Art by Anastasya Eliseeva
How will our media and politicians respond when it becomes undeniable that Russia will win the war? The only way they can respond: by continuing to deny it.
The day will never come when we hear on the news that “Russia has won.” The president will never come out and say it. The ruling class has invested too much into the narrative that Russia’s defeat is imminent, and letting the public find out otherwise would expose how pointless the war’s sacrifices have been. So when the inevitability of Russia’s victory becomes objectively apparent, the media will create a new definition of “victory,” and continue to say that Ukraine can win.
The point at which any honest observer would assess Ukraine has lost will, in my opinion, be when Russia takes back Kherson, and starts a larger trend of reversing its territorial losses from the last few months. Territorial control isn’t the defining factor in this conflict, which is why Kiev’s supposed strategic victories throughout these localities have been hollow. Territory isn’t the most important thing for Russia, with its true goal being to fully demilitarize Ukraine. But when Russia takes back all the eastern and southern land that it had prior to Ukraine’s sweep, this will be a clear sign that Ukraine’s forces have been exhausted to Russia’s satisfaction.
Every time Kiev has regained land, it’s been a propaganda “victory,” not a strategic one. Russia has been trading land for time, letting Ukraine “win” in these localities for the moment so that Russia can fight as long as necessary for completing the demilitarization process. These localities have in fact repeatedly represented liabilities for Ukraine, making Kiev have to sacrifice actual military strategy for committments to keeping control over patches of soil.
When these pyrrhic “wins” start getting undone, Ukraine will be showing a fatal decline in its military capacity, and will face a PR crisis. It will have lost the territories which it relied upon for global perceptions of its strength. It will be forced back into its diminished size, and will no longer be able to continue its eight-year-long shelling of the Donbass. The only damage Kiev and its puppets will still be able to do to Russia is naked terrorism, in the vein of their demolition of the Nordstream pipeline or their destruction of the Kerch Strait bridge. They’ll use their mercenaries, and the Nazi militias that haven’t been eliminated, to carry out a perpetual series of assymetrical warfare actions.
These efforts, which could take the form of everything from bombings to mass shootings, will be sold as either falling within the criteria of legal warfare or as having been committed by the Russians. That’s how the proxy war’s narrative managers have portrayed the pipeline and bridge explosions. These terrorist attacks will themselves be severely limited in their capacity, as Russia has already seamlessly transitioned from a Special Military Operation to a War on Terror. The forces that would be required to successfully win the conflict through asymmetrical means are getting destroyed by Russia’s drones and bombs.
The U.S. empire will be left with another version of Korea. Like how after the DPRK succeeded at beating back Washington’s attempt at imposing neo-colonial dictatorship upon the entire peninsula, the U.S. will only be able to claim “victory” through absurd rationalizations. The idea that the U.S. won in Korea is a silly story, as will be the idea that the U.S. has won in Ukraine. Washington will keep the war in Ukraine technically going, like how it has with the one in Korea. It will use Kiev to wage an indefinite, futile campaign of provocations against Russia, like how it’s used Seoul to do against the DPRK. The political situation of Ukraine is even increasingly coming to resemble that of south Korea during the leadup to, and aftermath of, Korea’s conflict. This is a situation where democratic liberties are nonexistent, where the government persecutes anti-imperialists, and where a paradigm of mandatory military service exists to perpetuate a never-ending conflict. (Even though south Korea has shed its old dictatorship, the latter two characteristics are still present within the country.)
The difference is that in Ukraine, Washington won’t practically be able to keep a war in motion for generations, like it has in Korea. U.S. imperialism is headed towards an irreversibly shrunk range of control, and the Ukraine proxy war is accelerating this process. When the dollar loses its reserve currency status, the global U.S. military presence will be forced to contract. When the BRI brings enough of the peripheral countries towards economic independence, the empire will lose its economic base of neo-colonial extraction. All of this on top of the stagflation and financial meltdown that the country is already entering into, which will exacerbate the damage from the sanctions blowback.
The way the empire has been maintaining itself amid the decline it’s experienced the last half-century is by imposing neoliberal austerity. But no amount of austerity can make up for this combination of crises. And even if the war on the working class were to be brought to a point where the American and European populations are at the same level as those in the exploited countries, this would make imperialism all the less stable. The more the livelihood of the core’s working class gets sacrificed, the more risk there is for revolution in the core.
In this situation where the imperialist structure can only continue to contract, the priority of imperialist propaganda is to prevent the people in the core from effectively rising up. Washington’s psyops are failing across the Global South, as support for the proxy war is concentrated in the imperialist countries. More than ever, imperialism depends on the social stability of the core, and on belief in pro-war narratives among the core’s people. When this balance is lost, Washington’s instruments for maintaining control over the exploited countries will be lost. To stop the structure from utterly collapsing during this generation, the empire must keep the core’s people believing the myths behind this proxy war.
They must continue to be told that Russia’s actions were unprovoked, that Russia has been behind the false flag atrocities which Kiev has committed, and that NATO has hope for defeating Russia. Even if the reality comes to be that Ukraine is completely hollowed out both economically and militarily, and is nothing more than a launching pad for ineffectual terrorist attacks.
A year from now, Ukraine will in all likelihood look like that. And we’ll still be getting told we need to commit to a long-term effort against Russia, however big the risk is that this will produce a third world war. As the severity of Washington’s loss in Ukraine sets in, we’ll be distracted by new lies. These narratives will be designed to manufacture support for intervention in Taiwan, more color revolution attempts, new invasions of vulnerable Central American countries, sanctions on countries like Ethiopia, and ongoing costs from the economic war on Russia. We’ll be told that China and Russia are guilty of crimes of aggression, that the sanctions targets are guilty of human rights abuses, and that the impoverished countries need Washington to save them from the globe’s crises. All of this propaganda is a transparent ploy to prop up a decaying system. More must be won over towards recognizing the deceptions, and towards participating in proletarian revolution.—————————————————————————
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