Commentary. To approve increased military spending today is to position the country and its immediate future within a scenario of endless war.

The rearmament trap

While we are absolutely convinced of the need for an alternative left-wing force in this ruinous Italian crisis, we consider the advent of Elly Schlein to the secretariat of the PD as an important opportunity for everyone to have an actual opposition in this country, which has descended into the abyss of the era of the extreme right in government. However, some things are happening that one cannot fail to point out. Especially in these dramatic times, after Putin’s ominous speech announcing the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which, we are reassured, will be “in compliance with the START Treaty,” as if it wasn’t of a nature to bring fear to the world regardless.

Let’s talk about what happened in Brussels on Thursday, March 23, at the meeting of the ESDP, the European Socialist Forces. Along with Schlein, Spanish Prime Minister Sanchez and Finnish Prime Minister Marin and many others, Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary General, also attended – it is unclear in what capacity. This is surprising for a number of different reasons. The first is that none of those present apparently had anything to say against it. Perhaps it was a surprise to many, or perhaps he was invited – but again, in what capacity, since Stoltenberg was indeed a Norwegian Labor leader but only until 2014? Was it perhaps an instance of bringing in the devil’s advocate, giving the floor to a political opponent in order to earn legitimacy?

Or was it a trip down memory lane, replaying the sad history of the neoliberal leftist leaders Clinton, Blair and so many others, who started all the dirty wars that came before Putin’s aggression on Ukraine?

Most likely, Stoltenberg wanted to take advantage at all costs of this “old” forum he used to frequent, concerned about changing positions in a political area that is as sensitive as it is decisive. Thus, along with the topics expected at the ESDP debate, welfare, the Green Deal, immigration, the digital sphere, labor and rights, Stoltenberg came to argue for his own priority, rearmament: “Good discussions with the Party of European Socialists ahead of today’s European Council. We must continue to support Ukraine, ramp up the production of weapons and ammunition, and continue to invest more in our defence,” he tweeted.

It almost feels like Schlein, with her decision to go to Brussels, although in what is supposedly an alternative venue, merely heralded the arrival of Giorgia Meloni in the European capital. Because on the issue of rearmament, it is the right that has the last word and sets the course. Especially if there is silence or confusion on this issue, in Parliament in particular.

And not only that: once upon a time, back when Putin’s villainous war began, there was a significant part of the PD that insisted on a “controlled” approach to sending any weapons, because they needed to be “not offensive but defensive,” and at the same time said no to Italy’s rearmament. This strategy is now faltering, to say the least, given that the West is now sending openly offensive weapons such as fighter-bombers, drones and deadly depleted uranium shells, under the catch-all heading of “defense.” It is not enough to say “we will not let NATO dictate our agenda” if NATO comes to make its demands even at the highest-level meeting of European Socialists.

Because after a year of sending weapons as indirect parties to the war, seen as the sole and absolute answer to the war started by Russia, the arsenals have been emptied, precisely because of the massive arms shipments. It’s no wonder that the Meloni-Crosetto government, for which the Ukraine war serves as insurance policy for both the longevity of its rule and its Atlantic legitimacy, is proposing the increase of military expenditures to replenish the arsenals, which will then be emptied and refilled again, ad infinitum.

There is the target of 2% of GDP in military spending, which was always there at the level of intentions but never ratified or approved by parliaments, including the Italian one, while “virtuous” and trailblazing Poland is aiming for 4 percent. Spread over the years until 2028, this would add up to an extra €13 billion from the state budget. What would you want that money to be spent on? Fine, let’s not put it side by side with social spending, which is being denounced as a “wrong” comparison, while the latter is being nickel-and-dimed and reworked from a private-sector perspective. The crux of the matter is that by choosing this path, we commit to the prospect of prolonged war everywhere.

Indeed, it’s not enough to claim that by 2028 the Ukrainian war will be over (and are we even sure of that?). Because US Secretary of State Blinken is already warning us that China will be able to invade Taiwan “by 2027”; and the war in Syria is picking back up. In short, to approve increased military spending today is to position the country and its immediate future within a scenario of endless war.

But that’s not even the most shocking aspect in all this. A few day ago, for the fourth time in a month and a half, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley said once again that he thought Zelensky’s stated goal, the return to Ukraine’s 1991 borders, was “an extraordinarily difficult goal to achieve militarily” – in essence, that there could be no full victory for either side on the ground. One wonders, then: what is the point of sending new, sophisticated deadly weapons? Our far-right Prime Minister has a ready answer: “To rebalance the forces on the ground.”

But this is not a game of Risk between friends. Now that Putin is redeploying tactical nuclear weapons, what should we do to “rebalance forces” – perhaps send nuclear weapons ourselves, the specter that has stirred again and again in this year of war? Meanwhile, after Bakhmut, everyone is waiting for the spring offensive and corresponding counteroffensive. We are facing decisive moments. So far, we have been on the fringes of World War III, with hard red lines repeatedly crossed “by accident” – serious incidents, but exceptions, and we managed to avoid their consequences in the end. Now, in the final confrontation, there will be more and more such moments.

The whole world is at risk. A good number of countries in the global South want negotiations, and China went to the wolf’s den in Moscow, while being shouted down from all sides.

Now everyone is looking to Beijing and discovering “interesting points in the Chinese proposal,” like the Spanish PM Sanchez; however, alas, they seem more concerned about the fate of Western economies and their entanglement with China. But the only real option is the strategy of negotiation, not rearmament – not even the “democratic” kind.

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