Most of the analysis in Monthly Review on the U.S. role in the Ukraine War thus far has focused on the enlargement of NATO (including the U.S./NATO commitment to bring Ukraine into the military alliance), the role of the White House in directing the 2014 Euromaidan coup, and the military and economic aid offered by Washington to Kiev in the eight-year civil war between Kiev and Donbass. It was these events, along with the continual crossing of Moscow’s red lines, that provoked the February 2022 Russian military intervention, turning Ukraine into the site of a full-scale proxy war. We have also examined the growing threat of a global thermonuclear exchange arising in this context, threatening the existence of all of humanity. (On these various aspects of the Ukraine War, plus the increasing U.S. enmity toward China, see John Bellamy Foster, John Ross, and Deborah Veneziale, Washington’s New Cold War: A Socialist Perspective [Monthly Review Press, 2023]).
However, one area that has received much less attention in our analysis is the U.S. goal of using the Ukraine War as a pretext for destroying the Nord Stream natural-gas pipelines running directly from Russia to Germany, viewed by Washington as a direct threat to U.S. power in Europe. The United States fought the building of the Nord Stream in its various stages, declaring again and again that the pipelines would be prevented from operating, one way or another. Nevertheless, the pipelines were built over U.S. objections, with Nord Stream 1 initiated in 2011 and Nord Stream 2 in 2021. Given all of this, it was not entirely surprising that in September 2022, in the midst of the Ukraine War, the Nord Stream pipelines were blown up covertly by the United States with the help of Norway—verified in recent reports by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh (most famous for his reporting on the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War). Moreover, we now know that Washington set up its plans to blow up the Nord Stream even before the 2022 Russian intervention in Ukraine. In the face of this U.S. action, European governments have responded with a deafening silence (Seymour M. Hersh, “How America Took Out the Nord Stream Pipeline,” Substack, February 8, 2023, seymourhersh.substack.com).
In order to get a historical sense of the geopolitical developments that led to the U.S. sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, it is useful to look at the analysis of the late Immanuel Wallerstein, the leading figure in the development of world-systems theory from the 1970s until his death in 2019 and a frequent contributor to Monthly Review. Beginning in the 1980s, Wallerstein introduced the thesis that a Paris-Berlin-Moscow geopolitical bloc was virtually inevitable at some stage, threatening U.S. economic, political, and military hegemony within the world system. Decades later, in an article titled, “The Paris-Berlin-Moscow Axis Back Again,” on November 15, 2011, he saw this as finally coming into being, with the construction of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia to Germany. The Nord Stream was a cooperative venture of Russia’s gas exporter, Gazprom, which owned 51 percent, plus two German companies that owned 31 percent, while 9 percent each was owned by French and Dutch corporations. Wallerstein noted in 2011 that “Both East-Central Europe and the United States are discovering [via the Nord Stream pipeline] that the scheme to prevent the creation of a Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis is not viable.… This is most difficult for Ukraine, which is torn apart by these developments. And the United States? What in fact can they do about it?” (Immanuel Wallerstein, “The Paris-Berlin-Moscow Axis Back Again,” November 15, 2011, iwallerstein.com; Immanuel Wallerstein, “U.S. Weakness and the Struggle for Hegemony,” Monthly Review 55, no. 3 [July–August 2003]: 27).
Three years later, on February 15, 2014, in the midst of the Washington-directed color revolution/coup, Wallerstein pointed out that “Ukraine has been suffering a profound internal schism for some time now, one that is threatening to become one of those ugly civil wars that are occurring in more and more countries. The boundaries of present-day Ukraine include an east-west cleavage that is linguistic, religious, economic, and cultural, each side being close to 50 percent of the total.” Focusing on the role at the time of the U.S. neoconservative Victoria Nuland, then Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, who was the stage manager of the coup, Wallerstein wrote: “Ukraine is merely a convenient excuse or proxy for a larger geopolitical division that has nothing whatsoever to do with its internal schism. What haunts the Nulands of this world is not a putative ‘absorption’ of Ukraine by Russia—an eventuality with which she could live. What haunts her and those who share her views is a geopolitical alliance of Germany/France and Russia.” (Immanuel Wallerstein, “The Geopolitics of Ukraine’s Schism,” February 15, 2014, iwallerstein.com).
If Wallerstein can be faulted somewhat for downplaying the full significance of the internal schism in Ukraine as part of Washington’s plans to initiate a proxy war with Russia while exaggerating the White House’s immediate concerns over the Paris-Berlin-Moscow connection, there is no doubt that the United States was engaged all along in a two-front war not only against Russia, but also against Germany (its putative ally), which, without the Nord Stream pipelines, is now reduced to dependency on U.S. rather than Russian natural gas. The U.S. sabotage of the entire Nord Stream pipeline system was designed to sever permanently this vital economic connection between Germany and Russia, putting the United States into the energy driver’s seat with respect to Europe. It is clear that there can be no rebuilding of the Nord Stream pipelines, given Washington’s decision to employ its military force to destroy them in violation of international law, directed even against its NATO allies.
