Women’s Health in China compared to US and UK

Photo: Xinhua

Following on from the theme of the Tiny Tipping Points Blog, showing how China is exceeding the US and UK in key aspects of life even while having a far lower level of average wealth, in rankings produced by the 2021 Hologic Global Women’s Health Index

  • China appears at 14th on the list, with an overall score of 63, alongside Japan, Sweden, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
  • The USA is 23rd, with an overall score of 61, alongside Lithuania, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Belgium, Australia, France and Saudi Arabia.
  • The UK is down at 30th, with an overall score of 60, alongside Poland, Ireland, Slovenia, Kosovo and Kazakhstan.

This survey was carried out by Gallup during 2020 with “66,0000 women and girls (aged 15 and older) in 122 countries and territories and over 140 different languages to assess the multiple dimensions that contribute to women’s health.”

The full report can be read here.

Ukraine Dissident Digest

Every month. Dmitriy Kovalevich writes an update on the situation in Ukraine for the New Cold War website. What follows is a digest of some of his observations that jar most strongly with the unquestioned and unquestionable narrative that we are get from the media here and are therefore most likely to provoke thought and questioning.

The full Report is here and is well worth reading to get the detail behind each of these points.

Donetsk city and region remains even now under intense fire by the artillery and mortars of the Kyiv regime, generously supplied by Western countries.

Since the Ukraine coup of 2014, pressure on the Russian government to act in defense of Donbass has come from the millions of Ukrainians who have moved to Russia for safety as well as large part of the Russian population as a whole.

The basis for pro-Russian sympathies and influence in Ukraine comes not so much from any ethnic feelings (notwithstanding the fierce, right-wing and anti-Russia ethnic nationalism promoted by the governments of Ukraine) as the desire for greater social equality for the poorest in society. A significant role is played here by the social and economic conditions in Russia, which are far superior to those in Ukraine. The Russian Federation has much higher social assistance, pensions and salaries as well as low prices for electricity and heating. Ukraine, on the other hand, has been stubbornly following the recommendations of the IMF in recent years to subsidize and enrich local and foreign capitalist investors through the privatizations of state industries while cutting social spending.

In a random encounter with the Le Monde’s visiting correspondent, an elder resident of the city (Kherson) explains, “When the Russians were here, we had everything we needed and we were not afraid to walk in the street. Now we are just trying to survive!” Another says, “The Ukrainian soldiers are good for nothing, they don’t help us and only attract more shells.”

Ukrainian left-wing journalist Oleg…Yasinsky says  Ukraine has become a model that is being tested for use in Western countries themselves. Social discussion and debate at the top levels of government and civil society are suppressed, while police, economic and cultural repression is waged against all dissenters. 

Much of the humanitarian aid provided to Ukraine by the United Nations other international organizations ends up stolen. According to local journalists and aid volunteers, on average, about half of humanitarian aid arriving in Ukraine immediately ‘disappears’.

In December, Ukraine’s parliament passed a controversial media law allowing Kyiv authorities to shut down or block any media outlet without explanation and without a court decision. 

Statistica reports that as of early October 2022, nearly three million Ukrainians have moved to Russia. (The pre-war population of Ukraine is estimated at 42 million).

The search by the Kyiv regime, targeting Ukrainians, for “collaborators and Russian agents”  has been significantly expanded and strengthened of late. In addition, under this pretext, personal vendettas are being waged. Businesses with alleged ‘Russian links’ are being squeezed out in the Kherson/Kharkov region. Extortion is demanded to ‘remove’ criminal accusations against individuals for ‘collaboration’ with Russia. Arrests are even made for correspondence with relatives deemed to be suspect. The Ukrainian Telegram channel ‘Resident’ writes that the SBU has arrested some 4,000 civilians for the purpose of prisoner exchanges with Russia.

…the minister of finance of Ukraine, Serhiy Marchenko, argued that Ukraine finances only one third of its budget expenditures from its own revenues; the remaining two-thirds are provided by foreign sponsors and creditors. In other words, Kyiv is conducting hostilities clearly beyond its means, and the functioning of the Ukrainian state is now dependent on the generosity of Western partners. This amounts to a loss of sovereignty, making all of Ukraine into a sort-of private military company.

Billions of dollars have been shelled out by Western taxpayers to assist the Kyiv regime’s war, but Ukrainians will be left indebted for generations to come. Funds that could otherwise serve to make social improvements and lessen the assaults on the planet’s natural environment, in Ukraine and in the West, are being wasted. 

