Ukraine: changing proxies in midstream?

As the fabled Ukrainian ‘counter-offensive’ against Russian forces stutters on with nothing to show for itself save a few terrorist spectaculars (like the drone attack on the Kremlin and drone attacks on the Kerch bridge and a Russian oil tanker) and a mounting death toll, it is proving increasingly difficult to conceal from the world what a disaster for the Ukrainian people has been their leaders’ decision to turn their country into a launchpad for a failing imperialist proxy war against Russia.

Periodic claims that this or that village has passed from Russia to Ukraine are dutifully hailed by Western media as marking a “glimmer of hope” or even a “turning point” in the war, only to be quietly dropped days later, making way for the next hyper-inflated claims to be churned out by president Zelensky and his PR team. When the south-eastern village of Staromaiorske (a village of only about 200 houses, but said to be of some strategic significance) passed briefly into Ukonazi control, Zelensky took it upon himself to announce this supposed feat of arms in person. Much was made of the street-fighting prowess of the Ukrainians when pitted against heavy odds. When, a little later, it came to light that the village had already swung back under Russian control, the matter was quietly dropped.

The sober truth is that such protracted and bloody encounters in the ‘grey zone’, whilst draining the manpower and materiel available to the Ukonazi forces, have yet to make any real headway against Russia’s formidable defences.

Even the imperialist media are obliged to start reflecting at least some of the truth about the war the West is so visibly losing. Here is Carlotta Gall writing in the New York Times of 30 July 2023:

“A soldier at a medical post, awaiting evacuation for a concussion, recently described how his battalion had been decimated when it came under Russian artillery and tank fire. His brigade, the 23rd, was one of nine newly formed, Western-trained units prepared and equipped for the counteroffensive. But the brigade, he said, had been thrown into the fight without sufficient artillery support and had been unable to defend themselves against Russian firepower.

In one battle in which his unit took part, Ukrainian soldiers attacked in 10 American-made MaxxPro armored vehicles, but only one came back, he said. He showed photographs of the damaged vehicles, ripped open and burned out, which he said had been hauled back to a repair base. The soldier declined to give his name for fear of getting into trouble with his superiors. The soldier lost a 22-year-old friend, Stas, in the shelling the day before, he said, adding that in just over a month, his battalion had suffered so many dead and wounded that only 10 men remained at the front line. Previously that battalion has had some 400 to 500 men.

Another told Gall, “We were shot like on a shooting range. A drone was flying above us and correcting the artillery fire.” He explained that their positions were in former Russian positions, hemmed in by minefields, he said, and the Russian forces were able to keep them pinned down and under constant drone surveillance.

For anyone with an internet connection and an inquisitive mind, such stories are hardly a closed book. But the fact that reportage of such candour about the war is now finding its way into the broad mainstream of the respectable bourgeois press speaks volumes about just how badly this imperialist proxy war is really going.

The Ukrainian people have been used as nothing but cannon fodder for the war against Russia. Whilst in public fawning lip service is paid to the supposed bravery of the Ukrainian soldiers and the phoney nobility of their ostensible cause, the real attitude of the West to their hirelings is one of complete contempt, regarding them as just so many disposable grunts thrown into the front line and urged to fight to the last drop of their Ukrainian blood.

And truth to tell, it is all one to imperialism whether the blood spilt is Ukrainian or Polish or Georgian or Kurdish, just so long as its orders are obeyed and Uncle Sam can wash his hands of them when things get too hot. Since February 24 2022 it has been estimated that 11,675 foreign mercenaries from 84 countries have officially arrived in Ukraine to prop up the army, including over 2,600 Poles and 700 Brits. As of 30 June 2023, 4,845 foreign mercenaries have been wiped out, including young men from the USA, Canada and the EU (see ‘Kiev looking for foreign mercenaries after up to ten thousand already killed or escaped’, South Front, 10 July 2023).

Some 4,801 mercenaries have been reported to have gone AWOL, fleeing the Ukrainian hell hole. Predictably, the contempt with which imperialism regards its own disposable Ukrainian proxies finds an echo in the open contempt the Kiev junta and its army display toward its own foreign proxies. Foreign fighters are used to swell the ranks when kamikaze assaults on Russian positions are attempted. In the bloody aftermath, front line commanders do not bother to keep track of how many foreigners are killed, and any wounded mercenaries are left to bleed out on the ground until all the Ukrainians have been evacuated.

Unsurprisingly, as news from the front filters through, the Kiev junta is finding it harder to recruit from the usual sources and is obliged to scrape the bottom of the barrel, looking further afield to Iraq, Brazil and Argentina, whilst renewed efforts are underway to recruit more mercenaries from the US and Canada.

But with the war in Ukraine lost and NATO turning its back on Kiev at Vilnius, there are signs that the US may be preparing to demote the Zelensky gang from number one proxy in the region and keep a close watch on developments around Poland.

In a development which should remind the Kiev junta of the old adage that imperialism has no permanent friends, only permanent interests, relations between ‘allies’ Poland (a NATO member) and Ukraine (not in NATO), are getting dangerously frayed. When Ukraine complained about Poland barring Ukraine imports (to protect its own grain business), Warsaw snapped that Kiev should be grateful for all the Polish fighters it is sending over. This snub did not go down well in Kiev. And now questions are being asked as to what exactly the Polish military presence is actually doing on Ukrainian soil. The official story is that a joint Ukrainian-Polish military unit is in formation in order to preserve the security of western Ukraine, but this is not how Russia is reading the situation, especially since Poland is now building up a formidable force along the Belarus border following a border incident. On 9 August TASS reported:

“‘Poland is planning to form a joint Polish-Ukrainian military unit ostensibly for security, but with the ulterior motive of occupying western Ukraine’, Russian Defence Minister Army General Sergey Shoigu said. He drew attention to the dangers associated with Poland’s militarisation. ‘There are plans to create a permanent so-called Polish-Ukrainian formation ostensibly to ensure the security of Western Ukraine, but in fact – for the subsequent occupation of this territory,’ he said. Shoigu added that Poland has become the main tool of America’s anti-Russian policy. ‘The existing risks are connected with the militarisation of Poland, which has become the main instrument of the anti-Russian policy of the United States. Warsaw has announced its intention to build, as the Poles claim, ‘the most powerful army on the continent.’ In this connection, large-scale purchases of weapons from the US, the UK and South Korea have commenced, including tanks, artillery systems, air defence and anti-aircraft systems and combat aircraft, the top defence official pointed out” (‘Poland, Ukraine to form joint military unit says Shoigu’, TASS, 9 August 2023).

Now that the counter-offensive is universally understood to be a dead duck, all the ‘friends’ of Ukraine who egged it on to an impossible ‘victory’ are now contemptuously blaming the proxies for losing the war. If Shoigu is right and Poland is emerging as the main tool of America’s drive to war against Russia, what we may imminently be witnessing is, not the weakening and balkanisation of Russia, but rather that of Ukraine.