There is no question that the emergence of a Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis, as Wallerstein suggested, was a real possibility a decade ago. But with the Nord Stream pipelines demolished on the orders of the White House, it is evident that the United States plans to do whatever is necessary to keep Europe subservient to its goal of a unipolar world empire based in Washington. As Victor Grossman wrote in his Berlin Bulletin in February, “Policy-makers in the American seats of power clearly want[ed] to prevent even the weak but potentially growing cooperation between Germany with its European allies and Russia or China, which had been supported by some sectors in Germany, but [has] now been suffocated” (Victor Grossman, “Despair and Joy,” Berlin Bulletin 208, MR Online, February 28, 2023).
In early January 2023, the United States cleared the C-17A Air Force transport plane for shipping B61-12 nuclear bombs to Europe in a more rapid introduction of the bombs than originally scheduled. The Pentagon officially declared—though there is reason to doubt its words—that this has nothing to do with the Ukraine War. The B61-12 nuclear bomb has been designated by the National Interest as “the most dangerous nuclear weapon in America’s arsenal,” because it is the most usable, serving the dual purposes of a strategic nuclear weapon capable of a counterforce first strike against hardened missile silos while also doubling as a tactical nuclear battlefield weapon (Zackery Keck, “Why the B-61-12 Bomb Is the Most Dangerous Nuclear Weapon in America’s Arsenal,” National Interest, October 9, 2018).
The B61-12, although part of the B61 class of nuclear bombs first introduced after the Cuban Missile Crisis, is a new weapon in that, in the words of Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists, it is “the first U.S. guided nuclear gravity bomb,” with a guided tail kit assembly that gives it much greater accuracy. (A warhead twice as accurate is eight times more lethal.) Existing U.S. nuclear bombs have circular error probabilities (CEP) of between 110–170 meters, while the B61-12 has a CEP of 30 meters. It is considered a “low-yield” nuclear weapon, yet has an upper-level yield three times that of the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima. It also has an earth-penetrating capability, meaning that it can explode underground. Launched against an underground target its destructiveness in relation to its target, according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is “the equivalent of a surface-burst weapon with a yield of 1,250 kilotons—[i.e.] the equivalent of 83 Hiroshima bombs,” making it an extraordinarily powerful counterforce, or first-strike weapon (Hans Kristensen, “The C-17A Has Been Cleared to Transport B61-12 Nuclear Bomb to Europe,” Federation of American Scientists, January 9, 2023; “B61-12: New US Nuclear Warheads Coming to Europe in December,” ICAN, December 22, 2022; Hans Kristensen, “Video Shows Earth-Penetrating Capability of B61-12 Nuclear Bomb,” Federation of American Scientists, January 14, 2016).
However, the B61-12 is also a “dial-a-yield” weapon where the explosive yield can be dialed down to 0.3 kilotons or up as high as 5 kilotons. It is thus considered a “tactical” as well as “strategic” nuclear weapon to be delivered to its targets by fighter jets, such as the F-35 stealth fighter, as well as by strategic bombers. The United States is using it to replace its current nuclear weapons in Europe. As a more “usable” nuclear weapon, which is also considered a battlefield weapon, the B61-12 is altering the nuclear threshold in Europe. According to Russia, the B61-12 is particularly threatening due to proximity to Russian targets. Although Russia has 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, these are all currently in storage, while the new B61-12 bombs are to be located in Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, and the Netherlands, “just a short flight from Russia’s borders.” Despite being presented, as always, in terms of “deterrence,” there is no doubt that the introduction of B61-12 nuclear bombs into Europe alters the nuclear balance at both the strategic and tactical levels, and will intensify the nuclear arms race, pushing a world that is already dangerously close to Third World War even closer to Armageddon (Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “The B61 Family of Nuclear Bombs,” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 70, no. 3 (2014): 82–83; Guy Faulconbridge, “Russia Says U.S. Lowering ‘Nuclear Threshold’ with Newer Bombs in Europe,” Reuters, October 29, 2022; Len Ackland and Bert Hubbard, “Obama Pledged to Reduce Nuclear Arsenal, Then Came This Weapon,” Reveal, July 14, 2015, revealnews.org).
Monthly Review author Cliff DuRand died on March 17, 2023, at age 85. DuRand taught for many years at Morgan State University in Baltimore. He cofounded the Radical Philosophy Association with Bob Stone in 1982 and was also a cofounder, with Stone and Elizabeth (Betsy) Bowman, of the Center for Global Justice in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in 2004, where he was for many years a research associate. He organized educational trips to Cuba for forty years, took over three thousand people to Cuba, and was an honorary professor at the University of Havana. He was editor of Recreating Democracy in a Globalized State with Steve Martinot (Clarity Press, 2012) and editor of Moving Beyond Capitalism (Routledge, 2016). His article “Cuba’s New Cooperatives” was published in the November 2017 issue of Monthly Review. Celebrations of his life and legacy are being planned by the Center for Global Justice.
In “John J. Simon: Socialist Writer, Editor, and Broadcaster” in the April 2023 issue, page 23, paragraph 2, line 6, “Michael Reich” should be “Charles Reich.”
In “Half-Earth Socialism and the Path Beyond Capital” in the February 2023 issue, page 50, paragraph 3, line 1 should read: “As Rob Wallace and Max Ajl point out…” and line 18 should refer to “Wallace and Ajl.” In addition, endnote 45 should cite Max Ajl and Rob Wallace, “Red Vegans against Green Peasants,” New Socialist, October 16, 2021.
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