The World Bank predicts that by the end of 2023, 55% of the population of Ukraine will live below the poverty line. 

The only area where Ukrainians now consistently receive a respectable salary is the armed forces…

Western countries may rightly fear that in the event of an end to the military conflict in Ukraine, some one million unemployed male Ukrainians with experience in military operations will seek to emigrate to the West, looking for work. Many will be suffering the psychological disorders associated with war, and in the West they will find radical, right-wing Ukrainian paramilitary groups urging them to join.

Tiny Tipping Points as China pulls ahead.

Although China has a nominal per capita income of just under a third of the US level in 2022 in PPP terms; since 2020 it has began to overhaul the US as a society in some key respects.

Life expectancy in China now exceeds that of the US by 20 months; at 78.2 years to the American 76.6. This might be dented this year by the current rise in COVID infections, but current indications are that the Zero Covid policy kept the population safe during the most lethal period, so the impact of opening up now will be qualitatively less than it was in the West.

In China, infant mortality has declined to 5 per 100,000, now below the US level of 5.5 and the maternal death rate at birth is now substantially lower, at 16 per 100,000, compared to 24 per 100,000 for the US.

While this is improving but uneven in both countries, the rate of improvement is greater in China.

  • In the worst performing US State, Mississippi, infant mortality declined slightly from 10.1 per 100,000 in 2009 to 8.7 per 100,000 in 2019.
  • While in Louisiana in 2021 the maternal death rate was 58.1 per 100,000 births.
  • This compares unfavourably with Xinjiang, one of China’s least developed and poorest regions, where infant mortality dropped dramatically from 26.58 per 1,000 in 2010 to 6.75 per 1,000 in 2020.
  • At the same time, the maternal death rate more than halved from 43.41 per 100,000 in 2010 to 17.89 per 100,000 in 2020 – less than a third the Louisiana rate.

NB the figure for Louisiana is for 2021, that for Xinjiang is for 2020.

Beneath the brute figures of sheer size of economies – China’s has been larger in PPP terms since 2014 and is likely to be bigger in exchange rate terms by the late 2020’s – China’s largest firms are beginning to outperform those of the USA, with Chinese companies in the Fortune 500 Global list earning $11.71 Trillion last year, compared to $11.34 trillion for the US companies listed. 87 out of the 145 Chinese companies listed are majority, or wholly, state owned.

This is underpinned by increasingly ground breaking scientific research, with the Chinese share of the most cited Scientific papers (top 1%) having grown to 27.2%, surpassing the USA’s 24.9%.

The US model of development, dependent as it is on dominating and exploiting the rest of the planet, producing consumption patterns with an elephantine carbon footprint, is neither a viable path for other countries to follow – because no other country can dominate the way that it does – nor, as we can see above, does it produce the best possible outcomes for its population from the resources it commands. It is already an outmoded model of modernity.

Figures from Dongsheng News

Plenty of money for war. Token gestures for climate.

Faced with a collapsing climate, the most powerful country on the planet is spending colossal sums of money on keeping the war in Ukraine going rather than seeking a peace, while only committing to a tenth of its $11 billion pledge to the Global South for funding to avert climate breakdown.

These figures show a set of priorities that spell disaster for humanity unless reversed.

Figures for military aid to Ukraine here.

Figures for climate funding for global south here.

US v China military and green transition spending

There is no way to dress this up. If you look at the figures for investment in military spending as a ratio of investment in domestic green transition it becomes obvious what each country’s priorities are.

The agreed US military budget for 2023 is $858 billion. The investment in green transition earmarked by the Inflation Reduction Act is $369 billion between now and 2030. So, 858 multiplied by 8 years gives a total spend of $6864 billion by 2030. Divide that by the 369 billion to be invested in green transition and you get a ratio of 18.6:1. So, for every dollar spent on green transition in the United States, $18.60 is spent on the armed forces.

China’s military budget for 2022 was $229 billion, according to Jane’s. The investment earmarked for green transition – for a carbon peak before 2030 and neutrality by 2060 – is $450 – 570 billion a year, according to China Briefing. That gives a ratio of between just under 2:1 and 2.5:1, so on average more than twice as much being invested in green transition as on the military.

So, the US, eighteen times as much on the military. China, twice as much on greening. It’s quite obvious from this which country’s investment is more beneficial to the world making a viable transition to sustainability.

