22nd January 2022
Ukrainian soldiers practice with US weaponry – January 2022
Ever since the defeat of the Soviet Union in 1991, followed by the slide of the Russian Federation into gangster capitalism and the rightward shift of many former Soviet and Eastern European states, there has been the potential for conflict with the West. Inter-imperialist rivalry has been a key feature of world politics since before World War 1 and however it is currently dressed, in talk of globalisation for example, it has not fundamentally changed.
Capitalism is driven by expansion, whether that is through territory, economic influence, strategic resource control or sheer military force, new conquests and new markets are always on the agenda.
The opening up of markets and influence which ‘victory’ in the Cold War afforded Western capitalists has been reflected in the incorporation of former socialist states into both the European Union and NATO; the annexation of the former German Democratic Republic into a ‘unified’ German state; and the creeping economic and military encirclement of Russia.
The flaw in the West’s plan for the post Soviet era was a failure to recognise that the beast it had unleashed in the East, in the form of the gangster capitalists of Russia, may have demands of their own and may not take kindly to the diktats of the West. There is also the fact that Russia’s new regime inherited a substantial military arsenal, as well as a not insignificant economic capability and major geo-politically important resources, in the form of oil and gas reserves.
Inheriting the Soviet Union’s seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council also meant that, whoever was in the post Soviet driving seat in Russia, was always going to be a key strategic player. In European terms Germany, always keen to maintain its economic and political dominance of the EU, does not seek an economically strong rival to the East.
Germany has been well placed to benefit from the pool of cheap labour, which the incorporation of the former socialist states in Eastern Europe was designed to achieve for the EU. The free movement of labour has merely been a cover for the easier exploitation of cheap labour by the established EU states.
This has also allowed German market expansion into Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and the Balkan states, with Ukraine firmly in the sights, as both a key market and source of strategic resources.
NATO troops and heavy weaponry are already positioned as far forward as Poland and in the Baltic states, with military exercises in those countries having been a key feature of recent years. Additional Western firepower has been provided to the Ukrainian government today, to counter the much hyped ‘threat’ of a Russian invasion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is by no means an innocent player, as Andrew Murray states,
“…he presides over an authoritarian regime run mainly in the interests of the oligarchic groups which have seized the wealth of the USSR. It is a brazenly corrupt system, which has concocted an ideology mixing Russian chauvinism and Orthodox-influenced social conservatism…” (The Empire and Ukraine Manifesto Press 2015)
For Putin though, a Ukraine on the Russian border, as a member of the EU and armed by NATO, is regarded as unacceptable, the equivalent of Russia forging an alliance and stationing troops in Mexico.
The relative decline of the United States as the world’s dominant economic force, challenged by China on that front; the struggle of the EU to maintain both political unity and economic influence; and the reassertion of Russia as a force on the European front, make Ukraine a very real potential flashpoint, in both economic and military terms.
The ever compliant Western media focus upon the number of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, failing to point out that these troops are actually in Russia, unlike the troops and weaponry which NATO has been amassing for years in countries neighbouring Russia, as part of its strategy of encirclement.
The roots of the current crisis run deep. In November 2013 the elected president of Ukraine at the time, Victor Yanukovych, was negotiating with the EU to move Ukraine closer to the EU but not by directly joining. His aim was to broker an economic deal that would benefit Ukraine, the EU and Russia, if possible. Via Ukraine, the EU could access Russian energy resources and Russia would gain new customers. As the intermediary, Ukraine could win financially by playing the pipeline middle man and getting cheaper gas for itself.
However, the EU wanted Ukraine to keep paying inflated prices and to stick to a burdensome debt repayment schedule. Putin then offered Ukraine a better deal than what the EU was offering, with Russian gas for up to a third less and help paying off debt. Yanukovych, who did not want to impose the austerity on his people that the EU was demanding, accepted Putin’s offer.
In response, the nationalist right wing in Ukraine, led by openly fascist organisations, began to whip up protests. Yanukovych overreacted with police violence against demonstrators, and many were killed. Things spiralled out of control, and he fled to Russia as a fascist coup openly backed by the U.S. seized control in Kiev under the guise of “restoring law and order.” Again, EU and NATO expansionist desires were resulting in bloodshed.
Clearly a military conflict will not benefit the people of Ukraine, Russia or the West, as any escalation is in danger of degenerating quickly into a Europe wide conflict or worse. The moves towards more arms and ammunition being supplied to Ukraine by the West must be stopped and exposed as the provocation they clearly are.
Opposition to further imperialist war must be the priority for progressive organisations across the world. Opposing NATOs war drive is by no means an endorsement of Putin but mass opposition to it may just save thousands of lives.
The position of the Stop the War Coalition should be widely circulated, stating,
“Stop the War demands an end to the relentless expansion of NATO, which has only added to international tension, particularly as NATO has played a more aggressive role internationally in the Balkans, the Middle East and South Asia. We oppose the deployment of British forces to the borders of Russia as a pointless provocation. “