Now it is an industrial war

Sovjetunionen vant krigen mot Hitler fordi landet hadde klart å bygge en industri som kunne forsyne de militære styrkene med det de trengte. Her fra en sovjetisk propagandaplakat.

Is the West ready for it – is Norway ready for it?

Pål Steigan.

It is now clear that the US and NATO will send tanks and other heavy weapons to Ukraine to maintain the proxy war against Russia. And it is equally clear that Russian artillery will reduce these tanks, howitzers, and missile platforms to scrap metal almost as soon as they arrive. This means that this new world war has now become an industrial war. Who can produce enough weapons quickly enough?

(We wrote world war. For now, the Western lineup looks like this:)

Now, it is not entirely certain that Western leaders mean what they say. They have been handed a speech and are delivering it. But whether rearmament means rearmament in reality is another matter. Aurelien points this out in the article «They Say They Want Rearmament….»

For example, a Western leader may say, «We will increase the military budget by 20% over the next five years.» It sounds powerful. But with today’s inflation, it could mean that the real military budget remains the same. Many of these statements will satisfy the public at NATO summits and the like, and here one must read what is hardly mentioned in small print before one knows what is actually being said.

What is clear is that the West today does not have the industrial capacity needed to keep pace with Russian industry in terms of producing tanks, artillery, missiles, and ammunition in large enough quantities quickly enough.

H I Sutton has created this illustration based on promises from NATO countries. Zelensky calls the twelve countries that have promised tanks «a tank coalition»:

But this scrapes the bottom of the barrel for most countries. When these weapons are destroyed, they don’t have much left in their own defense. And it will take them months and years to get back on track.

The West is weak where it matters

Aurelien writes in the quoted article:

«We must start from the recognition that the West is weak where it matters. Thirty years of operation, and a steady movement away from a capacity for intensive land-air combat, and a concentration on abilities to combat insurgency, has left the West with small, weak conventional forces in places where they may be necessary. This would not matter if the relationship with Russia, the great military power on the continent, were good, but they are poor and getting much worse. Furthermore, NATO is sending so much of its own equipment to Ukraine that it is becoming increasingly weaker. The United States itself now has little actual combat power deployed in Europe.»

Before the Second World War, even medium-sized imperialist powers had their own arms industries and the supply chains needed to supply them with components, parts, and equipment. Now they don’t. In the name of globalization, large parts of industry have been outsourced, and if the brave Western warriors are to rearm, they will find that it is not so easy.

Even for the United States, the fact is that their industrial base is rotting away.

This is evident from the report INDUSTRIAL CAPABILITIES from the Pentagon to the US Congress. Dmitry Orlov comments on this report in his own blog in the article War Profiteers and the Demise of the US Military-Industrial Complex.

Two-thirds of all Pentagon military contracts are placed with «the big six»: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, General Dynmics, BAE Systems, and Boeing. All the other 28,000 companies that produce for the war machine are organized as subcontractors by them in a pyramid system with five teams, where each team tries to tap the team above for as much money as possible.

At the top level, this looks organized and impressive, but digging down into the system, as shown in the Pentagon’s own report, it turns out that the system is crumbling. For example, the US has only one shipyard that can produce aircraft carriers: Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport, Virginia. That shipyard has three docks, two of which are used to repair the aircraft carriers that already exist to keep them seaworthy. The same problem exists for building submarines and other naval vessels. The capacity is no longer there. The situation is somewhat better with the production of fighter jets, but when the current generation of planes is developed, it will take so long for the next one that the competence among engineers and other professionals will slowly be lost.

The production of tanks is in a full-blown crisis. According to the report, the US has lost the expertise to build new tanks. In fifteen years, not a single new tank has been built; only repairs and improvements have been made on the old ones.

The machine tool industry in the US is in a dire state. Once at the top of the world, it now ranks sixth. The Pentagon states that US manufacturers are completely dependent on foreign producers. The workforce of skilled workers and engineers is leaving the job market, and very few new ones are entering. And who dominates the machine tool industry in the world? That’s right: China (25%), followed by Germany (17%). The US has a market share of only 7%.

The report states that US industry is now unable to produce artillery guns with barrels over 40 millimeters. Similar problems are emerging in sector after sector. The shutdown of industry in the US has been so massive that the entire network of companies that previously produced for the military-industrial complex has either moved out or is so neglected that they cannot do their job. The same applies to access to chemicals for the ammunition industry and rare minerals and metals for all forms of the weapons industry. The main source of rare earth deliveries needed in all forms of data technology and control systems has been China, followed by Russia.

As for the production of printed circuits, which are components in most advanced weapon systems, China has a market share of 50% and the US has a share of 5% (report page 75).

Is the world’s largest military power bankrupt?

In the article «Gradually and Then Suddenly: Explaining the Navy’s Strategic Bankruptcy,» Christopher Dougherty wrote in the Pentagon-affiliated War on the Rocks that:

«The U.S. Navy is on the verge of strategic bankruptcy. Its fleet isn’t large enough to meet global day-to-day demands for naval forces. Due to repeated deployments and maintenance backlogs, the fleet also isn’t ready enough to meet these demands safely, nor can it quickly surge in an emergency. Finally, the fleet isn’t capable enough to meet the challenges posed by China’s increasingly modern and aggressive People’s Liberation Army Navy. How did this happen to a force that, as recently as two decades ago, dominated the world’s oceans to a degree perhaps unequalled in human history? The answer is gradually and then suddenly.»

This is a sober analysis. However, the US is the world’s largest military power, and with its advanced weapons industry and financial resources, the US could relatively easily turn the trend around. The country could implement a military-industrial planned economy, as it did during World War II, and essentially create new weapons out of the ground like Saruman with his army of orcs in The Lord of the Rings, or like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

The capital and expertise exist, but there are also many other factors that need to be in place to become a superpower par excellence.