These calculations assume flat military budgets. An additional reason that none of us can afford the new cold war that the US is determined to pursue is that China will be forced to devote more resources to defence, which will slow the transition. A reduced US military budget, on the other hand, would allow both countries to transition quicker and allow greater cooperation to that end.

UK military spending is already almost the highest in the world.

Lists of military spending are usually done in absolute figures.

Using these, the UK spends more on its military than every other country in the world apart from the USA, China and India. More than Russia, more than Germany. More than France. More than Japan. The sixth largest economy, but the fourth biggest military spender.

When you look at per capita military spending however, that’s the burden that that spending puts on each individual citizen, the UK comes in at number three.

For 2022 that looks like this for the ten countries that spend the most in absolute terms.

Per capita military spendingIn US Dollars
USA2434
Saudi Arabia1635
UK1020
South Korea984
France870
Germany674
Russia455
Japan425
China204
India55

So, the burden of military spending on every UK citizen is more than double that of every Russian citizen, and over five times that on every Chinese citizen. So, to match the Russian level of per capita spending, we could cut our expenditure by half. If we wanted parity with China’s spending per citizen, we could cut down to a fifth of the current level.

It should also be noted 1) that the top six of these countries, plus Japan, are allies of the United States and 2) there is not majority support in the UK to increase military spending. A poll by yougov/datapraxis in May which asked voters to choose between

(a) ‘The war in Ukraine has showed that my country should be spending more on defence, even if that means that we must cut money on other areas like health, education and crime prevention’, and

(b) ‘Despite the war in Ukraine, my country should not be increasing spending on defence as that could require cutting money on other areas like health, education and crime prevention’.

showed 36% against increased expenditure to 25% in favour.

The figures for absolute military spending that these calculations are based on come from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute for 2022. The figures for population are from UN figures for 2019, so the calculation won’t be exact, but aren’t likely to be significantly different.

Countrymilitary spending in billions of US dollarsPopulation in millions
USA801329
China2931433
India76.61366
UK68.467
Russia65.9145
France56.665
Germany5683
Saudi Arabia55.634
Japan55.1126
South Korea50.251

The causes of the war in Ukraine – a reply to Simon Pirani.

Simon Pirani’s article, “the causes of the war in Ukraine” is posed as a reply to John Bellamy Foster’s brilliant and terrifying Notes on Exterminism” but simply doesn’t address what Bellamy Foster is saying about the connections between US nuclear war posture, its policy towards Russia and the connection with climate breakdown but talks primarily about Gazprom instead. It’s also odd that Simon states that it’s important to understand the background “in order to understand what happens next, and how this relates to the western powers’ historic failure to deal with climate change,” and then completely fails to explore either. There is no vision for what the end of the war might look like if his section of the Left’s backing for Ukraine and NATO leads to a Russian defeat – either for Ukraine or for the world. Nor is there any examination of how the US war drive connects with their failure on climate breakdown. For any insight into this, readers would be better off reading Bellamy Foster, or the companion article from John Ross, which does explain how the war fits into the totality of current geopolitical struggles in a way that makes sense of it.

This is particularly significant because the USA is spending 14 times as much on its armed forces as it plans to invest in climate transition. As Meehan Crist put it in the London Review of Books in March “One of the worst outcomes of the war in Ukraine would be an increasingly militarised response to climate breakdown, in which Western armies, their budgets ballooning in the name of “national security” seek to control not only the outcome of conflicts but the flow of energy, water, food, key minerals and other natural resources. One does not have to work particularly hard to imagine how barbarous that future would be”. Not hard to imagine because that’s pretty much the world we already have under the Pax Americana, but a bit more so.

Simon seems to assume that the “popular resistance” represented by mass conscription in Ukraine hints at a progressive outcome if the Oligarchy in power and its NATO overlords achieve their war aims. To be fair, this is not explicitly stated, just presumed. Leaving aside reports of WhatsApp groups in Ukraine set up to warn people of when the press gangs are in the neighbourhood, and that 7% of the conscripts sent to the West for training have deserted; the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Since the start of the war the Ukrainian government has moved sharp and hard against the rights of the workers they are calling up to fight, and they have drawn up a post war reconstruction plan with western capital that would make Ukraine even more of a dystopian neo liberal laboratory than it already is. Not a land fit for heroes. Before the war, the combination of low wages and corruption with the pending threat of conscription to fight in the Donbass led to one of the lowest birth rates in Europe and 600,000 people a year leaving the country for a better life; some to Russia, more since 2014 to the EU.

