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A staggering recklessness has overtaken the American ruling class. It is treating the prospect of nuclear war, which would mean the deaths of millions and the potential annihilation of life on the planet, as a real possibility that must not be allowed to deter its geopolitical objectives in waging war against Russia over Ukraine.

In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired Sunday, US President Joe Biden was asked by interviewer Scott Pelley, “As Ukraine succeeds on the battlefield, Vladimir Putin is becoming embarrassed and pushed into a corner. And I wonder, Mr. President, what would you say to him if he is considering using chemical or tactical nuclear weapons?”

To this, the president replied, “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. You will change the face of war unlike anything since World War II.” The reference to World War II is telling. Though Biden did not mention it, it was the United States that decided at the end of that war to drop two atomic bombs on Japan, killing more than a quarter million people. The US remains the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons in war.

Skipping over this historical fact, Biden went on to make clear that the prospect of nuclear war would not alter the war aims of the United States. “Winning the war in Ukraine is to get Russia out of Ukraine completely,” he said. “They’re defeating Russia. Russia’s turning out not to be as competent and capable as many people thought they were gonna be.”

By getting “Russia out of Ukraine completely,” Biden is referencing the Ukrainian goal of militarily retaking Crimea, which Russia considers part of its territory and which, according to Russian doctrine, could be defended with nuclear weapons. 

In fact, the US goals go much further. In the wake of the collapse of Russian forces in northern Ukraine, a mood of euphoria and triumphalism has taken hold in the US political establishment. The American ruling class is determined to press the offensive.

This was expressed in a front-page article by New York Times national security reporter David Sanger, who serves as a semi-official conduit for statements by the US military and intelligence apparatus.

Under the headline, “Ukraine Wants the U.S. to Send More Powerful Weapons. Biden Is Not So Sure,” Sanger and his three coauthors write:

American officials believe they have, so far, succeeded at “boiling the frog” — increasing their military, intelligence and economic assistance to Ukraine step by step, without provoking Moscow into large-scale retaliation with any major single move.

They say that Mr. Putin almost certainly would have pushed back hard if Washington had, at the outset of the war, provided Ukraine with the kind of support it is getting now, such as intelligence that has allowed Ukraine to kill Russian generals and target arms depots, tanks and Russian air defenses with precision-guided rocket attacks.

The Times article is significant in a number of respects. First, it is another acknowledgement that the US has been directing this war from the very beginning, indeed before the beginning. It provoked the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February by systematically arming Ukraine and encouraging its plans, officially adopted last year, to retake Crimea by military means.

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