The necessary skilled workers are lacking.

The average age for industrial welders in the US is 57 years, and there will be a shortage of 400,000 by 2024. Not only has the industrial infrastructure deteriorated, but the industrial culture and expertise have also decayed. Of course, new skilled workers can be trained, but it takes time, and they must be recruited from a group of people who actually want to work in the industry.

Today, woke culture has ensured that the male industrial worker has a status well below that of vermin, and the situation is not much better for industrial engineers. Universities, which once defined what is world-class, are too busy producing snowflakes for new rounds of linguistic and literary auto-da-fés that they can hardly spare time to educate industrial specialists.

All the critical industries that modern military industry relies on are in acute shortage of expertise, according to the 2019 Pentagon report.

The skills gap has become so great that it could cost the US $2.5 trillion over the next decade, writes Industry Week.

And what about morale?

To achieve the enormous effort needed to regain their positions in this industrial war against Russia (and China), the West must reinvent itself. NATO countries must create an industry they no longer have, which requires creating an industrial working class they no longer have and soldiers for armed forces they no longer have.

This means they must motivate young people not to pursue another bachelor’s degree in critical gender theory, but instead begin a course in industrial welding. And they must be prepared to sacrifice their lives in the wars they cheer on in social media. Will this happen?

We allow ourselves to doubt it.

The USA and the West are now in the position that the Western Roman Empire was in before its downfall. The wealthy get richer on wars in the colonies fought by the barbarians in the empire’s uniforms. The currency has long been worthless, and the population would much rather watch gladiatorial battles in the circus, i.e., reality shows, and play their social games at the state’s expense than die for the empire.

And what about raw materials?

Europe’s misfortune is that this western peninsula on the vast Eurasian continent doesn’t have many resources to speak of. It’s embarrassingly clear that Europe doesn’t have oil and gas. And their wise decision to avoid coal and nuclear power means they barely have enough energy to sustain a civilized society, let alone a military-industrial renaissance.

Norway is a special case. We actually have the resources, both energy and minerals. Norwegian minerals were important for the German war industry, and after the war, a world-leading metallurgical industry was created based on super cheap hydroelectric power. Now, the geniuses in government and bureaucracy have created a pricing system that kills this industry in the short term.

Aurelien writes:

«Finally, there’s the problem of raw materials: defense equipment is made of stuff, mats, and Europe is generally quite poor in the raw materials required. World War II was unbilledly an industrial production war, in what the victors (the US, Russia, and Britain) had access to raw materials that the defeated (Germany and Japan) did not. Inside, David Edgerton has plausibly argued that Britain’s ability to rearm in the 1930s, and to surviv between 1939 and 1941, was mainly cause the navy was able to secure the trade routes from the colonies. It’s not too much to say that it was the empire that saved Britain from Hitler, and it was actual the French empire that made it possible for the country to bounce back. Needless to say, the world is no longer like that. (The three largest aluminum producers in the world are China, India,and Russia.)«

The opponents have superior access to raw materials.

In a report from the U.S. Geological Survey in 2018, an overview was presented of the critical raw materials necessary for the war industry. The report was titled “Critical Mineral Resources of the United States: Economic and Environmental Geology and Prospects for Future Supply.”

In the summary, the authors write:

«Mineral commodities are essential for economic growth, improving the quality of life, ensuring national defense, and the functioning of modern society in general. Minerals are being used in larger quantities than ever before and in an increasingly diverse range of applications. With the growing demand for a significantly more diverse range of mineral raw materials, there is a renewed recognition that competition and conflict over mineral resources can pose significant risks to the production industries that rely on them. In addition, the production of many mineral raw materials has become concentrated in relatively few countries (e.g., tungsten, rare earth elements, and antimony in China; niobium in Brazil; and platinum group elements in South Africa and Russia), thereby increasing the risk of supply disruptions due to political, social, or other factors. At the same time, an increasing awareness and sensitivity to potential environmental and health issues caused by mining and processing many mineral commodities could further constrain mineral supplies.»

For a number of these commodities – graphite, manganese, niobium, and tantalum – the United States is currently completely dependent on imports to meet its needs, the report states.

China produces 90 percent of the rare earth minerals that have become so important in all computer-based industries.

Manganese. The Department of Defense «considers manganese one of the most critical mineral commodities for the United States because it is both essential to industry and has no substitutes, and because of the potential for and likely consequences of supply disruptions,» the report says.

And so it continues. Cobalt, titanium, vanadium and so on.

Read: Some Essential Reading on Strategic Minerals

The US is poor in all of these. And Europe is even poorer. And then the old world will wage industrial war against Russia and China! Then it will be with them as with the empire before them.

The original

Nå er det en industrikrig

Translation: Kristin Oldeide.

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Pål Steigan
Pål Steigan. f. 1949 har jobbet med journalistikk og medier det meste av sitt liv. I 1967 var han redaktør av Ungsosialisten. I 1968 var han med på å grunnlegge avisa Klassekampen. I 1970 var han med på å grunnlegge forlaget Oktober, der han også en periode var styreleder. Steigan var initiativtaker til og første redaktør av tidsskriftet Røde Fane (nå Gnist). Fra 1985 til 1999 var han leksikonredaktør i Cappelens forlag og utga blant annet Europas første leksikon på CD-rom og internettutgaven av CAPLEX i 1997. Han opprettet bloggen og ga den seinere til selskapet Mot Dag AS som gjorde den til nettavis. Steigan var formann i AKP(m-l) 1975–84. Steigan har skrevet flere bøker, blant annet sjølbiografien En folkefiende (2013).