I AM in Paris. It is a bright spring morning. The world’s woes seem a million miles away. Yet they are anything but. Municipal buildings here are flying Ukrainian yellow and blue flags as well as the tricolour. While the world is obviously pre-occupied with the Ukraine crisis and Putin’s massive miscalculation, it is worth this Monday morning considering the implications for all our futures.

This is the first major land and air war in Europe since 1945. That is important in itself. I have friends who are distraught that the West is reacting to the plight of Ukrainians while resolutely ignoring the humanitarian crisis being inflicted on the Yemen with the help of British bombs. I feel that way myself. Indeed, the conflict in Yemen has intensified since January, with massive civilian casualties and US military reinforcements being rushed to the Gulf. But hardly anyone cares in Britain.

Yet there is a difference between the war in Ukraine and the equally – if not even more – horrific conflict in Yemen. A difference that perhaps explains why ordinary folk in Scotland are more worried by a European war than one in the Arabia peninsular. Put simply, there is every possibility that a generalisation of the conflict with Moscow could lead the world into thermonuclear war. Putin has already rattled his nuclear sabre.

The reality of the Ukrainian crisis is that it shifts the world from an era of neo-colonial and oil wars into a new period of potential direct conflicts between the great powers. We stand on the brink of a new 1914 with global catastrophe to follow.

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From 1945 till now, the world order has been relatively stable. This was due initially to a balance of terror between America and the Soviet Union (though in truth the US held a preponderance of military might). This was followed after 1989 by a period of US supreme hegemony – a phase that US capitalism happily squandered in pointless regional adventures and humiliating Moscow.

The Ukrainian imbroglio represents a step change. More than 20 countries are rushing military aid to the embattled Kyiv administration. Crucially, they include Germany. Berlin has dumped both its opposition to supplying Ukraine with weapons and its historic outreach to Moscow. Germany has also announced a massive increase in defence spending, meaning it will divert resources from internal investment – its traditional source of economic advantage – to arms.

This convulsion in the European order has historic implications for the world – implications that go far beyond Ukraine. For 20 nations in Europe to decide to fight a proxy war with Moscow represents a default to the old Europe of permanent conflict.

Neutrals such as Sweden and Finland are already contemplating joining Nato – perhaps the best proof of the failure of Putin’s adventurism. Such a remilitarised Europe is no longer the stable continent we all grew up in. The next generation will experience increasing political stability as the EU, Russia and greater Turkey vie for economic living space. Such tensions have previously caused two global conflicts.

The return of global political instability is of course also a product of US-Chinese rivalry. But surely Putin’s adventurism is a by-product of Moscow’s recent rapprochement with Beijing. I suspect President Xi

is privately appalled by Putin’s recklessness. But China felt betrayed by America’s decision to launch a defensive commercial war against its high-tech industries and saw a new alliance with Moscow as a way of putting pressure on Washington. This is proof, if proof is needed, that once the old US hegemony collapsed we were bound to enter a new period of chaos regardless of the intensions of the human actors involved.

There are profound economic implications arising from this new era of inter-imperialist rivalry. Much of the economic growth since 1989 has been funded by the transfer of military budgets to private investment, channelled via neoliberal tax cuts. But the remilitarisation of the globe means higher taxes and lower spending on public services. The military-industrial complex is going to eat the lion’s share of extra spending from now on.

According to the respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, world military spending rose by 2.6% in real terms in 2020. That was in a year when global GDP actual fell because of Covid. But recent military spending increases will now be dwarfed in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine.

China has announced a 7.1% increase for this year. In December, the US Congress voted $28 billion in new funds for modernisation of America’s nuclear warhead stock.

The Tory Government in Britain has announced a £16.5bn increase in defence spending which is nowhere near enough to fund all its new arms programmes. In the cock-eyed way we measure economic growth, these multiple new military spending projects will count as expansion. In reality, consumer welfare will be traded for guns and bombs.

This has serious implications for an independent Scotland. The SNP Growth Report of 2018 actually promised a cut in defence spending in order to cut the supposed budget deficit inherited from the UK. Andrew Wilson, the Growth Report author, suggested a defence budget of 1.6% of GDP. Subsequently, the SNP leadership has talked about meeting the Nato target for spending 2% of GDP on arms.

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But the Ukraine crisis has blown these notional targets out of the water. We are looking at defence spending of 3% or 4% of GDP in coming years, if not 5%. Which means the SNP Growth Report calculations are now obsolete. Worse, the road is now open to the SNP not only embracing EU and Nato re-armament but accepting allied nuclear weapons on Scottish soil. Soon you will hear siren voices in the SNP tell us we cannot remove Trident “immediately” without giving comfort to Putin.

There is an alternative to this new arms race. The ordinary people of the world can unite to oppose the re-emergence of military blocs. We can stand shoulder to shoulder against the new military spending binge – which is being actively supported by the defence industries. The share price of German defence contractors soared after that country’s new military spending plans were announced. The share price of Germany’s big tank maker, Rheinmetall AG, jumped 31% overnight.

Many will say I am being naive. That Putin is the new Hitler but with atom bombs. That the Western democracies need to re-arm to protect out liberal values and way of life in the face of a new brutality. But militarising politics and the economy carries its own logic. We are about to hand the world over to the generals and the arms makers. We are about to replace politics with force – ultimately, nuclear force. Before we accede to that terminal fate, it behoves some of us to stand out against the new militarisation.

Here in Scotland, joining the Gadarene rush to a stronger Nato means abandoning the sort of economic renaissance and new social democracy that independence was supposed to be about. It means guns rather than butter. Better we take time to reflect. A global peace movement can be built. War – nuclear war – is not an inevitability.