The following Discussion Note was first published by No2Nato 3 June via our Telegram channel. These notes are intended for use in fostering discussion and critical thinking and do not always represent the views of the Workers Party. The full series of Discussion Notes is only available on Telegram with selected topics reproduced here. Photo credit: Adobe Stock
DISCUSSION NOTE – The Ukraine War & Its Raised Risks
There are two important developments on the Eastern Front. The more obvious one is the attempted assault on Belgograd from Ukraine which seems to have been repelled (so far) at a high cost to the attacking force. This might look on the surface as an attempt to seize Russian territory as a bargaining chip in a settlement but it is, in fact, being interpreted as an attempt to get Russia to move its drone assets from the south (where the counter offensive is most likely to be targeted) to the defence of Russian territory. Russian drones are now the biggest threat to the eventual Ukrainian assault. The Russians appear not to be biting and are relying on border forces to repel the Ukrainian assaults but this may change.
A more important development which threatens escalation is the claim (unverified) that permission has been given by the pro-Western Moldovan President (one of a set of liberal-nationalist women across Europe with warrior tendencies) for Ukraine to enter into Trans-Nistria to acquire the very substantial Soviet era military assets stockpiled there. Ukraine is getting very short of munitions for its remaining Soviet era equipment. This would solve probably the most severe short term limitation on its ability to prosecute an extended counter-offensive this year. Such an incursion would have to have been approved by the ‘West’ (since Trans-Nistria is supposed to be Moldovan sovereign territory). We need confirmation of this claim so we will have to see what happens next.
Moldova is under Western influence at the moment. Perhaps the moment has to be seized since there are substantial pro-Russian elements there (as in Bulgaria) who could shift the terms of power at any time. International law is on the West’s side insofar as Moldova would be ‘inviting’ Ukraine in although Ukraine would face isolated but determined resistance from Russian partisans. The risk is that the asset is so valuable in the war that the only solution for Russia would be to destroy it from the air creating a mega-explosion of earthquake proportions, possibly with a tactical nuclear weapon. First use of a tactical nuclear weapon on Moldovan soil would not invoke a NATO response in law but would be a major psy-ops victory for NATO, risking further escalation through supply of air power. The munitions problem for the Ukrainians should not be underestimated. The West has exhausted its ‘export’ stockpiles and is rushing to cut third party deals for the manufacture of armament suitable for Ukrainian conditions. The latest deal is looking to TNT from Japan for 155m artillery shells but time is passing and Ukraine’s assault window is diminishing.
The attack on Belgograd also contains another risk which is possibly deliberate as far as the more extreme ‘hawks’ in Kiev are concerned – a serious occupation of Russian territory by proxy Ukrainian forces could be enough to trigger the mutual defence provisions of Russia’s allies and possibly justify full national mobilisation in Russia. This could bring Belarus into the war as well as the Central Asian states (even if the latter’s participation was nominal). If Belarus is involved in the war all Western restraint on Poland might probably come to an end. The war would come closer to Europe and the chances of tactical nuclear and even strategic nuclear exchange increase. We are nowhere near this yet but it is not a scenario to be dismissed lightly.