In recent days, about 100 pages of secret documents from the U.S. Department of Defense have surfaced on the internet. They have created a massive scandal for the U.S. government. These documents show the extent to which the U.S. is invested in the Ukraine war, painting a dire picture of the military capabilities of the Ukrainian army and leading to diplomatic fallout and heightened mistrust among key U.S. allies around the world.
For socialists, the leaked documents confirm what we have been saying since the beginning of the war: that this war is not one between democracy and authoritarianism, but one between competing capitalist powers, fought on the backs of the Ukrainian people.
How the Leaks Came About
U.S. authorities have been feverishly investigating the leaks’ origins. They are taking this very seriously and immediately launched a major internal manhunt for the mole. Government officials say that this is “a very high risk to national security.” Politico quotes two Department of Defense employees saying, “I’m sick to my stomach,” and “It’s a massive betrayal.” In the era of the internet, top-secret documents are apparently not as safe anymore, a revelation that shocked the higher ranks of the U.S. state machine. So far there has been one arrest. A 21-year-old U.S. Air National Guardsman, Jack Teixeira, was part of the intelligence wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, based at Otis Air National Guard Base in western Cape Cod. He had access to top-secret information. Investigators have scoured internet platforms like Discord and 4Chan to find the place where the documents were first published online. An article in the Washington Post suggests they first appeared on a small private Discord server called Thug Shaker Central, which brought together people “united by their mutual love of guns, military gear and God.” A user nicknamed “OG” is suggested to be the first to publish some of these documents. The investigators think this “OG” is Teixeira. Teixeira now faces charges under the Espionage Act and will remain in custody until the start of his trial. It remains to be uncovered if he is indeed the source of the leak. The quickness of the response has led some commentators to suggest that the leaks were manufactured by the U.S. government itself, in order to prepare the public for the anticipated Ukrainian defeats or for planned peace talks with Russia. This seems quite unlikely. U.S. imperialism reacted with authentic shock and embarrassment, and government officials have since said the documents are mostly authentic. This is also what we assume. The documents provide many details, hitherto unknown to the public, but the big picture of U.S. geopolitics and the broad tendencies of development in the Ukraine war remain the same and can be cross-referenced with other sources.
The Ukraine War in Light of the Leaks
The documents confirm Ukraine’s plan to use the latest tank and equipment deliveries from the United States, Britain, and Germany to equip an offensive force that will be deployed in the expected spring offensive in eastern or southeastern Ukraine. The goal of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Ukrainian army and NATO is most likely to cut the Russian forces north and south of the Dnipro River in a 200-kilometer drive from Zaporizhzhia to Melitopol and Berdjansk on the Asov Sea. This would threaten the Russian positions in the south and on Crimea. What’s new, however, is that the U.S. Defense Department apparently no longer believes that this offensive can achieve success. The Washington Post quotes the documents as follows: “Enduring Ukrainian deficiencies in training and munitions supplies probably will strain progress and exacerbate casualties during the offensive.” Russian defensive positions, moreover, are said to be highly sophisticated and will most likely absorb the attack. As a result, few terrain gains are expected, far fewer than in September last year, near Kherson and Kharkiv.
Apart from the further confirmation that Ukraine is indeed very far from winning the war, the leak also uncovers the extent to which the U.S. and NATO are directly and deeply involved in the war. As the New York Times comments, “The 100-plus pages of slides and briefing documents leave no doubt about how deeply enmeshed the United States is in the day-to-day conduct of the war, providing the precise intelligence and logistics that help explain Ukraine’s success thus far. While President Biden has barred American troops from firing directly on Russian targets, and blocked sending weapons that could reach deep into Russian territory, the documents make clear that a year into the invasion, the United States is heavily entangled in almost everything else.” U.S., French, Latvian, Dutch, and British military personnel and special forces are suggested by the documents to be stationed in Ukraine. This seems very likely to be true, though the British and French government are denying their direct involvement. But even if these NATO soldiers are exclusively used for noncombat roles, what does “noncombat” actually mean in this case?
The U.S. and NATO are training, equipping, informing and even helping command an army in a foreign country that fights their direct geopolitical rival, Russia. If NATO is not supposed to be one of the warring parties at play here, who is? Of course, this is no war of self-determination for the Ukrainian nation; it’s a proxy war, and the Ukrainian people are just pawns in the geopolitical games of the great powers. The U.S. and NATO used the opportunity of Russia’s reactionary invasion of Ukraine to hold Ukraine as long as possible, subjecting every aspect of Ukrainian statehood to their will and weakening Russia, both militarily and through sanctions meant to isolate it from the world economy.
The second big revelation from the leaks concerns the ongoing ammunition problems of the Ukrainian army. Massive shortages for the older Soviet S-300 and Buk air defense systems are expected by early May. These old models still account for 89 percent of Ukraine’s air defense, despite ever-increasing arms deliveries from the West. So far, they have effectively grounded the Russian air force, with its more than 900 jet fighters and 120 bombers, thus compensating for Ukraine’s own weakness in the air. But now the ammunition has been drained by relentless Russian rocket and drone attacks. If Ukraine now runs out of antiaircraft ammunition, Russia will use its warplanes again and thus massively shift the balance of forces in its favor, at least for a time. On top of that, the major NATO countries are not producing any ammunition for these old Soviet systems, and the stockpiles of NATO countries that were formerly part of the Warsaw Pact are now depleted. Ukrainian politicians are now using this leaked information to reenforce their demand for more weapons and ammunition deliveries, and the West also sees the need to invest more into its puppet, further dragging out the bloodshed. The Biden-administration recently announced another $2.6 billion in military aid, and Germany is sending modern Patriot and IRIS-T antiaircraft systems.
