Far reaching, the conflict in Ukraine is only one phase of a global conflict that began earlier. In the field of international relations, the driving and acting forces are often veiled by surface facts, such as military adventures and the din of apologetic or denunciatory speeches. What is at stake in Ukraine is not Ukraine: it is the future of globalized, neoliberal, financialized capitalism governed by the United States, that is to say the model in place since the 1980s As the sides hone their weapons in preparation for the next stage of the fighting, while the dumb propaganda continues that the public has failed to pay attention to, we need to get to the bottom of it.
Tiered global economy
Globalization was the expedient found as a way out of the impasse faced by the Western economy following the exhaustion of growth during the post-war boom period. Capitalism is restructured and its territorial base widened. Productive activities having become less profitable, they are relocated to the “developing” world. The West reserves command functions, military industries, high technology and the more profitable financial and service sectors.
Neoliberal globalism is hierarchical. At the top, the United States rules the system, uses the dollar to drain the world’s resources for its own benefit and retains the key function of armed arm of the whole. At the second level, Europe, Japan and Canada reproduce the American formula and are progressively deindustrialized, financialized and tertiarized, while their foreign and military policy is integrated into that of the United States. At the bottom of the scale, the rest of the world, more than 80% of humanity, is supposed to produce industrial articles and raw materials in subcontracting economies.
In a subordinate position and called upon to swallow snakes in the disputes with the United States, the elites of the countries of the second level nevertheless find their account in globalized capitalism, hence a self-interested loyalty to the American leader, what whatever the cost to their populations and to the independence of their countries. Americanization, training programs in the United States and the globish helping, they tend to merge with that of the United States. As for the elites of the bottom-ranking countries, their profit share in globalization is, barring individual exceptions, the smallest, and their countries’ room for maneuver is the smallest.
The tribulations of American-centric globalism
They are of two orders, one economic, the other political. Praised at its beginnings as the guarantee of limitless and endless prosperity, financialized neoliberal globalization reveals its nature as a casino-economy in crises and bursting of bubbles with international reverberations, notably in 1987, in 1994, in 1997 and in 2008. Moreover, as was to be expected, the economies that produce material goods resent their status as subordinate to the rentier economies of the upper echelons of the pyramid. Their interests are expressed on the political level in the desire for autonomy made concrete by their States.
However, globalization requires the submission of States, their openness to external intervention and the withdrawal of entire sections of their sovereignty. The unipolar world knows only the State of the American hegemon, the others being only local extensions. Monolithic, it cannot tolerate autonomist tendencies, even less withdrawals or disconnections, under penalty of seeing a successful case set an example and lead to chain imitations.
This is the motive of the regime-overthrow operations in Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen of the past 30 years: destroying states to disintegrate societies and regress economies in order to withdraw the means of a possible autonomy.
Russia and China
The same method is applied to Russia and China: military pressure through Ukraine and Taiwan, economic threats, media campaigns and attempts at regime change. The strengthening of these two countries coincides with the relative weakening of the United States, so much so that their reduction becomes a prerequisite for the maintenance of American hegemony. Failure would expose US-centric globalism to possible unraveling. Without embarrassment, Biden’s National Security Strategy, released in October 2022, spells out the sequence: take down Russia, then China.
Bleeding Russia into Ukraine and bringing about its collapse is the policy trumpeted by the United States. The goal is destabilization and inner collapse. This amounts to posing an existential threat to the Russian state and to Russia as a country, a situation explicitly foreseen by the doctrine of the use of nuclear weapons. World War III is looming behind this strategy.
Should nuclear war be avoided, a US success against Russia would prolong its hegemony and weaken China, destined for the same treatment. For Russia, a dismantling could constitute the worst calamity of its history, already peppered with painfully surmounted disasters. The Yeltsin years would seem happy by comparison. On the sidelines, confused and adrift, Europe will have a lot to do to save its economy, compromised by the anti-Russian sanctions. Calling all these issues huge is an understatement.