Simon asserts that “until 2014, western policy was focused on integrating Russia into the world economy on the west’s terms: even after the Kremlin’s military intervention in Ukraine, the western response remained reactive.” The USA is always reactive, in the sense that it will intervene in any situation anywhere, anytime that it can take advantage of; but it is also invariably pushing things along, actively seeking contradictions and fissures that it can insert itself in to shift things its way. Staying global hegemon takes work, and there are US Embassies full of active agents and 800 US military bases all over the world either doing it or waiting to join in, an inner space full of satellites keeping tabs on things and a cyberspace dominated by US tech companies intimately linked to the security state.

Think about what “integrating Russia into the world economy on the west’s terms” means. “Integrating Russia into the world economy on the west’s terms” means subordinating Russia to the West. Not partnership. Not multipolarity and a deal among equals, but subordination. The US applied the same presumption to China, that participation in the WTO would make it more western, allow the private sector to dominate over the state, ease into a political system that could be bought up by the ruling class; just like ours is. The 2008 crash put paid to any prospect of that. Pro US voices have been marginal since then.

The US is no longer trying to incorporate China, or, now, Russia, on its terms, because it knows it can’t. Its policy now is to break the world economy apart and try to retain domination of as much of it as it still can. In most of the Global South, it is losing ground, quite quickly. That makes continuing to dominate Europe very important. If the European economies suffer as a result, that’s a price to be paid and ridden out politically.

Simon’s core argument is that “the West” was interested in getting cheap Russian energy and therefore had an essentially pacific intent towards it until the invasion on 24th February came out of a clear blue sky and forced them to reassess. This requires almost complete amnesia for anything that actually happened in the run up to 24th Feb – Russia’s continual appeal for negotiations on a “Mutual Security Pact” that NATO could have agreed to and spun out forever to avoid getting to the crunch point had they wanted to instead of spurning with imperial contempt – and a presumption that all of “the West” had the same interests, rather than there being a rift between the US and Germany that was resolved in the former’s favour at the NATO Summit the week before the invasion, with Germany coming to heel and refusing to open up Nordstream 2, putting NATO on an economic war footing. This was almost certainly a tipping factor in Russia’s decision to intervene.

Because, the term “the West” in this context, covers some real contradictions, particularly between the economic interests of the USA and those of the EU, and Germany in particular, which partly explain why Russia was never simply taken into NATO or ever considered a possible EU member even at the point it was considered a “strategic partner”.

Lenin always argued that politics trumps economics. And so we have seen in the case of Germany. It is not in Germany’s economic interests for this war to continue, nor for cheap Russian gas to be cut off from its industries and domestic consumption. This is also true across Europe. The Prime Minister of Belgium has spoken of fears of “deindustrialisation” as a result of this sudden rupture in energy supplies. Political turmoil is rising across Europe, not least in the UK.

The struggle over whether Nordstream 2 would be opened up last winter illuminates the fault lines here. The US was against it, for the same reasons it wouldn’t consider letting Russia into NATO. A close relationship between Germany and Russia undermines US dominance across the whole EU. Russia in NATO would have a similar centrifugal effect on the alliance. Blowing the pipelines up just as demonstrations were starting up in Germany and elsewhere to get them put back on stream to cut energy bills is a completely logical thing for the US to do. Burning the boats. Cutting off the options. Trying to stop a connection being more widely made between the cost of living crisis and ongoing support for the war. The idea that the Russians would blow up their own pipelines, when resupply of gas though them is such a huge diplomatic carrot, is as absurd as the idea that they would shell a nuclear power station occupied by their own troops or convoys of cars full of civilians trying to get out of Ukraine into Russian controlled territory (which they are supposed to have done twice in recent weeks if you believe our objective, reliable media).

The US attempt to subordinate Russia has never been a passive policy, not least in Ukraine and to describe it, either in or after 2014, as “reactive”, as a synonym for defensive, implying that it is a dozy, passive force, only taking action when severely provoked, dulls our understanding of just how proactive they are. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenburg has no such delusions and his comment “we have been preparing for this since 2014” should be taken at face value.

And it’s quite clear from this article that preparations for sanctions against Russia were being actively negotiated between the USA and EU from November last year which knocks a big hole in Simon’s main contention that the economic war was a defensive reaction to the Russian intervention. All part of the game plan.