A Diplomatic Calamity
The leaks are a serious blow to U.S. imperialism and its system of alliances. The leaked documents suggest that the CIA had been spying on members of the South Korean government for some time now. This led to outrage in Seoul. The New York Times is quoting South Korean opposition politics saying the leaks are “a super-scale security breach” while accusing Washington of “violating the sovereignty of a key ally.” The documents also show that U.S. aides tried to pressure South Korea to send 330,000 rounds of artillery ammunition to Ukraine. After that went nowhere, they tried to get South Korea to send the ammunition to Poland; then, without waiting for South Korea to agree, they sent the ammunition on to the Ukrainian army in secret. Perhaps most sensitive is the information that the CIA has also been spying on Ukrainian president Zelenskyy. The reaction in Kiev has not been as strong as in Seoul, but Ukrainian officials are still said to be “deeply frustrated” by this revelation.
The leaks also shed some light on the secret dealings that Russia has tried to make, to strengthen its position in the war. Documents show that the Putin regime had secret talks with the Egyptian military dictator Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, to supply Russia with some 40,000 rockets. El-Sisi was formerly a U.S. top dog in the Middle East and a major recipient of weapons from Germany and the U.S.; he heads one of the world’s most reactionary governments, which came to power only after crushing the Egyptian revolution in 2013. The regime denies all allegations and says this information was fabricated. The documents further state that these secret plans were discovered by the CIA and used against El-Sisi to pressure him to supply Ukraine instead. Another document states that the Russian secret service was trying to broker a deal with the government of the United Arab Emirates “to work together against U.S. and UK intelligence agencies.” The Emirati government has also denied this “categorically.”
All this tension in the NATO bloc and its affiliated allies can only be understood in light of the new phase of imperialist world relations being born out of the relative decline of U.S. imperialism. Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, U.S. hegemony has tried to hold down all other potential rivals, like China and Russia, by diplomatically and economically pressuring smaller nations in their vicinity to fall in line with U.S. interests. But the U.S. no longer has this unchallenged power. A new imperialist is rising on the other side of the Pacific, and the tendency to break up the world market into two distinct spheres of influence is showing everywhere. This makes it possible for alliances to change and for smaller powers to play a double game, balancing between those greater powers. NATO sanctions on Russia, for example, proved largely ineffective, making it more difficult for U.S. imperialism to use sanctions as means to keep its allies in line and its enemies in check. Russia is now selling more oil to China than to Europe before the war. The slow breaking up of the international monetary system so far dominated by the dollar and the U.S.-controlled World Bank and IMF also indicates that world imperialism is now entering a new phase, one of growing tension, in which former regional powers now aspire to take their place among the top-rank imperialist countries while the U.S. tries to maintain its dominant position. This leads to the ever-increasing threat of war, even nuclear war. The Ukraine war is just the beginning of this new era of division and redivision of the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s not as dangerous to human civilization as the ongoing tension between China and NATO in the South Pacific.
The leaks contained another shocking revelation, illustrating this danger. In September a Russian fighter jet nearly shot down a British manned surveillance plane over the Black Sea. The pilot was misinformed about the plane’s origin, launched a rocket, and just barely missed his target. In March a Russian jet hit a U.S. surveillance drone in full flight; the collision destroyed the unmanned vehicle, dropping it into the Black Sea. The nightmare of accidentally triggering a full-on firefight between NATO and Russia is looming over Ukraine and will rapidly escalate the situation, with potentially catastrophic outcomes.
A Working-Class Answer
The working class of all nations and especially of Ukraine has nothing to win in all this. The governments on all sides of this war are using workers as cannon fodder, sending them out to senselessly die for the interests of their respective oligarchs, who are making a fortune out of all the new military equipment suddenly back in demand. Socialists must not give in to the pressures of their ruling classes, which are luring them into alignment with their national interests. Only a truly internationalist perspective can guide our movement.
The key to peace and Ukrainian independence lies not on the battlefield of the Donbas; it lies in Washington, Berlin, Paris, and Moscow, and it can be achieved only by using the weapon of the working class, the mass strike, the only weapon that can bring peace. The NATO governments will stop sending weapons to Ukraine if they are forced to do so by a militant workers’ movement that sees the battle for world peace as inextricably linked to all its other struggles. The Putin government will stop the onslaught of their armies only if it is mortally threatened by the rebellion of the masses. And only if these movements are conscious enough to connect the immediate fight for higher wages and against attacks on the standard of living with the cry for peace and a better future, can they end this war.
In France and the UK, and on a smaller scale in other European countries, the workers are on the move to defend themselves against their governments’ attempts to offload the costs of the self-induced crisis onto their backs. For weeks now, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets of Paris to fight President Macron’s new undemocratic pension reform pushing the age of retirement further back. The UK is going through her biggest strike wave in decades, as workers defend against anti-union attacks by the reactionary Tory government. Currently, these movements are divided into distinct sectors and kept within national borders. And they are tightly controlled by the union bureaucracies, which try to temper workers’ radicalism for the sake of “stability” and “order.” Those trying to bring up political questions, like the war in Ukraine and its direct connection to the sanction-induced cost of living crisis in Europe, are forcibly silenced. Within these movements, socialists are trying to fight the influence of the bureaucracies and struggle for united and coordinated action, aiming to build nationwide general strikes and to fuse economic and political demands.
If these movements are to win, they must go beyond their current reformist leadership, build themselves a genuine revolutionary party, and eventually ask more fundamental questions about what world they want to live in and how to achieve their vision of a better future. And only by ultimately toppling the Bidens, Putins, and Scholzes, and replacing them with the genuine democratic rule of the working masses, can war be banished for good. October 1917 and the victory of the Bolshevik Party, leading the working class to power for the first time in history, marked the beginning of the end of the First World War. Today, the world is ripe for another 1917.