By Malik Miah and Barry Sheppard
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine is a violation of that nation’s sovereignty and must be opposed by anti-war forces in the United States.
At the same time, we should continue to oppose the Biden administration’s actions which are the main cause of the current crisis.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, despite its promise not to do otherwise, the United States has marched forward enlisting former Soviet Republics into the NATO military alliance aimed at Russia.
Whatever kind of government Russia has, even it was the most liberal capitalist democracy, Russia would see the expansion of NATO’s armed forces, which have nuclear weapons and missiles aimed at Russia in Western Europe, up to its borders as an existential threat.
Russia has explained that fact, which the U.S. has ignored. If Ukraine joined NATO, that would bring NATO’s armies up to the longest border Russia has with Western Europe.
Since Ukrainian nationalists launched a civil war against Ukrainian-Russian speakers after the events of 2014, they also said they intended to join NATO. Putin has clearly stated that Russia would not allow that.
The threat of Ukraine joining NATO receded in recent years, until the Biden administration launched its campaign against China and Russia, declaring both countries as the greatest enemies the U.S. faces, and made a new anti-Chinese military alliance in the Pacific with Britain and Australia.
Largely ignored by the U.S. media, Ukraine recently massed 120,000 troops on the front lines of the still simmering civil war in the Donbas, egged on by the U.S. That was another red line for Russia.
Against Russia Biden stepped up his belligerent assertion of Ukraine’s “right” to join NATO. The current conflict was inevitable.
Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine is likely a blunder and could lead to a catastrophe for Putin and the ruling Russian oligarchy.
Putin’s vision was most clearly explained in his recent speech on Ukraine, in which he attacked Lenin and the Russian Revolution for its policy of self-determination – which includes the right to secede – of the former oppressed nations under Tsarism. This Bolshevik policy led to the formation of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Putin also dismissed Lenin’s “revolutionary ideas.”
Putin appeared to support Stalin’s re-imposition of Great Russian chauvinism [i.e., Russian national oppression] over the other Soviet peoples as a step in the right direction.
Putin doesn’t want to re-establish the USSR. He is firmly for capitalism, is a conservative anti-communist, and has again elevated the Russian Orthodox Church into a virtual state religion. He thinks he can re-establish the kind of Russian empire that existed under Tsarism, which included Ukraine.
This is a pipe dream.
It is not yet clear what his aims are. U.S. military analysts have correctly said that Russia could not possibly occupy Ukraine with the forces it has used to invade. Such an attempt would require at least 800,000 troops.
It also would be impossible politically as there would be mass resistance, resulting in a war with a substantial number of Russian casualties. The Russian people would not accept that, and Putin would be overthrown.
Given the forces and air war he is using, Putin most likely aims to establish a puppet state in Ukraine similar to neighbouring Belarus.
An immediate result of the invasion has been to bolster U.S. domination of Western Europe under NATO.
It is also bolstering the armed far right groups in Ukraine.
The invasion cannot solve the issue of NATO’s expansion into Ukraine. The people of Ukraine must be convinced not to join NATO. The invasion is having the opposite effect.
Even if Putin succeeds in setting up a puppet government, which would be difficult to maintain in the face of mass opposition, the result would likely be a prolonged conflict.
The Russian people are not prepared to support that possible result.
Already there have been street protests in Russia in over two dozen cities, including in Moscow and St. Petersburg. On the day of the invasion hundreds were arrested. Many expressed their opposition on social media.
Condemnation has even come from figures in the arts world in Russia. As reported by Business Insider, Elena Kovalskaya, the director of the state-run Meyerhold Center theatre, posted her resignation on Facebook, saying: “Friends, in protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I’m leaving my post as director of the state theatre … It is impossible to work for a murderer and get a salary from him.”
Prominent Russian sports stars have also spoken out against the war. An Open Later to Putin was sent by scientists and scientific journalists against the war with Ukraine.
Putin, despite his absolute power, still fears his people. Even in the most repressive regimes, voices of dissent always find ways to speak out. If there is a prolonged conflict in Ukraine, Putin’s invasion could lead to his own power unravelling.
In the United States anti-war forces combine opposition to Putin’s invasion with their opposition to the enemy at home, the imperialist government of the United States. It is the US government which is responsible for the crisis with its aggressive threats and actions against Russia, including sanctions.
Two days before Russia launched its invasion, some 1,200 anti-war activists joined a forum via zoom. The participants represented a broad cross-section of organisations. The forum was sponsored by the United National Antiwar Coalition.
Speakers on the call emphasised the campaign must focus on our imperialist rulers.
Opening remarks were made by Ajamu Baraka, national organiser for Black Alliance for Peace; Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODE PINK; Joe Jamison, US Peace Council; Margaret Kiberley, Black Agenda Report; Nancy Price, women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (US); Susan Schnall, Veterans for Peace.
These groups have participated in protests against the Russian invasion while raising opposition to NATO and U.S. policies.
That includes rejection of the economic sanctions against Russia. Economic sanctions are a form of warfare. Those who will suffer the most from economic sanctions will be the Russian people, not its rulers.
The main demands of the U.S. anti-war groups have been:
No to Putin’s War in Ukraine!
No to NATO!
No to Economic Sanctions!
In addition, we should recognise that the Ukrainian nationalists’ war against Ukrainian Russian speakers centred in the Donbas region amounts to oppression of them. Donbas deserves self-determination too.