Simon describes the Maidan movement of 2014 as though it was a simply popular uprising against corrupt oligarchs. This is as simplistic as describing Brexit as a popular revolt against “elites”. There is no recognition of the role of the far right, the division in the country leading to civil war is elided, nor is there any acknowledgement of the active intervention of the US and EU to try to mould the outcome in their favour, nor of the tussle for influence between them. The active role of the US in the Maidan movement alongside the far right isn’t mentioned. John McCain addressing a rally in the square is neither a figment of anyone’s imagination nor a “reactive” intervention. The role of Victoria Nuland, one of the architects of neo conservative interventionism and an active participant in many such interventions is almost too well documented, but Simon passes them by without a nod, or a word, or any acknowledgement at all.

The replacement of one corrupt oligarch, Yanukovitch, with another, Poroshenko, who collaborated with the far right throughout his Presidency and oversaw neo liberal reforms, opening up Ukrainian farmland to Western Agribusiness, rather undermines Simon’s assessment. Popular participation in the Maidan in the West of Ukraine did not determine a popular outcome.

Since at least the Orange Revolution (the clue is in the colours, the US can’t help itself when it comes to branding its products) in 2004 there was an open struggle for where Ukraine would align. None of this is unknown. None of it “reactive”.

This is paradoxical because Simon recognises that “in 2013, the Kremlin offered a substantial discount on gas sales as part of a generous trade package, conditional on Ukraine abandoning its talks on an association agreement with the EU; Yanukovych’s support for that package was among the sparks that set off the Maidan revolt.” This package was rather positive for Ukraine, but not at all in the interests of the EU or US. As we know with sparks, the flame has to be fanned.

We are now in a situation in which criticism of NATO is an expulsion offence for Labour MPs. The GMB is campaigning for increases in military spending, when the UK already spends more on its military than every other country in the world apart from the USA, China and India, and, through NATO and AUKUS, is allied to countries responsible for two thirds of global military spending, with the USA at their core. The US is fast losing ground economically and so is trying to reassert itself militarily, even if this leads to war with other nuclear armed powers. Increased arms spending by the UK signs us up for that. Not recognising this drive, or flinching away from the consequences of it, disarms the Labour movement in the face of the greatest short-term threat to human survival.

To invert one of Simon’s sentences; those in the western ‘left’ who don’t recognise that ‘NATO expansion’ is the chief cause of the military conflict and that Ukraine is fighting a ‘proxy war’ for the US with $53 billion worth of US weapons and $12 billion more to come… act in effect as apologists for the USA’s dangerous brinkmanship that could lead to nuclear war and the end of human civilisation. 

The war in Ukraine is indeed a historical turning point. Its result will determine whether we move into a New American Century – with a NATO victory, a US backed colour revolution in Russia, possible partition of the country into at least three parts, as some of the more hawkish neo cons planned in 1991, and the decoupling of Russia from China to facilitate the war US hawks want in the South China Sea before the Chinese economy gets too big for it to deal with – or not.

This prospect makes it a matter of principle that the Left and civil society should resist this war drive.

How Americans see the War in Ukraine

Following on from the information that 77% of Germans support the West initiating peace negotiations in Ukraine, a survey published by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and Data for Progress shows that 57% of likely American voters support the US pursuing diplomatic negotiations as soon as possible to end the war, even if it requires Ukraine making compromises with Russia. 

More people think that the Biden Administration should do more to initiate peace talks than think it has done enough.

More people think that continuing US military aid – amounting to $53 Billion so far with another $12 Billion under discussion – should be not continue unless there is ongoing diplomacy to end the war than those who think it should be unconditional.

There is a similar level of opposition to continuing support at current levels if this leads to long term global and US economic hardship.

This is made even stronger when specific examples of domestic hardship are identified, with a strong majority opposing continued support at current levels if it leads to increases in gas (petrol) and good prices in the US.

Trita Parsi, executive vice president at the Quincy Institute, put it rather well, “Americans recognize what many in Washington don’t: Russia’s war in Ukraine is more likely to end at the negotiating table than on the battlefield. And there is a brewing skepticism of Washington’s approach to this war, which has been heavy on tough talk and military aid, but light on diplomatic strategy and engagement.

‘As long as it takes’ isn’t a strategy, it’s a recipe for years of disastrous and destructive war — conflict that will likely bring us no closer to the goal of securing a prosperous, independent Ukraine. US leaders need to show their work: explain to the American people how you plan to use your considerable diplomatic leverage to bring this war to an end.” 

It should also be noted that only 6% considered that the war in Ukraine is a top 3 issue for the US, with 94% disagreeing.

