Three months ago, the US and NATO leaders met in Vilnius, Lithuania, posturing as a “summit of victors” who had just launched a massive military counteroffensive that would inflict a devastating strategic defeat upon Russian forces in Ukraine.
Three months later, Ukraine’s offensive has ended in a debacle, failing to achieve any of its objectives, measuring its episodic advances in mere yards and meters, while desperately sacrificing tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops, and losing hundreds of US and NATO armored vehicles. Billions of dollars in aid have been squandered and stolen by Ukrainian officials and Kiev’s defense minister has been fired.
This is the context in which US President Joe Biden, the doddering master strategist of this bloody disaster, has arrived at the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, in an effort to bolster international support for the proxy war with Russia in Ukraine and, at the same time, deepen the military and economic offensive against China.
Having staked the prestige of American imperialism on a military victory and totally indifferent to the staggering loss of Ukrainian life, the Biden administration is determined to continue and intensify the war against Russia. Earlier this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Kiev to pledge to continue the war “for as long as it takes.” One recent Financial Times op-ed referred to any negotiations as a “moral defeat,” while other reports speak of the “fear of peace talks.”
In the media, there is talk of the war extending until 2024 or 2025. Given the current rate of losses, Ukraine would simply run out of forces by then, leading to the inevitable conclusion that such a war would have to be fought with US and NATO troops.
In every country represented at the G20, however, the war is increasingly unpopular, creating dilemmas for the US’s allies. In a draft communique circulated Friday, 75 paragraphs were completed while one, focusing on the war in Ukraine, was left blank. It is entirely possible that the G20 will, for the first time, fail to issue a joint statement.
The war in Ukraine is not the only crisis confronting the United States and the Biden administration. Biden’s counterparts will no doubt inquire about the political stability of the American state apparatus. Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican Party, is under indictment for charges related to the attempted fascistic coup two-and-a-half years ago, and Biden himself may be implicated in investigations related to the corrupt dealings of his son in Ukraine.
Reflecting the nervousness within the ruling class over Biden’s own position, the New York Times wrote on Friday, “This year, Mr. Biden faces heightened concerns around his age—he will turn 81 in November—as he campaigns for a second term. A poll released by CNN on Thursday showed that his approval ratings remain low. A special counsel has indicated that he planned to indict the president’s son Hunter on a gun charge by the end of the month.”
It is of more than symbolic signficance that, in making the journey to New Delhi, Biden left the sickbed of his wife, Jill Biden, who has once again contracted COVID-19 amid yet another surge of the pandemic, despite the White House’s efforts to proclaim the pandemic over by covering it up.
There are mounting signs of economic crisis and breakdown in the center of world finance. Last month, Fitch downgraded the US credit rating, amid growing concerns about the viability of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Testimony presented to the US Congress earlier this year warned, “For the first time since the collapse of the Bretton Woods gold standard, we are seeing a systemic limit on the dollar-centered economic order and US foreign policy.”
Each of these crises intersect with and are compounded by the growth of the class struggle, now centered on the looming strike deadline for hundreds of thousands of autoworkers next week. The Biden administration is seeking desperately to contain the situation, with the assistance of the trade union apparatus.
The response of the American ruling class to the deepening crisis of its global hegemony is to intensify its efforts to maintain its domination through military force.
The summit has been preceded by a CIA-scripted propaganda campaign in major US and European newspapers and journals, targeting China. “China’s model is failing. The world should pay attention,” declared the Washington Post editorial board. “Economically ailing China suffers from an incurable case of Leninism,” George Will proclaimed, in an op-ed in the same newspaper. The Financial Times wrote Friday of a war game targeting China planned for Monday, sponsored by the Democrats and Republicans in the House, and involving leading Wall Street executives.
Notably, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced he will not be attending the G20 summit, the first time a Chinese leader has absented himself since 2008. Russian President Vladimir Putin has not attended a G20 summit since 2020. Why would they participate in a forum that is openly framed as an effort by the imperialist powers to cobble together a global coalition to militarily crush and economically subjugate Russia and China?
The G20 was formed in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis and solidified into what the US called the “permanent council for international economic cooperation” following the 2008 financial crisis. Excerpts from this year’s G20 draft communique point to threats to the world economy from “cascading crises,” where slow growth and high inflation are exacerbated by the emergence of protectionism and trade wars.
But the undeniable reality is that the world’s main architect of the rise of protectionism, trade war and military conflict is the United States.
American imperialism responded to the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 with a global military offensive, including the Gulf War, the bombing of Yugoslavia, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the bombings of Libya and Syria. Each of these wars, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, solved none of the gangrenous domestic problems of the United States, and has only deepened the crisis of American global hegemony.
Over the ensuing decade and a half, the US transformed the “war on terror” into “great power conflict,” instigating the Maidan coup of 2014 that erupted into the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The Obama, Trump and Biden administrations pursued aggressive protectionist measures as part of a trade war with China that threatens to escalate into military conflict.
At the G20 the Biden administration will deploy its usual tactics—chiefly bribery and threats—to obtain support for Washington’s policies.
But whatever the outcome of the G20 summit, a powerful mass movement against imperialism is developing throughout the world. The outcome of the Ukraine war will not be determined by the political bankrupts assembled at the G20, but, rather, by the intensification of the global class struggle.