of the U.S.. But that period of time cannot be very short. It would take years for China to build a nuclear arsenal the equal of the U.S, even if China decided to embark on such a policy. It would probably take still longer to create conventional armaments the equal of the U.S.—given the enormous technological development and training of personnel required for such advanced forces as the sir force, navy etc. Therefore, for a very significant number of years the U.S. will have stronger armed forces than China. This, therefore, creates the permanent temptation for the U.S. to attempt to use military means to compensate for its declining economic position.
Significance of the war in Ukraine
This fundamental dynamic makes the outcome of the present war in Ukraine crucial for China—as well as for the rest of the world. The causes of this war were examined in detail in 俄罗斯发起军事行动是在保卫中国的西部防线? Therefore this analysis is not repeated here. But there are, in summary, two fundamental lessons to be drawn from the events leading to this war.
First, it confirms clearly it is pointless to ask the U.S. for “mercy”. After the USSR’s dissolution in 1991 for 17 years Russia pursued a policy of attempting to have very friendly relations with the U.S. Under Yeltsin Russia was indeed humiliatingly subordinate to the U.S.. During the early period of Putin’s presidency Russia give direct assistance to the U.S. in the war against Islamic Jihadism and in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. The U.S. response was by violating every promise it had made that NATO would not advance “by an inch” towards Russia and instead to aggressively increase military pressure on Russia.
Second, that the outcome of the war in Ukraine is crucial for not only for Russia but for China and the entire world. Russia is the only country which in terms of nuclear weapons is the equal of the U.S.. During the period of time in which it would take for China to build up its nuclear weapons arsenal to be the equal of the U.S. if China decided to adopt such a policy, the good relations of China with Russia are a major deterrent for the U.S. not to adopt any policy of a direct attack on China. The aim of the U.S. in Ukraine is precisely to attempt to bring about a fundamental change in policy and government in Russia so that a government is installed which no longer defends Russia’s national interests, which is hostile to China, and is subordinate to the U.S. If that were achieved then not only would China faced a greatly increased military threat from the U.S. but China’s enormously long northern border with Russia would become a strategic threat to China. China would be surrounded from the north. That is both the national interests of Russia and China would be enormously undermined.
Sergei Glaziev, minister of the Russian government for Russia’s Eurasian Economic Commission, has precisely stated the situation whereby the U.S. views its tactics in attacking China and Russia: “After it was not possible to weaken China head-on through a trade war, the Americans shifted the main blow to Russia, which they consider as a weak link in world geopolitics and the economy. The Anglo- Saxons seek to implement their… ideas to destroy our country [Russia], and at the same time to weaken China, because the strategic alliance of the Russian Federation and the PRC is too much for the United States.”
Will the U.S. continue to escalate its military actions?
If the U.S. is pushed by a declining economic position, but by miliary strength, to a path of increasing military aggression the question obviously arises as to whether there are limits to this aggression?
The first point to make regarding this is that there is no “internal”, that is domestic, limit to the scope of U.S. aggression. The facts show clearly that the U.S. has been prepared to carry out the most extremely violent military aggression to the point of willingness to destroy entire countries.
- In the Korean war the U.S., even without use of nuclear weapons, using explosives, incendiary bombs, and napalm destroyed nearly all of the North Korea’s cities and towns, including an estimated 85 percent of its buildings.
- The U.S. bombing in Indochina, during the Vietnam war, was even greater. The United States Air Force dropped in Indochina, from 1964 to August 15, 1973, 2million tons of bombs and other ordnance. U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aircraft expended another1.5 million tons in Southeast Asia. As Edward Miguel and Gerard Roland noted in a comprehensive survey of this:
“This tonnage far exceeded that expended in World War II and in the Korean War. The U.S. Air Force consumed 2,150,000 tons of munitions in World War II—1,613,000 tons in the European Theater and 537,000 tons in the Pacific Theater—and 454,000 tons in the Korean War.… Vietnam War bombing thus represented at least three times as much (by weight) as both European and Pacific theater World War II bombing combined, and about fifteen times total tonnage in the Korean War. Given the prewar Vietnamese population of approximately 32 million, U.S. bombing translates into hundreds of kilograms of explosives per capita during the conflict. For another comparison, the atomic bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki had the power of roughly 15,000 and 20,000 tons of TNT… U.S. bombing in Indochina represents 100 times the combined impact of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs..” In addition to explosive devices the U.S. used chemical weapons such as the notorious “Agent Orange” producing horrifying deformities among those hit by these agents.
