The war in Ukraine is a part of something bigger, Prof Wolff argues in his latest Global Capitalism lecture. There is a second, economic war in progress, with both sides fighting over global dominance. “Why do I think that the war in Ukraine is historic? Well it's less because of the war itself than because of what that war is revealing about the world we live in, about the new organization of the world that is coming into being.”
In this second war, the weapons, players, and goals are different. US soldiers may not be on the battlefield but the incredible (even inflationary) support that the US is giving to Ukraine reveals their part in the second, economic war. But who is the opponent?
“China is the big issue for the United States, not Russia. Russia is an ally of China and vice versa and therefore a target… It is an attempt by the United States to destroy the Russian economy in large parts and by doing so to “weaken” (that's the word of the U.S Secretary of Defense), to weaken Russia as an ally of China.”
Watch ‘The Second War in Ukraine’ on our website or listen to it as a podcast today. Keep reading below for a summary of the lecture with quotes from Prof Wolff.
The U.S. has the goal to maintain themselves as the dominant world power. China is working towards their goal of shaping a new global system with multiple power blocs, such as the BRICS bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). The military war in Ukraine exposes how far along we are in this global shift, in this second economic war. The U.S. tried to bring the conflict to a quick end by crippling Russia economically, but it has not worked, thanks to the support of China and other countries.
“China offers the world an alternative. You can disagree with the United States. You can fashion your own economic strategic plan. You can clash with the United States because there's somewhere else to go: China, India, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the growing allies the BRICS group and the new members of that coming down the pike. It's a new world.”
What will Europe do, caught literally in the middle? Most countries do business with both sides, and face sanctions and retaliation for whatever choice they make. There may be a historical alliance with the U.S., but there is also growing concern about the U.S.'s falling global position. In addition, there is also anger that U.S. efforts to save itself are hurting many Europeans, and an understanding that the U.S. claims to be the protector of the little guy, Ukraine, ring hollow after previous invasions of Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Prof Wolff explains that this war has exposed economic nationalism as the new ideological reality governing the world economic system. It has exposed the decline of the United States, and how its elite is trying to shift the burden of adjusting to that new dynamic by offloading its effects onto the mass of people. He reminds us that a declining British Empire took two wars (1776 and 1812) before it understood its changed position in the new world order. What will it take for the United States?
By learning from history, and understanding the broader social forces, we have a chance to handle this decline without wandering into more wars and the horrifying destruction of human beings that accompanies them. Prof Wolff, and the staff of Democracy at Work, hope this lecture contributes to that effort.
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