While negotiations over the war in Ukraine began between the Zelenskyy government and a delegation from Belarus, the Russian army continued to move its soldiers and armored vehicles deeper into Ukrainian territory. This is a wholly reactionary invasion in response to Russia’s geopolitical dispute with NATO over the former’s sphere of influence. But that’s not all: there are also Putin’s nationalist ambitions for “Greater Russia,” which he considers a historical and “natural” appendage of the existing Russian territory.
Before the invasion, in a totally chauvinistic fashion, the Russian president asserted that Ukraine does not exist as an independent entity because he considers it “historically Russian land.” However, his explicit objective is not to liquidate the Ukrainian state. Instead, he seeks to impose “regime change” to keep Ukraine from joining the European Union and NATO and reinforce its alliance with Russia through the CSTO1Collective Security Treaty Organization, a military alliance of post-Soviet states and traditional counterbalance to NATO. and the Eurasian Economic Union. In other words, in geopolitical terms, to ensure that Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus act in a unified manner, under Kremlin direction.
It’s not clear how the invasion will unfold, or whether it seeks to establish a lasting occupation — which would be very difficult to sustain. But with the advance of Russian troops into Ukraine, the reactionary consequences of the invasion are already being felt everywhere. There have been hundreds and perhaps thousands of deaths, depending on which faction you believe. At least 700,000 refugees or displaced people have been created. There are long lines to buy food in the cities, shortages of other things, and much infrastructure has been destroyed. The effects of the invasion will be borne, first and foremost, by the vast majority of the Ukrainian population.
But the conflict will also have grave consequences for the Russian people. The economic sanctions against Russia implemented by the EU, the United States, and imperialist governments such as that of the PSOE-Unidas Podemos in the Spanish State, have already dealt an historic blow to the value of the ruble and caused an unprecedented rise in inflation — a crisis that directly affects the working population. The sanctions aim to stifle the Russian economy and cause long-term suffering to the Russian population as a way to undermine Putin’s regime. At the same time, Putin has been increasing domestic repression against those protesting the war. More than 6,000 people who took part in anti-war demonstrations have been detained so far. Putin has also implemented economic measures in response to the sanctions that affect the Russian people, such as the banking restrictions that prohibit migrant remittances and foreign currency accounts as of this Sunday.
The reactionary consequences of this conflict, however, go far beyond Ukraine and Russia; they are also profound in Western Europe. With the Russian invasion as an excuse, and under the cynical guise of “helping the Ukrainian people” and “defending peace,” the European imperialist states are engaging in a historic rearmament, which in some cases is unprecedented since the World War II. This worldwide surge in imperialist militarism and belligerence can only bring greater suffering and indignities to the working class and oppressed people around the world.
In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s decision to increase military spending and “modernize” the Bundeswehr (the country’s armed forces) is a turning point in post-war Germany’s defense policy. With the approval of German legislators across the political spectrum, Scholz has created a special fund of 100 billion additional euros for the state’s war machine. Furthermore, the percentage of GDP allocated to defense in the German federal budget for 2022 will be increased to more than 2 percent, which is what the United States and the rest of the NATO “allies” have been demanding from Germany for years. This rearmament policy has long-term consequences for Europe and the world that have yet to be seen. The last time Germany embarked on a path of militarism, the result was to exacerbate the already horrible carnage of World War II that resulted in the deaths of 50 to 60 million people, according to the most conservative calculations.
France has also joined the new imperialist militarism and the arms race spreading across Europe. An editorial in Le Monde exultantly argues that “by deciding to provide financial aid to send lethal weapons to Ukrainian forces resisting Russian aggression, the EU has broken a ‘taboo’ and is finally giving itself the means to behave like a world power.”
The European Union, as a community, has indeed decided to finance the shipment of weapons to Ukraine directly. This is an unprecedented move and is all the more unusual considering that Ukraine is a non-member state. The “taboo” being “broken” is inaugurating a new era in the EU’s military policy, as its leaders acknowledge. Poland seems to have been chosen as a logistical center for weapons deliveries to Ukraine, while NATO has increased its military presence in all the border states and in the Black Sea, reinforcing the siege on Russia.