- In the invasion of Iraq, given the shorter duration of the war, the quantity of explosives used by the S. did not match Indochina but the U.S. was prepared to devastate the country over a prolonged period and to use particularly horrific weapons such as depleted uranium which is still producing terrible birth defects many years after the U.S. attack.
- In its bombing of Libya the U.S. reduced what had been one of the richest per capita countries in Africa, with a developed welfare state, to a society in which tribal conflicts exist and in which slaves are openly sold.
In short the evidence is that there is no level of crime to which the U.S. is not prepared to descend. If the U.S. believed that it could eliminate the economic challenge from China by launching an atomic war there is no evidence that the U.S. would not do so. Furthermore, while there are certainly anti- war movements in the U.S. these are not remotely strong enough to prevent the use by the U.S. of nuclear weapons if it decided to do so. In short there are no adequate internal constraints in the U.S. that would prevent it launching war against China.
But if there are no fundamental internal constraints on U.S. aggression there are, of course, very great external constraints. The first is the possession of nuclear weapons by other countries. That is why the explosion of China’s first nuclear bomb in 1964 is rightly regarded as a great national achievement. The possession by China of nuclear weapons is a fundamental deterrent to a nuclear attack by the U.S. on China. Nevertheless, unlike the U.S., China has a “no first use” of nuclear weapons policy showing its restraint and the defensive military posture of China. Also, as already discussed, Russia possesses a nuclear arsenal which is the equal of the U.S.
A full-scale nuclear war involving the U.S./China/Russia would, of course, be a a military catastrophe without precedent in human history – in a full scale such war at a minimum hundreds of millions would die. It would therefore be infinitely preferable to prevent the escalation of U.S. miliary aggression before it reached that point. What, therefore, are the chances of doing so?
What constrains U.S. policy?
To analyse this, it is necessary to see the overall trend of U.S. policy since World War II. This shows a rational and logical pattern. When the U.S. feels in a strong position its policy is aggressive, when it feels weakened it becomes more “peace loving”. This was shown most dramatically before, during and after the Vietnam War but also in other periods.
Immediately after World War II the U.S. considered itself in a strong position. It was therefore prepared to carry out aggression in Korea. Even after the U.S. failure to win the Korean war it still felt confident enough to attempt to diplomatically isolate China during the 1950s and 1960s—depriving it of its position in the U.N., blocking direct diplomatic relations etc. However, due to the Vietnam war, waged as struggle for national liberation by the Vietnamese people but sustained by large scale military support from China and the USSR, the U.S. suffered severe defeats. To attempt to overcome this weakening position the U.S. turned to a far less aggressive policy to China—symbolised by Nixon’s 1972 visit to Beijing, followed by establishment of full diplomatic relations with China. Soon after 1972 the U.S. opened the policy of “détente” with the USSR.
In summary, the weakening of the U.S. due to its defeat in Vietnam, led to it adopting a more “peace loving” policy. However, by the 1980s, having regrouped and recovered after defeat in Vietnam, the U.S. returned to a more aggressive policy towards the USSR under Reagan. In summary when the U.S. was weak it was peaceful, when it was strong it was aggressive.
The international financial crisis
On a less immediately serious field than military conflict the same pattern for the U.S. can be seen around the international financial crisis starting in 2007/8. This crisis dealt a huge blow to the U.S. economy, as a result of which the U.S. began to emphasise international cooperation. The U.S. helped create the G20 group of countries, in particular it displayed a cooperative attitude to China in the area of the international economy etc. Because it felt weak the U.S. became “peaceful”.
But as the U.S. economically recovered from the international financial crisis it became increasingly aggressive to China—culminating in the launch of the trade war against China by Trump. That is, as soon as the U.S. felt itself stronger it became aggressive. That is, once again, when the U.S. felt weak it was “peaceful” as soon as it felt itself strong it became aggressive.
