Down the Warpath: The Ukrainian Front

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has precipitated the re-emergence of Western warmongering after the lull of covid and the American disengagement from Afghanistan. A foreign policy establishment has regrouped out of the chaos of the Trump presidency and into the settled situation of the Biden administration, where an entrenchment of liberal imperialism pushed by figures like Victoria Nuland and Anthony Blinken is on the cards. And Ukraine is the perfect theatre through which to push such imperial ambitions, becoming centre-stage for expanding American energy interests and maintaining the encirclement of Russia (and by extension maintaining a foothold in the Eurasian rimlands).

The unanimity of narrative in not just condemning the Russian invasion (an obvious yet empty gesture) but also ramping up rhetoric around isolating Russia and bolstering Ukrainian defences as well as turning Ukraine into a gleaming example of liberal democracy shows an attempt for the liberal empire to escape the secular stagnation that has submerged Western societies, producing a new uniting narrative similar to the War on Terror that can engage Western populations in widespread condemnation of Putin and widespread support of Zelensky and the Ukrainian state. From the fractious years of the 2008 and 2019 financial crises[1] and the strategic failures in Iraq, Libya and Syria, the stagnating transnational elite are constituting new quagmires through which military and economic expansion can be encouraged.

Narrativistic uniformity have produced images of Ukraine and Zelensky as bastions of liberal democracy defending themselves from autocratic colonialism. However, much like post-Soviet Russia, Ukraine is actually a bastion of corruption and monopolistic oligarchy, riven by ethnic divisions and electoral blocs amongst a fragmented political elite. Zelensky himself was backed by Igor Kolomoisky, a media oligarch, and has scuppered reform efforts around healthcare and procurement policies[2]. He has also overseen an ingratiation of far-right and hooligan elements into the Ukrainian security infrastructure which started after the Maidan putsch and continued under Poroshenko[3]. The Azov Battalion and Right Sector are cooperating with the Ukrainian General Staff[4], both during the Donbass conflict and the Russian invasion. Under Zelensky, the language law has bolstered feelings of an anti-Russian bias[5] as Galician groups push nationalistic rhetoric while those in the Russian border regions have supported more conciliatory candidates (like Yanukovych). Both Poroshenko and Zelensky encouraged the shelling of Donbass population centres and the continuation of conflict against the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics. These regimes have been militaristic, corrupt and illiberal, clamping down on disfavoured media outlets, jailing political opponents and arming militias.

But what was fact is now disinformation. This has all been part of the Color Revolution playbook since the Maidan putsch, as American foreign policy elites encouraged rebellious forces to overthrow Yanukovych and expel Russian influence from Kyiv[6]. A controlled chaos within Ukraine has been manipulated to continue Russian encirclement and control key trading routes and ports in the rimland[7], maintaining American and Western European access to Ukrainian grain and natural resources. The Donbass conflict was simply the price paid for such actions, as the continued importance of Western military objectives in increasing NATO’s influence over Europe (thus discouraging both economic cooperation with Russia and autonomous security arrangements within the EU) and the wider military-industrial complex’s control over foreign policy came above humanitarian concerns for thousands killed in the Donbass up to 2022.

However, in emerging from the chaos of Western populism (particularly in the Trump administration) and financial crises, the foreign policy establishment shows growing weaknesses which have meant the full-scale invasions and proxy conflicts in Iraq and Syria respectively are no longer tenable, particularly in a tinderbox like Ukraine. Instead, the extension of soft power and arms shipments have shown a more fragmented, stagnating elite reliant on mercenary armies and controlled chaos. The West is in the grips of a secular stagnation both culturally and politically, with overpopulated elites and forums representing a heterogeneity of interests that are attempting to collate into a new collective mission, reforming and revolutionising the liberal empire.

In such stagnation, there is disintegrative propensity “characterized by a decentralizing tendency, divided elites, a weak state, and internal instability”[8]. An overproduced and undersaturated foreign policy establishment that forms part of a wider liberal transnational class has been unable to come to determinative conclusions regarding what to do in Ukraine. Obviously, intervention and sanctions are required. But what kind of intervention, and how far do they go? The debates around the no-fly zone are indicative. Biden has currently ruled out such a policy, but there are many in his administration and in wider Washington policy circles who want a no-fly zone to further encircle Russia and integrate Ukraine into the NATO security architecture and EU markets.

“It is ‘the West’ again, Middle Earth fighting the Land of Mordor to defend a brave small country that only wants ‘to be like us’ and for the purpose desires no more than being allowed to walk through the open doors of NATO and the EU. Western European governments dutifully suppressed all remaining memories of the deeply rooted recklessness of American foreign policy, induced by the sheer size of the United States and its location on a continental-sized island where nobody can get to them, regardless of the mess they make when their military adventures go wrong”[9].

But this begs the question of what kind of West it now is. The idea of the West as the preserve of freedom or democracy is incredibly thin as it uses social media companies to police “disinformation” into nonexistence and mandates the end of basic freedoms at the whim of medical bureaucracies with no democratic debate or accountability. Whatever the West will be fighting for in Ukraine, it won’t be freedom, but the preservation of a military-economic order premised on liquid financial flows[10] and the petrodollar. Weaning Europe (particularly Germany and Italy) off of Russian gas and economically isolating Russia and its allies (as has been done with Iran) is one part of that equation.

“The succession of stages—from the theological, over the metaphysical and the moral to the economic—simultaneously signifies a series of progressive neutralizations of domains whose centers have shifted”[11]. In the most recent stage, that of technicity that overlays the economic, there emerges a presupposition of progressive incrementation, of ever greater gains and expanding flows that encompass the globe. However, in the condition of stagnation, these presuppositions are increasingly questioned and challenged, producing an interregnum from the economic-technical liberalism to a new stage of capitalist (or postcapitalist) expansion and consolidation.

The situation in Ukraine and the questions it raises are fully encompassed by this interregnum. Foreign policy makers are caught in the “the demand to ‘do something’” which cause “an emergent sense that there is a moral imperative to act paired with a breakdown in the formal decision-making processes designed to force policy makers to carefully weigh the potential consequences of their decisions. Combined these elements make for a ‘pattern of misjudgement’ that changes the way officials ‘weigh the costs and benefits’ of their decisions, as they shift from an attitude of ‘analytical nuance’ to ‘morally charged commitment to acting almost regardless of consequence’”[12]. But this could amount to nothing as popular consensus is lacking. Doing something means Western expansion and liberal imperialism for the achievement of undefined ends, with Ukraine becoming a buffer/warzone in the process.

References to World War II, comparing Putin to Hitler and negotiation to appeasement, show the lack of an effective answer, as things are referenced in the last period of American greatness which established liberal imperialism. Being unable to escape such comparisons shows how such expansion has devolved into an unthinking Atlanticism concerned with preservation and the maintenance of its intercursive flows. “Time no longer rhymes, and as a consequence, both the metaphysical ground for value systems and the repetition of the same collapse into ungroundedness. A repetition persists”[13]. Narratives become fragmented producing cross-currents that combine elite goals and pick and choose from them, using new situations to increase their combinatory potential. Thus the Ukrainian conflict now becomes linked with international moves for digital identification architectures and controlling information flows in the West[14].

Whatever West is chosen, we are now going down the warpath once again as Ukraine becomes the battleground for liberal expansion and the destruction of any resistance. Battlegrounds form internally and externally as imperial expansion in the interregnum is pursued at any cost.







[7] Andrew Korybko, Hybrid Wars

[8] Peter Turchin & Sergey A. Nefedov, Secular Cycles



[11] Carl Schmitt, The Age of Neutralizations and Depoliticizations




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