The Ukraine War – Who is Responsible for the Carnage?
Putin has fallen into the trap that Biden laid for him
Scott Horton’s speech to the Libertarian Party of Utah and Mises Caucus in Salt Lake City, Utah 2/26/22
See my article in Weekly Worker Key issue is not Russia
It goes without saying that socialists unreservedly condemn Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, with the terrible devastation and suffering that they have inflicted. We should have no hesitation in calling for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. Both the regimes in Moscow and Kiev are rotten and anti-working class. We are in favour of working class unity between the people of both countries not a war which lines up workers behind their ‘leaders’.
We should also support, without hesitation, the anti-war protestors in Russia itself and condemn the repression by the gangster regime that Putin represents with his new law imposing 15 year gaol sentences on those who contradict Russian propaganda. But what Putin is doing in Russia Zelensky is doing in Ukraine with the banning of all independent media and now the outlawing of 11 left-wing parties, including the Communist Party of Ukraine. Our ‘free media’ of course condemns the Russian legislation whilst failing to mention Zelensky’s dictatorial actions whilst, at the same time, supporting Boris Johnson giving the police powers to close down ‘noisy’ protests.
It is not however enough to condemn Putin’s actions. We also need to understand why Russia invaded Ukraine. Was it because Putin was hell bent on recreating a Greater Russia and used the question of Ukraine’s potential membership of NATO as an excuse? Is it merely a question of an inter-imperialist war as the Socialist Workers Party, the Alliance for Workers Liberty, Anti-Capitalist Resistance and others on the imperialist left, like Novara Media, maintain? It is easy to describe what is happening as an inter-imperialist war because it saves people the trouble of analysing what caused it. It also saves them from having to oppose their own ruling class.
The most precise and succinct analysis of the causes of the war is provided by Professor John Mearsheimer of Chicago, a bourgeois political scientist. For Mersheimer the United States is choosing the wrong target which in his opinion is China. To him the present strategy is simply driving Russia into the arms of the Chinese.
Mersheimer first came to prominence with an article in London Review of Books ‘The Israel Lobby’ written jointly with Stephen Walt from Harvard University, which questioned the utility to US foreign policy interests of the Israeli state.
Mearsheimer is no socialist (though he supported Bernie Sanders). He is from what is known as the Realist School of Political Science and is on the fringes of the US political establishment. Unlike the policy wonks and foreign policy think tanks that adorn the political scene in Washington. Mearsheimer prides himself on taking a long view of American strategic interests rather than the short term approach of the military-industrial complex and its representatives in the Democrats and Republicans.
I recommend two talks by Mearsheimer. The first lecture was given to students at King’s College, London on February 21, three days before the war began. The second lecture was given on March 6, ten days into the war, with Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst and Head of their Russia desk.
To understand the conflict in Ukraine today one has to go back to the talks held with Russian leaders in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact and German reunification. James Baker, U.S. Secretary of State gave his famous “not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990. It was part of a ‘cascade of assurances’ given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials throughout German unification, according to declassified U.S., Soviet, German, British and French documents in the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
The first such assurance was given by West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher on January 31, 1990. The U.S. Embassy in Bonn informed Washington that Genscher made clear
“that the changes in Eastern Europe and the German unification process must not lead to an ‘impairment of Soviet security interests.’ Therefore, NATO should rule out an ‘expansion of its territory towards the east, i.e. moving it closer to the Soviet borders.’”
Genscher even proposed leaving East German territory out of NATO’s military structures in a unified Germany.
The idea of special status for the territory of the German Democratic Republic was codified in the final German unification treaty signed on September 12, 1990. The promises about not expanding NATO closer to the Soviet borders is written down, not in treaties, but in memoranda of conversation between the Soviets and Western leaders (Genscher, Kohl, Baker, Gates, Bush, Mitterrand, Thatcher, Major, Woerner, and others) offering assurances throughout 1990 and into 1991 about protecting Soviet security interests and including the USSR in new European security structures.
Not once, but three times, Baker gave a pledge of “not one inch eastward” in his meeting with Gorbachev in the February 9, 1990, meeting. He agreed with Gorbachev’s statement in reply that “NATO expansion is unacceptable.” Baker reported his conversation to Helmut Kohl, the German leader
And then I put the following question to him [Gorbachev]. Would you prefer to see a united Germany outside of NATO, independent and with no U.S. forces or would you prefer a unified Germany to be tied to NATO, with assurances that NATO’s jurisdiction would not shift one inch eastward from its present position?
As late as March 1991, according to the diary of the British ambassador to Moscow, John Major personally assured Gorbachev,
We are not talking about the strengthening of NATO.” Subsequently, when Soviet defense minister Marshal Dmitri Yazov asked Major about East European leaders’ interest in NATO membership, the British leader responded, “Nothing of the sort will happen.
There can be no doubt whatsoever of the promises made at the time of the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and nor can there be any doubt about the fact that these promises were broken under first Clinton, then Bush and Obama.
Yet despite these promises the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary joined NATO in 1999 followed by Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Baltic Republics in 2004. In 2009 Albania and Croatia followed suit and in 2017 Montenegro joined. The last member to join was North Macedonia in 2020.
Not for nothing was Britain, at the height of the British Empire, known as ‘Perfidious Albion’. The same could be said of the major western powers. There isn’t a promise that the imperialist powers didn’t break nor a pledge that they kept.
At the NATO Summit in Bucharest in April 2008 a statement was issued, over the objection of France and Germany, which
welcomed Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership and agreed that these countries will become members of NATO.
