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The drums of war are beating in Eastern Europe. NATO has been increasing its armed deployment on its eastern flank, having dispatched planes and ships, while Russia amasses troops along the Ukrainian border. The United States and Western powers claim that Putin is preparing a military invasion of Ukraine. The Russian president denies that his objective is the occupation of his neighbor. Instead, it seems to be a show of strength aimed at negotiating on better terms with the Biden administration over a set of demands considered “red lines”: that Ukraine remains neutral, that NATO halts its expansion toward Russia’s borders, and that NATO withdraws its missiles and tactical weapons from the countries of the former Soviet bloc. While the diplomatic track continues, the escalation of tensions has the region and the world on edge.
The latest episode in the Ukraine crisis is the written response of NATO and the United States rejecting Putin’s demand to stop NATO’s eastward expansion. The Kremlin’s reaction will be known in the coming days. While armed conflict cannot be ruled out — upcoming exercises associated with these military deployments risk accidents or unforeseen events — it does not seem the most likely outcome at this stage. What is likely is that the dispute will continue to heat up in eastern Ukraine.
The Biden administration’s policy is to avoid getting involved in such a conflict in the heart of Europe, which would involve powers with nuclear arms. The U.S. president inflamed the situation a few days ago, accusing Russia of wanting to invade Ukraine. However, the U.S. weapon of choice for dealing with the challenge posed by Putin is to tighten economic sanctions. That was the West’s response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. This sanctions policy is underpinned by a growing military threat. It is a fact that, contrary to what Washington pretends, this all tends to act as a factor in a growing rapprochement between China and Russia on the Asia-Pacific chessboard.
NATO’s armed deployment includes ships sent by the Spanish government, a frigate and fighter planes from Denmark, and more than 170 tons of U.S. military equipment. The United States has also put 8,500 of its soldiers stationed in the Baltic countries on “high alert.” France has pledged to send troops to Romania, and the Netherlands is providing ships, aircraft, and ground units. At the same time, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Baltic countries have been directly arming the Ukrainian government.
Germany, for its part, has important interests in its relationship with Russia and is trying to avoid an armed conflict on the continent. Some German government ministers have even talked about the possibility of halting the startup of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, with the aim of putting strangling pressure on Russia. This would be a very costly decision, given that an escalation of the conflict could jeopardize — in the middle of winter — the supply of energy that Germany imports mainly from Russia. The European Union (EU) has the blackmail of new economic sanctions on the table as well.
The escalation of the conflict with Russia is generating more tensions within the EU. Once again, the crisis has revealed the divisions between the imperialist powers, based on each one’s own interests. That is why German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has refused, thus, to send any arms to Ukraine and will not allow the use of German airspace to send arms from NATO countries to Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. The “progressive” Spanish government, meanwhile, has more openly aligned itself with the U.S. line. The reality is that the Ukraine crisis is fast becoming a litmus test of each European country’s position within the U.S. sphere of influence. The new sanctions being discussed are also aimed at weakening an allied power — Germany — that is not fully aligned with U.S. plans.
Beyond these differences, though, it is U.S. imperialism and its European allies that are primarily responsible for the warmongering escalation in Eastern Europe. Joe Biden’s administration has enjoyed the majority support of both the Democratic and Republican parties with respect to Ukraine, after months of tensions and differences between the two parties over the domestic agenda. This demonstrates that there is bipartisan agreement with respect to imperialism’s most pressing interests.
The response of Russia, which has been building up its military forces on the border while supporting all the authoritarian regimes of the former Soviet Union, in no way represents a progressive alternative for the peoples of the region. This was seen recently in Russia’s support for the bloody repression of the workers’ and popular revolt in Kazakhstan, as well as in Belarus. The Chinese Bonapartist bureaucracy’s support for Putin is a sign that nothing good can come from this regime.
Volodymyr Zelensky, head of Ukraine’s EU-friendly government, has in the past two years received substantial financial and military aid from the EU and from both the Trump and Biden administrations in the United States. In recent months, this has been reinforced by the direct dispatch of naval forces to the Black Sea.
More than 30 years after the end of the Cold War, the United States maintains a hostile policy towards Russia (which after China is the second conflict scenario in the new imperialist security strategy). Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States and NATO have pursued a strategy of encircling and reducing Russian influence. The aim was to limit Putin’s aspirations to restore Russia to the status of a great power and block his eventual alliance with China. This squeeze is reinforced by NATO’s expansion throughout the former Soviet bloc, an expansion that has gained momentum since 1989, with half of NATO’s current members having joined since then. Behind this deployment, there is an American strategic imperative to maintain its influence on the Old Continent and avoid its European allies — Germany in particular — acting autonomously.
Ukraine is at the center of this NATO dispute with Russia. The confrontation is behind recent conflicts such as the one in Georgia in 2008, the one that split Ukraine after the reactionary movement in Maidan Square in 2014, and the current escalation of tensions that could lead to a reactionary war.
Putin’s Bonapartist Government Defends the Interests of Russia’s Oligarchy
The response of Putin’s Bonapartist regime to this imperialist offensive has been equally reactionary: its invasion of the pro-Russian region of Donbass (the so-called “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk); the annexation of Crimea; and its support of reactionary and unpopular governments such as those in Belarus and Kazakhstan. In the latter, just a few weeks ago, a popular uprising against the increase in gas prices was brutally, bloodily repressed. The build-up of troops on the border with Ukraine and the escalation of the conflict is an attempt to curb NATO expansionism in what Russia considers its zone of influence. But it is also part of Putin’s attempt to increase Russia’s influence in the republics of the former Soviet Union that share the same type of anti-democratic regime as Russia, and to prevent any destabilizing movement emerging from them. All this plays out despite the majority opinion among the Russian public, which is united with the Ukrainians by thousands of ties and opposed to any kind of war.