A United Kingdom that looks outward, with no self-awareness at all – David Lammy’s speech to Labour’s Conference.

Atlanticist Labour Shadow Foreign Secretaries have the difficult job of squaring the circle between the reality of UK subordination to US global dominance – with everything that flows from that – with the desire of the Party membership to be – and to be seen to be – “ethical”. This is usually covered by rhetorical devices that touch nerves and mobilise emotions, while obscuring awkward realities. A classic of its kind was Emily Thornberry’s speech in 2019 in which she included Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro in a list of “Trump inspired strongmen” that the Party had to oppose, sliding over the awkward fact that, far from being one of Trump’s acolytes, Maduro was one of his targets, and Venezuela to object of ruthless US sanctions that were responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people. Details, details…

With the banishment of that awkward internationalist Jeremy Corbyn and the reassertion of a new era of unapologetic Atlanticism from the front bench, David Lammy has gone further.

He did not reflect, in his foreign policy speech to Labour conference this year, that the role of “Britain in the World” has historically been rather like that of the policemen he mentions who used to stop and search him when he was “a skinny kid in NHS glasses on the streets of Tottenham“; and for very similar reasons. At one time as dominant world cop and enforcer, latterly as the new world cop’s most eager henchman.

His speech provides a cover for it to continue to do so.

His list of challenges faced by the world is odd, and in a strange order.

Conference, the world faces more challenges today than at any other time in my 22 years in parliament. The rise of China. Conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Ethiopia and South Sudan. A global food crisis. And a climate crisis.

“And a climate crisis”. The climate crisis is the framework in which everything else takes place – or doesn’t. It’s not an item on a list. Least of all the last item. And the central problem is that the world’s most powerful state is prioritising military interventionism over dealing with it. The USA is spending more than 20 times as much on its military as it is on dealing with climate change, claims to “global leadership” notwithstanding.

China, by contrast, is spending one and a half times as much on climate change as on its military.

Who is doing the right thing?

The UK already spends more on its military than every other country in the world apart from the USA, China and India. It spends more than Russia. Through NATO and AUKUS it is in direct alliance with countries that account for two thirds of total global military spending. But the Truss government wants to increase spending by 50% by 2030 and the Labour front bench is going along with this. This is not a polict that tends to peace.

Lammy’s “green dimension” is subordinate to Cold War imperatives and inwardly oriented. The UK should not be dependent of “fossil fuel dictators” he says. Which ones does he mean? Will imports be stopping from Saudi Arabia any time soon?

And “we will seek to work with allies and partners to create a new international law of ecocide to criminalise the wanton and widespread destruction of the environment.” There’s that presumption of leadership from the Global North again, Britain’s “allies and partners” in setting and policing the ecological rule book for everyone else.

And note the weasel words – “we will seek to…” This will be rather tricky for the Global North because most of the fossil fuel companies seeking to develop the 350 carbon Bombs (projects which each have a carbon footprint of over a billion tonnes of CO2) that will bust us well beyond 1.5C on their own are companies that are based here; and so are most of the banks that finance them.

The news has just come through this week that major US Banks are threatening to withdraw from Mark Carney’s Climate alliance, because “they fear being sued over the alliance’s stringent decarbonisation commitments” and you can make your own judgement on whether the “law of ecocide” would target them or not, even if the UN made climate action its “fourth pillar”.

This also applies to the specific crisis that Lammy uses to frame his speech. The USA has for years explained to the Global South how hard it is to squeeze out a few billion dollars to help get to the 2020 target of $100 billion a year agreed at Copenhagen ten years earlier which has still not been met and that, with a bit of luck and a following wind (and a bit of redefinition of private sector loans) they might be good enough to get up to the target by 2024. Maybe. If the Global South is good. And nothing else comes along that is more urgent.

By contrast, they have magicked up $53 billion to fuel the Ukraine war in 6 months. Just like that. Easy. Whatever your view of the rights and wrongs of the war in Ukraine, and more on this later, it’s shocking how both the quantity and the speed are so dramatically different and provide such a clear demonstration of US priorities. Perhaps the way that a lot of this aid will go in orders for munitions and ammunition from US arms manufacturers may have something to do with that, but most of it reflects the war drive the USA is carrying out to try to shore up its economic decline relative to China.

In this framing, its odd that Lammy poses “the rise of China” as a challenge “for the world”. It is certainly a challenge for the US world order, Pax Americana, New American Century, Unipolar US domination; call it what you like. But that’s not the same as a challenge “for the world”.