Comparison to the run up to World War II
Turning to an historical comparison it is also useful to make a comparison to the period leading to World War II. The immediate path to that war started with the strengthening of Japanese militarism leading to the invasion of North East China in 1931. This was followed by the coming to power of Hitler in Germany in 1933. But despite these ominous events the path to World War was not inevitable. The road from these first victories by Japanese militarism and German fascism to world war was created by a series of defeats and capitulations between 1931 and 1939 and failure to confront the Japanese militarists and German Nazis.
In Asia the Kuomintang concentrated its efforts for most of the 1930s not on repelling Japan but on fighting the CPC, while the U.S. failed to intervene to stop Japan until it was itself attacked at Pearl Harbour in 1941. In Europe Britain and France failed to stop the re-militarisation of Germany even when they had the right to do so under the Treaty of Versailles, they failed to support the legitimate government of Spain in 1936 against the fascist coup and civil war launched by Franco who was supported by Hitler, and they directly capitulated to Hitler in the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in the notorious Munich Pact of 1938. Japan and Germany could have been stopped by firm action before a global war, but capitulations and defeats cleared the way to World War II.
This is the same pattern as today. The world is certainly not in a comparable situation to 1938, that is only a year away from a World War. If comparison was made to the 1930s the situation is more like 1931. Today support for an aggressive world war certainly does not have majority support in the U.S. discussion of the possibility of launching it exists so far only in a minority/fringe of some sectors of the U.S. foreign policy/military establishment. If the U.S. suffers defeats, it will certainly not move to frontal war with China or Russia.
But the medium-term danger exists that, as after Japan’s invasion of North East China in 1931 and Hitler’s coming to power in 1933, if the U.S. gains victories in more limited struggles it will be more encouraged, under the pressure of the forces analysed earlier, to move towards a major global military conflict. Therefore, the decisive issue to prevent such a global conflict, and to protect peace, is to ensure that the U.S. does not have victory in these immediate struggles—such as the war it provoked in Ukraine, its attempt to undermine the One China policy in regard to Taiwan and other issues.
Forces against U.S. military aggression
In the framework already analysed there are two powerful forces which oppose U.S. military aggression.
The first, and most powerful, is the development of China itself. China’s economic development is not merely crucial for the improvement of the living standards of China’s own people but it will eventually create military forces as powerful as the U.S—which will be the ultimate deterrent to U.S. military aggression.
The second is the opposition of a large number of countries, including the majority of the world’s population, to this U.S. aggression not merely from moral viewpoint but direct self-interest. The U.S. attempt to overcome the consequences of its economic failures by military/political means necessarily means actions against the interests of numerous other countries which comprise the great majority of the world’s population. For example the U.S. creation of the war in Ukraine by the attempt to expand NATO has led to a massive increase in world food prices because Russia and Ukraine are the world’s largest supplier of wheat and fertilizer, the ban on Huawei from participation in 5G telecommunications development means that the inhabitants of every country that agrees to this pays more for their telecommunications, the U.S. pressure to force Germany to buy U.S. Liquid Natural Gas, instead of Russian natural gas, raises energy prices in Germany, in Latin America the U.S. attempts to prevent countries pursuing policies of national independence, U.S. tariffs against China’s exports even raises the cost of living for U.S. households. The fact that, in practice, the population of other countries are being forced to finance U.S. military aggressive policy necessarily leads to opposition to such policies.
These two forces, China’s own development and the fact that U.S. policy is against the interests of the overwhelming majority of the world’s population, therefore constitute the main obstacles to U.S. aggression—and they obviously reinforce each other. Nevertheless, while the resistance of the world’s population to U.S. policy is a powerful force in the situation, the single most powerful force of all is China’s own development—due to the enormous sacrifices and victories gained by the Chinese people since the creation of the CPC and the People’s Republic of China. Therefore, the single most crucial force in the situation is the development of China itself. But, to be most powerful , this must be linked to the international opposition of the majority of the world’s population which is struck by U.S. aggression.
Precisely integrating this development of China itself with international forces opposing U.S. attacks on them is therefore the most crucial task in assessing the global situation. This overall framework can be clearly understood from outside, but only those who have access to all the information which is available at the level of state leadership can accurately judge all the precise steps and policies necessary in this.