The conflict in Ukraine is a consequence of the process of capitalist restoration in the former Soviet Union, which brought to power local oligarchies throughout the region that have plundered state property and amassed enormous fortunes. They have been deeply divided between pro-Russian wings and sectors sympathetic to integration into the EU and NATO. All this has unfolded against the backdrop of an unparalleled deterioration of living conditions. In these countries, the advance of capitalist restoration and the penetration of imperialist capital has driven a process of privatization and dispossession of the working class and poor masses. Attacks on their living conditions have been carried out through the policies of both the pro-Western and pro-Russian governments.
For an Independent Way Out; For a Workers’ and Socialist Ukraine
The perspective of those who have signed this declaration is that this conflict requires an independent and socialist position. The American and European imperialisms, together with their puppet governments like that in Ukraine, offer only a reactionary path. Putin’s government and the rest of the pro-Russian reactionary governments are no progressive alternative. Only through a policy of independence will it be possible to confront imperialism, Putin’s reactionary policies, and the reactionary nationalisms that divide Ukraine — whether the neo-Nazi pro-Western nationalist organizations that support the Ukrainian government or the pro-Russian nationalists.
An independent and socialist policy means a firm position against NATO’s warmongering deployment. That is why we encourage mobilizations demanding the withdrawal of all NATO troops and the closure of its military bases, as well as the cancellation of all economic sanctions. At the same time, we denounce the “diplomatic path” that several EU governments are betting on as a cover for the same NATO policy of imperialist expansion. These countries do not want to go to war with Russia because it would force them to apply sanctions that would be counterproductive for their own economies. That is why they are looking to reopen a dialogue with Putin, as French president Emmanuel Macron has been doing. The same goes for the parties of the institutional Left that are part of imperialist governments, such as Podemos in the Spanish State and the Greens in Germany.
As internationalists and socialists, we reject any idea that Putin’s government could be an alternative to imperialism that is favorable to the workers and poor masses. That idea, held by various populist and Stalinist sectors across the world, is an endorsement of Putin’s reactionary policies, which defends only his own interests, those of the Russian oligarchy, and reactionary and repressive governments.
Decades of Russian oppression of Ukraine, enforced by Stalinism, opened the way for the country’s anti-Russian nationalism and Western anti-communist propaganda. This explains, in part, the rise of extreme right-wing nationalist groups such as the followers of Stepan Bandera, a Polish ultra-nationalist leader who was a Nazi collaborator. These groups are deeply anti-Russian and seek to ally themselves with Western powers, as they did the reactionary Euromaidan movement of 2014. For his part, Putin uses Russian “patriotism” for his own reactionary ends.
Against those who seek to deepen the imperialist penetration and semi-colonization of the country, the only realistic perspective for Ukraine to become independent is to expropriate the oligarchs and break its submission to the West. It must break all its agreements with the IMF and the tutelage of the financial organizations, and prevent the surrender of its natural resources to the multinationals. That is to say, to fight against the capitalists requires the perspective of an independent working-class and socialist Ukraine.
Only this way out, led by the working class, down a path of a working-class and socialist Ukraine, can guarantee the respect of all democratic and national rights, as well as an end to systematic plunder at the hands of foreign companies and the local oligarchies. Moreover, this would undoubtedly be a source of great inspiration for the working class and oppressed youth in Russia, who are today enduring a huge social crisis and the authoritarian policies of the Bonapartist government. Perhaps this could pave the way for a new social revolution in that country.
Finally, the internationalist socialists who are part of the La Izquierda Diario International Network call for developing a united mobilization against the escalation of war. We do so especially in those countries that are part of NATO, where we denounce and oppose the imperialist policy of our own governments.
Signed by the groups constituting the Trotskyist Fraction – Fourth International:
Argentina: Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS, Socialist Workers Party)
Bolivia: Liga Obrera Revolucionária – Cuarta Internacional (LOR–CI, Revolutionary Workers League – Fourth International)
Brazil: Movimiento Revolucionário de Trabalhadores (MRT, Revolutionary Workers’ Movement)
Catalunya: Corrent Revolucionari de Treballadors I Treballadores (CRT, Revolutionary Workers Current)
Chile: Partido de Trabajadores Revolucionaria (PTR, Revolutionary Workers’ Party)
Costa Rica: Organización Socialista Revolucionária (OS, Revolutionary Socialist Organization)
France: Courant Communiste Révolutionnaire (CCR, Revolutionary Communist Current)
Germany: Revolutionäre Internationalistische Organisation (RIO, Revolutionary Internationalist Organization)
Italy: Frazione Internazionalista Rivoluzionaria (FIR, Revolutionary Internationalist Fraction)
Mexico: Movimiento de los Trabajadores Socialista (MTS, Socialist Workers Movement)
Peru: Corriente de Socialista de las y los Trabajadores (CST, Socialist Workers Current)
Spanish State: Corriente Revolucionária de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras (CRT, Revolutionary Workers Current)
United States: Left Voice
Uruguay: Corriente de Trabajadores Socialista (CTS, Socialist Workers Current)
Venezuela: Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (LTS, Workers League for Socialism)