For most of the world, benefitting from Chinese investment and trade, it looks more like an opportunity; and this is explicitly embraced by the Left in the Global South, Latin America particularly; where they are very clear about who runs the “Empire” and who has carried out coup after coup to install “dictatorships” across the continent.

It is peculiarly bizarre when considering that UK overseas aid is lauded for raising 3 million people a year out of poverty. This is not a figure I have seen anywhere else and have not been able to find online. It would be odd if true, because the impact of the COVID pandemic everywhere in the Global South outside China has been to throw back development and increase poverty. It would, of course, be a good thing if true, but pales into insignificance compared to China’s record as a developing country of raising 850 million people out of poverty in 40 years (21 million a year); seven times the rate. This was described in a Labour Foreign Policy Group document, generally rather hostile to China, as “perhaps the single most significant contribution to human wellbeing in world history”. But let’s not dwell on that. Let’s move swiftly on and not think about how this statistic is actual people whose lives have been immeasurably improved. It’s only the same number of people as the entire UK population thirteen times over. Just think of how many people that is. In forty years. And that includes everyone in Xinjiang, whose living standards are rising by 6% a year and whose labour is no more forced than that of anyone else who works in a factory.

It is also odd that Lammy does not mention that the “conflict in Yemen” is fueled by British made arms, of the sort that Conference sadly voted to boost, and the Saudi Air Force and Navy are trained to bomb and blockade ports by the RAF and Royal Navy – leading to famine and the world’s worst cholera epidemic. Nothing to see here. Let’s talk about Ukraine instead.

Lammy says “No act of imperialism is ever the same. But Vladimir Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine this year was just the latest front in an age-old war between democracy and dictatorship. Freedom and subjugation. Empire and independence.” From the country and allies that have – just since 1990 -brought us two wars each in Iraq and Yugoslavia, the invasion and twenty year occupation of Afghanistan and the reduction of Libya from the most prosperous country in North Africa to a war ravaged basket case, this might be considered a little ironic. Quite what kind of “act of imperialism” Lammy considers these to be is unclear, who was fighting for “freedom” and who for “subjugation”, who for “Empire” and who for “independence“, he doesn’t say. Possibly because it’s too obvious if you think about it for a moment. Does he have no self-awareness at all?

“Vladimir Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine” is an oft repeated mantra that conceals more than it explains. Deliberately. The war in Ukraine did not start with the Russian intervention this February. It started with the overthrow of a democratically elected President in 2014, aided and abetted by the considerable resources of the USA and EU, in cahoots with the local far right. This led to a rebellion on the Donbass region and an eight year civil war. As Sir Richard Sherriff, the former NATO Deputy Commander, remarked, a little off script, “this war started in 2014”.

The invasion this February followed attempts by the Russians to get an agreed mutual security arrangement that was spurned with complete contempt by NATO.

The Russian decision to recognise the Donbass Republics in February was not carried out by Putin alone but had the support of the overwhelming majority of the State Duma, including the main opposition Party, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, reflecting concerns at the failure to implement the Minsk Agreement, refusal of NATO to engage in any talks about mutual security, and a build up of 130,000 Ukrainian troops – whose pay was tripled in December – opposite Donetsk and Lugansk threatening their liquidation.

All war is barbaric, but it may seem odd to viewers of the atrocity porn produced by Feargal Keene and the like that by comparison with what the Americans do, the Russians have been relatively restrained. There have been a number of specific strikes on infrastructure like power stations or dams, but in US air campaigns they aim to smash the entire power and water treatment systems on day one to reduce the population to a state of rebellious despair. “Shock and Awe”*. In fact, the US dropped as much explosives on Iraq on the first day of the second Iraq war as it took the Russians a month and half to do in Ukraine. All relative? Up to a point. But not if you’re underneath it.

The term “Special Military Operation” incidentally, is not a weaselly euphemism to cover all out war, but an internationally accepted definition of a particular sort of limited war, and everyone who reports on this knows it. This is now escalating and will continue to do unless peace negotiations can get going.

Worse, Lammy’s way forward is both delusory and condemns Ukraine and its people to being a permanent proxy war zone for NATO. “Whether it takes six months, three years or ten, Ukraine will win.” Ten years of war? Seriously? “Ukraine will win“? With Russia incorporating the South and East into the Russian Federation and mobilising accordingly, I can’t see that. Lammy is calling for war without end.