The choices for the U.S.
As was analysed in the previous article 俄罗斯发起军事行动是在保卫中国的西部防线? the coming period is very dangerous for humanity. There is an historical analogy to the present situation of the U.S. in the notorious statement in 1912 of German Chief of Staff Moltke that “war is unavoidable and the sooner the better.” This, from Germany’s viewpoint, was entirely rational. Russia and the US’s economies were growing more rapidly than Germany—inevitably leading them to becoming militarily stronger than Germany. Therefore, Moltke called for war as soon as possible.
Today the danger not only to China but to humanity is that the U.S., being defeated in peaceful economic competition, is under pressure to increasingly turn to military aggression. As was analysed at the beginning of this article this process has already started. The U.S. has been prepared to escalate from military attacks on developing countries to willingness to provoke a conflict with a Great Power, Russia, which possesses nuclear weapons. The U.S. has simultaneously decided to apply maximum pressure to its “allies”, such as Germany, to damage their own interests by subordinating themselves to U.S. policy.
However, the U.S. is still hesitant, evidently analysing the situation, regarding how much it can risk escalating its military aggression. The U.S. provoked the Ukraine war by the threat to extend NATO into Ukraine, and it is engaging in massive proxy support to Ukraine’s military forces. But the U.S. has not yet dared to directly commit its military forces to the war in Ukraine. This shows that while the U.S. is probing a qualitive escalation of its military aggression to being against Great Powers, it is still not sure whether to fully deploy this.
This clearly directly affects Russia and China’s relations and makes the outcome of the war in Ukraine crucial. Russia and China on good terms are a formidable economic and military obstacle to U.S. threats of war. Therefore, the central strategic goal of U.S. policy is to separate Russia and China if this can be achieved then the U.S. will attack them individually including using military strength.
The Ukraine war and the overall international situation
Summarising this global situation, the Ukraine crisis naturally shows specific national features. But it is also the manifestation of an escalating U.S. international military policy which is created by the economic weakening of the U.S. while it continues to have military strength. The dynamic which flows from this situation is that the U.S. policy of military escalation will continue unless it suffers external defeats. In short, U.S. military escalation, from a willingness to attack developing countries to preparedness to cross the red lines of a great power, such as Russia, is not temporary but is determined by the overall situation of the U.S. It means this aggression will be directed also against China.
It also means the U.S. cannot be stopped by anti-war opposition within the United States, or by opposition from its “allies”. It can only be stopped by a combination of China’s strength and opposition from the great majority of humanity and countries which are damaged by U.S. policy—this great majority of humanity is concentrated in the Global South. Within these two forces opposing U.S. aggression, the development of China itself is the most powerful.
- Regrettably, but as the only realistic view of the global situation, it must be anticipated that the U.S. will increase its aggressive actions towards China, as well as towards other countries, not only on the economic field but in particular by direct and indirect use of U.S. military power.
- The S. will hesitate in this aggression only when it suffers defeats. Naturally every opening to develop such “peaceful” turns by the U.S. must be taken advantage of. But it should be realised that the U.S. policy during such periods, when it has suffered defeats, will attempt to regroup its forces to launch a new aggressive policy.
- Defeating this S. aggression depends in the first place on the overall domestic development of China—in the economic, military and all other fields.
- This domestic strengthening of China is also in the interests of other countries suffering from S. aggression.
- After China’s own domestic development, the most important force blocking S. aggression is the opposition of the majority of the world’s population and countries whose position is worsened by U.S. policy.
- The degree to which U.S. miliary based aggression, both direct and indirect, will intensify, will depend on how much the S. is defeated in individual struggles—the more the U.S. is successful the more aggressive it will become, the more it is weakened the more “peace loving” it will become.
- In the short term the outcome of the war in Ukraine will therefore be crucial. If the U.S. is successful in this war the more aggressive it will become against If, however, the U.S. suffers a setback in this war the more it will be setback in its attack on China.
Inevitably the precise details of U.S. aggressive policy cannot be seen in advance. But the overall escalating course of U.S. aggression, unless it suffers defeats of the type analysed, clearly follows from its combination of economic weakening and military strength.
About John Ross
John Ross is a senior fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He was formerly director of economic policy for the mayor of London.