Moscow’s yearlong assault on Ukraine, the first major shooting war on European soil in more than 75 years, has caused deepening shocks to the “world order” put together by the U.S. ruling class after it emerged as top dog at the end of the imperialist slaughter in World War II. It comes on top of the sharpening competition and rivalry from today’s economic crisis.
From Washington to Moscow, Beijing to Berlin, the rulers are scrambling to beef up their military forces and looking to rework their alliances. One of the most important shifts has been between the U.S. rulers — who see Europe and the Pacific as their spheres of influence — and Beijing and Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, to the Kremlin Feb. 22. Just prior to Moscow’s invasion, the Russian and Chinese governments announced a “no-limits” partnership. Beijing refuses to back Washington’s demands to isolate Moscow. Chinese-Russian trade has soared over the last year with Beijing becoming the largest buyer of Russian oil.
At the same time, Beijing has taken advantage of Moscow’s weakness by extending its own reach at the Russian capitalist rulers’ expense. The Chinese rulers are expanding their investments in Central Asia, where Moscow has long dominated.
Beijing also issued new regulations this year requiring the addition of Chinese names to eight places along the Russian-Chinese border. Under the directive, the Russian city Vladivostok would once again be called Haishenwai. Along with some 23,000 square miles of other Chinese territory, Vladivostok was taken by the czarist rulers of Russia in 1860. From the early 2000s Chinese capitalists began buying up land and investing in areas of Russia along its vast border. Immigration from China to these areas rose.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping is preparing to visit Moscow for a summit with Putin in the coming months.
“These two countries share a vision,” complained State Department spokesperson Ned Price “of an era in which big countries could bully small countries.” Price neglected to mention that U.S. rulers have waged murderous wars for decades from Korea and Vietnam, to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today Washington is expanding its military presence and strengthening its alliances in the Pacific to counter Beijing’s rise. The Australian government announced Jan. 6 that it will expand its active defense personnel by a third. Under its AUKUS pact with the rulers of the U.S. and the U.K. it will acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
Meanwhile, Japan’s government, another U.S. ally, announced plans to acquire long-range missiles capable of hitting North Korea and parts of China as part of its biggest military buildup since losing World War II.
Elsewhere in Europe Moscow’s invasion has accelerated the push by the rulers of Finland and Sweden to join the U.S.-imperialist-led NATO. Months before the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow demanded NATO refuse to allow any more governments to join. After the invasion began, Finland’s border with Russia was closed and many Finnish companies that traded in Russia shut down. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said, “The mask has come off and all one can see is the face of war.”
In May, the Finnish government applied to join NATO. So far all but two of the governments in NATO — those in Hungary and Turkey — have approved the bid.
As NATO expands, fissures within it have opened up. On Feb. 18 Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, defended his opposition to Washington’s sanctions, saying cutting the Hungarian rulers’ economic ties with Russia “would be against our national interest.” His government also refuses to supply weapons to Kyiv.
Since the war began capitalist ruling classes have begun rearming, with the U.S. rulers in the forefront. In December President Joseph Biden signed a defense budget of $858 billion, 10% higher than the year before. Military spending across Europe’s rival powers is expected to rise by up to 65% by 2026.
Berlin has announced a boost to its military of more than $100 billion and sent weapons to Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron’s government will raise military spending by more than a third in coming years, it announced Feb. 17, adding it would boost its military presence in the Indo-Pacific region where they have 8,000 soldiers stationed. “We need to be one war ahead,” Macron stated, indicating the carnage the imperialist rulers are preparing worldwide in the years to come.
Tensions rise over Moldova
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is also aimed at recreating the Russian empire that existed under the czars. He has other nations in his sites. On Feb. 21 the Kremlin revoked a decree that had committed Moscow to respecting Moldova’s territorial integrity. Moldova lies southwest of Ukraine and has a pro-EU government.
Some 1,700 Russian troops are stationed in Transnistria, a republic in eastern Moldova controlled by pro-Moscow separatists. On Feb. 23 the Kremlin alleged its troops in Transnistria faced a “direct threat” from Ukrainian forces, a claim denied by Kyiv.
Last year Moscow cut off its natural gas supplies to Moldova, leading to power cuts across the country.