At a point that even EU Foreign Representative Jose Barroso is calling for a negotiated peace acceptable to both sides – “we stand ready to assist the peace plan just launched and we urge all parties to seize this opportunity to de-escalate the crisis and end violence of this developing tragedy,” it is deeply depressing that Labour’s Foreign policy spokesperson striking the same sort of bellicose posture that Boris Johnson did when he intervened to sabotage the last serious attempts at peace talks back in April.

If he wants the “global food crisis”, not to mention the energy crisis that he, again oddly, didn’t mention, to end, we need to end the war. That starts with pushing for peace, not a ten year war.

Lammy envisages a war crimes tribunal for Putin. On the model of the sort we have seen for George W Bush and Tony Blair for the hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq that their war led to? One like that? Or perhaps the one for Putin after the Chechen war, at a time he was considered a “strategic partner” by NATO? War crimes, it seems, are always committed by our enemies. Never by us, or anyone allied with us. The numbers don’t count. Especially if they are in the Global South.

Lammy is also right that the Tories tend to craft a Foreign Policy that is a wolf in wolf’s clothing and that the current government, delirious on Brexit Kool Aid is picking fights with everyone and thinking it can get away with it. It won’t. But his version of looking outward is simply to reassert traditional alliances with the rest of the Global North as it rearms on a colossal scale, while hoping a wee bit of extra aid will keep the Global South sweet enough not to start lining up with the Chinese model of development.

While Lammy is right to argue for restoring overseas aid to 0.7% of GDP, his argument is less that this is the right thing to do as partial reparations for the damage and exploitation done by the Empire and slave trade, more about enhancing the “soft power” of the UK as the beneficiary of it, even though, as he said his “ancestors knew what it was like to have their freedom taken away. They heard the twisted lies of imperialism as they were stolen from their homes in shackles and turned into slaves.” Quite so.

“A voice for peace, development and freedom across the globe” is sorely needed. A voice for expanded UK military expenditure, for an unquestioning alliance with the USA in its provocative militarist dotage as it pushes for wars it thinks it can win in Ukraine and the South China Sea, won’t provide any of that.

Historical Note

“Shock and awe” marries the two US bombing traditions of precision targeting with colossal force. But, unlike the initial advocates of precise targeting, who argued for overwhelming strikes on key targets of military significance, “choke points” like the Schweinfurt ball bearing factory in the case of Nazi Germany, these strikes combine taking out military HQs but also decisive civilian infrastructure. So, from day 1, there is no power, no clean water, no functioning sewage system. It seems odd that advocates of this approach are trying to argue that “the Russian way of making war” is more barbaric than that.

Have Brylreem, will bomb! US Air Force General Curtis Lemay in 1954. Sketch taken from the photo by A.Y. Owen in the Getty Images Collection which, if anything, is even more alarming to look at.

The idea that destroying civilian infrastructure makes a population less inclined to resist has never been vindicated in practice; unless it reaches the almost genocidal scale of the B29 raids on Japan in 1945 led by Curtis LeMay, who went on to bomb North Korea “back to the Stone Age” a few years later; in which the state of mind of the shattered survivors barely counts. In the initial argument in WW2 between the US Air Force, who thought they could “hit a pickle barrel from 6 miles up” using a precision bombsight in daylight (they couldn’t) and the RAF, which went into carpet bombing wide civilian areas at night, the British side disregarded its own experience during the Blitz, that the raids had made the civilian population hate the bombers harder and strengthened resistance to them, thinking this wouldn’t apply in Germany because the people were “a different sort”. No stiff upper…A racialised argument within white supremacy, indicating that the British took it for granted they were ubermensch, but that it was rather vulgar to proclaim it.

All quotes from “The Bomber Mafia” by Malcolm Gladwell.

How Germans see the war in Ukraine

In a survey conducted recently by opinion research institute Forsa for the RTL / ntv “Trend barometer” there are very strong majorities for “the West” to initiate peace negotiations (Graph 1) for “Western leaders” to keep talking to Russian President Putin (Graph 2).

While there is majority support for supporting Ukraine at least at the current level about a quarter of people think that it is too much, balancing similar numbers who think it too little (graph 3) but there is equally strong opposition to specific escalation (graph 4).

Opinion in the UK – with less dependence on Russian gas and a bigger role for the military in its national psyche – is more bellicose, but the strong sentiment for the sort of peace negotiations that China and India have called for in the key state in the EU indicates that its government will face increasing difficulties in maintaining a pro war stance as the winter crisis unravels.