Ukraine – chaos in the anti-Russia front

On Friday 22 March the Crocus City Hall near Moscow came under attack by terrorists. As some 6,000 people attended a rock concert in the hall in Krasnogorsk, a north Moscow suburb, the venue came under attack by four gunmen who fired randomly into the crowd and then set the hall alight, causing the roof to collapse. At least 140 people were killed. The gunmen took flight but were later caught and brought to justice.

Islamic State at once claimed responsibility for the Crocus Hall massacre and President Putin accepts this. But this does not end the story. Certain aspects of the massacre appear to distinguish it from the jihadi norm. Normal practice is to seek martyrdom and go down in a hail of bullets. But in the case of these four hired guns, religious zealotry was superseded by the more pressing desire to save their own skins. President Putin noted that they “tried to hide and moved towards Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the state border.”

Whether Islamic State was in collusion with the Kiev junta, or acted off its own bat, or under direction from Nato, such nihilist outbreaks as the Crocus Hall massacre are at base imperialism’s gut reaction to losing the war. As the neo-Nazi Kiev regime is forced to face the fact that Ukraine is losing militarily, it can be expected that it will try to compensate for its battlefield failures by having recourse to terrorist spectaculars of this kind.

Germany self-destructs

The German government is presiding over the wanton destruction of the country’s economy. First Berlin buckled under pressure from the US and EU, agreeing at first to postpone opening the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany and then to cancel it outright.

When some hidden hand contrived to complete the sabotage, bombing the pipeline and forcing Germany to rely instead on overpriced US fuel to satisfy its enormous energy requirements, Berlin hardly raised a murmur of protest, maintaining a stoical attitude whilst the US at first absurdly blamed Russia for the destruction of its own property, then suggested that the attack on Nord Stream had been carried out by rogue elements in Ukraine – anything, in short, rather than accept that the most obvious culprits were hiding in plain view in Washington and Kiev. Yet so far from rounding on the US warmongers and demanding answers from the Biden administration, the German government to all intents and purposes has colluded with what was clearly an act of war – against its own country. This amounts to appeasement, not of ‘Hitler-Putin’, but of US imperialism.

To make things worse, Germany has gone along with the punishing regime of sanctions aimed at bankrupting and undermining Russia. As rapidly became clear, it was Europe which in fact suffered the greatest punishment as the sanctions bounced back to hit the collective West, and Germany worst of all.

Conscious of the groundswell of anti-war sentiment in the country, but anxious not to be accused of letting Ukraine go hang, Chancellor Scholz has kept on flip-flopping. For months he has wavered over whether or not Ukraine should be sent the hi-tech Taurus missile system. One excuse he offered was that Taurus could not be deployed without the presence of German soldiers on the ground in Ukraine, crossing a red line. This excuse was blown out of the water when Russia leaked a phone call from the general in charge of the Luftwaffe, in the course of which he was heard explaining that Britain had managed to deploy perfectly well!

Most recently Zelensky claimed Scholz had turned him down because “the chancellor believes that, as he is a representative of a non-nuclear state, this is the only weapon that Germany has, is the most powerful one. He shared messages with me saying that he cannot leave his country without such a powerful weapon.”

Macron is out of his depth

Meanwhile Macron was urging France’s European colleagues to stop being “cowards”, stand with Ukraine and rally behind Macron’s pipe dream of a unified Europe. Whilst on one level this could be seen as simply backing up US criticism of the increasingly lukewarm support for Ukraine in Europe, not far below the surface lay the calculation that, with the US in decline and Germany on the ropes, this could be the moment for France to move into the leadership vacuum, resurrecting dreams about a fully integrated EU with its own army (and with Germany firmly under the gallic thumb).

These delusions of grandeur hit a brick wall as soon as Macron tried out some of his diplomatic magic on Moscow. When he announced his readiness to send French troops into Ukraine, ostensibly as a “force for peace”, Moscow’s response was unambiguous: any such deployment would be correctly understood as an invasion, and the invaders would accordingly be destroyed. And when he sent his armed forces minister, Sébastien Lecornu, to phone up Russia’s Sergei Shoigu, the conversation did not go well for French diplomacy. According to POLITICO, “France and Russia are at loggerheads over the substance of a rare high-level call between France’s Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu and Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. And the clashing readouts of Wednesday’s hour-long conversation are swiftly becoming a diplomatic pain in the neck for Paris. While Paris says the call was exclusively dedicated to the shared fight against terrorism, the Kremlin claims the ministers also discussed possible talks on the war in Ukraine” (Clea Caulcutt and Laura Kayali, ‘The ‘menacing’ call with Russia that’s turning into a diplomatic headache for France’. 4 April 2024).

It seems that Lecornu, whilst officially only briefed to discuss the “shared fight” against terrorism, strayed into some loose talk about the war. Doubtless it would flatter Macron’s ambitions if he could pull off some kind of diplomatic coup, something to enable the collective West to regain the initiative. This however was not on the table, as Moscow has not the remotest intention of discussing freezes. And when the conversation reverted to the topic of fighting terrorism, matters did not improve for France. Le Monde reported that “Lecornu had aimed to pass on to Moscow ‘useful information’ about the March 22 attack that killed more than 140 people near the Russian capital” (‘French foreign minister says dialogue with Russia no longer in France’s “interest”’, Le Monde, 8 April 2024).

Russia politely responded by expressing the hope that the French secret services had not themselves been involved in the attack. At the end of the day, whatever web of diplomacy Macron weaves, nothing can change the bleak truth: if French troops are sent to Ukraine they will be targets.

The only serious buyer Macron has so far found for his dangerous mix of wishful thinking and military threats is David Cameron, who now appears eager to drag the population of Britain into a war against Russia led by a new version of the Entente Cordiale. Cameron, foreign secretary and Stéphane Séjourné, his French counterpart, signed a joint communiqué which declared in part:

We are both absolutely clear: Ukraine must win this war. If Ukraine loses, we all lose. The costs of failing to support Ukraine now will be far greater than the costs of repelling Putin” (David Cameron and Stephane Sejourne, ‘The world is safer for a renewed Entente’, SundayTelegraph, 7 April 2024).

Wishful thinking is a dangerous activity when applied to international relations. Russia is winning the war which imperialism instigated, and sending French troops or British tommies into Ukraine now would merely multiply the available targets for the Russian army and do nothing to change the outcome of the war.