For Russia this was a step too far. It was clear that NATO’s strategy was to surround Russia as part of the United States goal of remaining the world’s imperialist hegemon. One of the results of the NATO summit’s declaration was the war which broke out in Georgia in August of that year when Russia intervened on the side of separatists in order to carve out the state of South Ossetia.
It was becoming clear to Russia that the plan outlined by Zbigniew Brzeziński, another ‘realist’ and Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of State, in his book ‘The Grand Chessboard’, that Russia would be divided into 3 separate republics, was on NATO’s, i.e. the United States agenda.
The next milestone was in Ukraine itself in 2014. In 2010 Viktor Yakunovich was elected as President. Courted by the European Union and Russia, Yakunovich chose the latter after having initially pushed for closer relations with the EU. The IMF had played hardball and the economy was almost bankrupt.
The reaction from the United States and the EU was not long in coming. They sponsored the Maiden coup, funding the fascists of the Right Sector and other groups which they armed. Peaceful demonstrators in Maiden Square were shot, not by the Police but by armed neo-Nazi groups. The United States, on the admission of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, had pumped in over $5 billion to ensure that Yakunovich was overthrown. Victoria Nuland was caught on tape openly interfering in the governance of Ukraine.
All of this is documented in Oliver Stone’s documentary Ukraine on Fire, which quite naturally in the present propaganda war offensive has been covered with a Youtube health warning:
The following content has been identified by the YouTube community as inappropriate or offensive to some audiences.
The advent of a new regime in Ukraine under the corrupt Petro Poroshenko saw the abolition of Russia language rights affecting nearly half Ukraine’s population. It also saw attacks by fascist militias on Russians in the Donbass. It was therefore no surprise that parts of Eastern Ukraine broke away to form the republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, with the aid of the Russian military.
It was not as if the United States had not been warned. George Kennan, an American diplomat and an advocate of containment of the USSR, made his own views clear on what was likely to happen if a policy of NATO expansion took place. It would be
the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era. Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.
“I have not yet found anyone who would consider Ukraine in NATO as something other than a direct challenge to Russia’s interests.”
It is difficult to disagree with any of these prescient sentiments. But then, as Dean Acheson, Truman’s Secretary of State remarked “Mr Kennan, in my opinion, has never understood the realities of power relationships.”
This is the background and context to the present war. However as we know, the BBC and the mainstream media always omit anything except the most immediate. They have a ‘bias against understanding’. And just in case an alternative view might gain currency, RT was banned by that faithful servant of the British government, Ofcom, for bias. The BBC’s ceaseless propaganda, with its pro-American experts never presents an alternative narrative.
It should therefore be clear that much of the British left, by touting the idea that what is involved is an inter-imperialist war, are really guilty of bowing before the ‘patriotic’ hysteria that is current. Instead of directing their fire at their own ruling class and its imperialist policies they pretend that both parties are guilty. This has a name – social chauvinism.
A cursory examination of the facts above makes it clear that Russia’s war on Ukraine is a defensive war borne out of the fear of encirclement. One only has to think back to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 when the United States threatened to use nuclear weapons if Soviet missiles were not removed from Cuban soil. What the United States is proposing is to site nuclear missiles on Russia’s borders.
Economically Russia ranks 11th in the world, with a total GDP of $1.65 trillion behind South Korea. The United States has a GDP of $23 trillion. Put bluntly, because of the disastrous privatisation of its nationalised industries and Putin’s support for the oligarchs, Russia does not have the economic capacity to maintain a war machine like the United States. Russia has 1 overseas based in Syria compared to the United States’s 750+ bases.
We can see the efficacy of Russia’s military machine now that it has got bogged down in the invasion of Ukraine. The key issue today is not Russian expansion but the expansion of the United States informal empire.
You might think that the abolition of NATO would be a prime demand of socialists yet at the Brighton and Hove Trades Council the SWP motion on Ukraine merely called for NATO not to expand into Eastern Europe. Likewise they had nothing to say on the question of sanctions, which is war by another means. The Anti-Capitalist Resistance group actually supports sanctions and the AWL has adopted NATO as another progressive bedfellow alongside the Zionist state of Israel.
What is most striking about the war in Ukraine is the breathtaking hypocrisy of those who solemnly condemn the invasion of a sovereign nation, invoking the UN Charter no less, but who have nothing to say about the war in Yemen where Saudi Arabia has been attacking and bombing civilians for seven years. The United Nations has estimated that 370,000 people have died as a result of the Saudi instigated war yet neither this nor the 81 executions in one day has prevented Boris Johnson going cap in hand to this feudal monarchy in his efforts to secure increased Saudi oil supplies.
And what of ‘democratic’ Ukraine itself? Well Zelensky has closed down all opposition media, gaoled journalists and has now suspended 11 left-wing parties including Platform for Life which has 44 seats in the Ukrainian parliament. Indeed in the 27 years between 1991 and 2018 66 journalists have been murdered.
We see the open arming of the neo-Nazi Azov battalion and other fascist militia by the West, with Congress repealing at the end of 2015 a ban on the supply of weapons to neo-Nazi militia. Although they have little support electorally the Azov battalion is integrated into Ukraine’s National Guard. There are now reports that Zelensky is seeking to appoint Serhiy Sternenko as head of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) in Odessa, in an attempt to further his alliance with neo-Nazi forces. As the former head of the neo-Nazi Right Sector in Odessa, Sternenko was directly implicated in the 2014 Trade Unions House massacre of 46 people who were burned alive when the fascists set fire to the building. These are the West’s allies today.