The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Ukraine at an Impasse

Mar 20, 2023

The World Court has charged Vladimir V. Putin with war crimes. In a curious coincidence, during the same week, Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced a visit to Russia. The trip was to include a visit with Putin, with an offer to help in negotiating a truce in Ukraine. The U.S. press, in the most nationalist of reactive reporting, calls it the "most overt sign yet of China’s support for Mr. Putin."

But behind the rhetoric, could we be seeing steps toward a negotiated settlement in Ukraine? Perhaps. The war crime charges against Putin may be intended to pressure him. The visit of China, behind the rhetoric, is an overture for talks. All of this may reflect an impasse in the Ukrainian war, an impasse which has become glaringly apparent in the months-long battle for the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine.

Bakhmut has been mostly destroyed by the onslaught of Russian forces, which have encircled the city while the Ukrainian forces attempt to defend it. Bakhmut is currently the site of tremendous carnage. Thousands of artillery shells are being fired per day by Ukraine while a Russian takeover appears iminent. The Washington Post and the New York Times, which represent the position of the U.S. ruling class, are reporting that the recent deadlock has provoked discussion among U.S. generals about the sustainability of this pace of war.

Finally, behind the question of ammunition supplies lies the question of whether or not Ukraine has the human forces left to continue the war.

The Washington Post reports that Ukrainian forces have suffered upwards of one hundred thousand casualties since the beginning of the war, with the months-long campaign to win back Bakhmut contributing daily to that number. On March 13, the Post reported that "The quality of Ukraine’s military force, once considered a substantial advantage over Russia, has been degraded by a year of casualties that have taken many of the most experienced fighters off the battlefield…."

The U.S. Pentagon is not grieving the numbers of war dead. They are cynically calculating the chances that Ukraine will run out of human cannon fodder to continue their war. In any event, those troops remaining are often untrained, and what is worse, inexperienced. They suffer high levels of casualties as a result.

For all the talk of tanks and fighter planes, the war is currently, primarily, a ground war where human beings with artillery are the killing force.

If the U.S. and NATO allies are beginning to believe that Ukraine cannot win, why continue the bloodletting at Bakhmut? U.S. generals’ statements, as reflected in the American press, indicate that they are advising Zelensky to moderate, to move on. There is also reason to believe that the U.S. strategy to “bleed” and “weaken” the Russian state in this war, sacrificing Ukrainian troops to do it, may be reaching a limit.

In any event, it is unlikely that the visit of China to Russia with offers of mediation, and the accusations of war crimes against Putin are not linked. In the likelihood that Ukraine is forced to negotiate, the charge against Putin can serve as a card for imperialism to play in winning back territory in Russian occupied Donbass, with its industry and natural riches. Finally, Russia may be forced back to maneuvering to hold Crimea, its only warm weather port. Using hawk-like rhetoric, the U.S. military seems to be increasing the stakes in the event the Ukrainian military is reaching an end of its ability to wage war.

While Russia’s autocracy, led by Putin, has put the knife to Ukraine’s throat, U.S. imperialism has kept it there. It has worsened and widened the war for its own interests and has been a willing partner to the death and devastation of Russians and Ukrainians alike. Its relentless pursuit of profits, its incessant drive to open up any remaining world territory to capitalist exploitation, can only lead to deeper war.

A future without the intervention of the world working class is a future of more Bakhmuts, greater and more generalized war. An alternative to the carnage in Ukraine depends on the working class finding its own solutions far beyond the nationalist wars imposed by world imperialism—in Ukraine and in Russia, but above all, in the imperialist countries like the U.S.