In the Spanish State, there has also been an escalation in military spending after the last increase approved in the midst of the pandemic. Though still far from the threshold of 2 percent of GDP, actual military spending under the 2022 budget approved by the “progressive” administration of the PSOE and Unidas Podemos amounts to more than 22.7 billion euros. This is 124 percent more than the amount allocated to the Ministry of Defense (approximately 10.1 billion euros) and sets a new spending record. In fact, the “progressive” Spanish government joined the war escalation from the beginning, dispatching one of its largest detachments ever for a Spanish intervention abroad.
At the same time, the EU has adopted extraordinary internal Bonapartist measures, such as censorship of RT and Sputnik in European territory, which sets an utterly anti-democratic precedent against freedom of the press and what information people are allowed to access. The EU wants people to learn about what is happening in Ukraine only through “Western” filters and the media campaigns it has organized.
The War in Ukraine and the Urgent Need for an Independent Policy
The war in Ukraine is the first major armed conflict on European territory in the 21st century. Ukraine is a country of 44 million inhabitants that shares borders with Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland, and occupies a strategic area on the Black Sea. The Ukrainian question has thus become the major geopolitical conflict of the moment. It is a conflict in which the Ukrainian people are being used as a bargaining chip and have been driven to a years-long domestic military confrontation as a result of the clash between two reactionary forces: on the one hand, European and North American imperialism, with the support of the Ukrainian governments, from 2014 to the current administration led Zelensky; and, on the other hand, Putin and the Russian capitalist oligarchy, with their plans for a “Great Russia.”
The current Russian invasion adds a new dramatic chapter to the long history of the Russian national oppression of Ukraine, first under the tsarist regime and then under Stalin. This has increased anti-Russian nationalism among a large part of the population, on which Zelenskyy’s administration relies to reinforce the country’s subordination to the reactionary policies of imperialist powers and continue to impose its designs on the Russian-speaking populations of Donbass through far-right violence, as it has been doing for years.
But the cynical discourse of imperialists who claim to defend Ukraine’s “self-determination” and its “freedom” is just a facade for the increased imperialist oppression of Ukraine and imperialism’s own rearmament in the long term. The utter cynicism of this discourse is laid bare by the fact that the imperialists have taken the opposite position in other cases — for example, with respect to their great ally, the reactionary state of Israel and its brutal occupation of Palestinian territories for decades. Other examples include the strategic alliances with Middle Eastern monarchies maintained by Germany, France, the Spanish State, and the United States, not to mention the catastrophes caused by imperialist interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout the world.
Today, more than ever, we can conclude that a progressive solution to this long conflict and the true national self-determination of Ukraine can be achieved onlyif the working class and the masses, both in western Ukraine and in the Donbass region, adopt a policy of independence. NATO and U.S./European imperialism, to which Zelenskyy’s right-wing government is subordinated, are not allies of the Ukrainian working class and masses; they are enemies. The reactionary nationalism of Putin and the Russian capitalist oligarchy, which claims to want to “de-nazify” Ukraine by invading it with armored tanks, does not represent a progressive solution either.
In order to expel Russian troops from Ukraine and achieve a progressive solution to this conflict, the Ukrainian resistance needs to adopt a policy independent from that of NATO and the Zelenskyy administration, based on the self-organization of the Ukrainian workers and people. This means, first of all, organizing the defense of its cities without subordinating themselves to the military instructions and advice of imperialism and its agents. It also means taking whatever measures are necessary to defend itself, like the expropriation of food supplies, and property of the big capitalists, and so on. An independent policy also means rejecting Ukraine’s entry into NATO and the relinquishment of its resources to imperialist multinationals and the IMF. The Ukrainian people who seek to end the Russian invasion must call on Russian soldiers to halt their advance and rebel against Putin’s reactionary policy, while at the same time calling on the workers and people of Russia to mobilize in their country against the war machine.
In the imperialist countries of Europe and the United States, it is essential to develop a huge movement against the war, to demand an end to the Russian invasion and NATO’s imperialist interventions, and to confront the militaristic rearmament of major European states, which can only lead to a replication of the military catastrophes of the 20th century.
Only a revolutionary alliance between the people of Ukraine, Russia, and the rest of the world can put a stop to the ongoing military escalation. A free and independent Ukraine can thus only be fully and effectively achieved as part of the struggle for a socialist Ukraine led by its working class.
Originally published in Spanish on March 1 in La Izquierda Diario.
Translation by B.C. Daurelle and Marisela Trevin
|↑1||Collective Security Treaty Organization, a military alliance of post-Soviet states and traditional counterbalance to NATO.|