The following article appeared in the left magazine Lalkar, reproduced here with thanks.
The Russian intervention in Ukraine, depicted ludicrously by Boris Johnson as an unprovoked attack upon a democratic country, is in fact the very belated response to a slowly unfolding aggression against Russia which has been waged over three decades. The military challenge to this long erosion of Russian security has been a long time coming and is heartily welcome.
For thirty years NATO has been conducting a slow-motion war which was from the very beginning aimed at first containing and then balkanizing Russia, creating a number of divided and weakened territories on which imperialism could prey. When Gorbachev accepted the reunification of Germany, abolishing the German Democratic Republic and selling out to imperialism, the West solemnly pledged that there would be no further eastern expansion of NATO to threaten the Russian Federation.
Gorbachev was gullible enough (and Yeltsin drunk enough) to accept these assurances at face value. Over the next three decades, in a crude game of grandmother’s footsteps, NATO tiptoed around the Russian borders, sniffing out which would be the next country to fall into its lap, in violation of the west’s guarantees to the contrary. In 1999 NATO nabbed Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. In 2004 NATO absorbed another seven (Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and all the Baltic states). 2009 saw the accession of Albania and Croatia, then over the next five years NATO notched up Montenegro and North Macedonia.
In 2008, NATO began the same trick with Ukraine, grooming it for eventual membership, but by now alarm bells were ringing in Moscow. Already in 2007 Putin had spoken out bluntly in opposition to those who wanted to establish a unipolar world. He objected to NATO enlargement and its planting of ballistic missile defences in eastern Europe.
Throughout Yeltsin’s tenure gangster capitalism prevailed at home and abroad. Whilst oligarchs amassed private fortunes and the West plundered the Russian economy, Russia stood defenceless in the world. However with the passage of time and the accession to power of Vladimir Putin things started to change. Key sectors of the economy came into state ownership, oligarchs found themselves in the dock or forced to flee justice and Russia began to reassert her national dignity on the world stage. Her key role in defending Syria’s sovereignty from western backed jihadi gangs served to increase her diplomatic clout internationally. Add to this the convergence of interests between Russia and China and you have a serious challenge shaping up to NATO’s dream of a unipolar world.
The ‘crime’ committed by the Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych was the crime of seeking neutrality. When Yanukovych hesitated to commit Ukraine to an EU Association Agreement, preferring to keep the country’s options open, he was at once denounced as a Moscow stooge. The Euromaidan movement, handsomely funded by both the US and the EU and manipulated by fascist gangs, talked a great deal about national independence, but in practice was all about subordination to the EU and the US. The consequences of this are well known: the torch lit processions bearing everywhere the face of the Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, Victoria Nuland doling out biscuits to the demonstrators, the murderous incineration of the trades union house in Odessa, the rooftop snipers stirring the pot by targeting both sides, all leading up to the violent overthrow of the elected government and the establishment in its place of a fascist junta in Kiev.
The resultant historical abortion, described by Boris Johnson as a “democratic” country, at once proceeded to enact a russophobic and anti-communist agenda. Sooner than live under the jackboot of this illegitimate regime for which they had not voted, the inhabitants of the Donbass took up arms to protect their communities from Kiev’s armed forces bolstered by the Nazi Azov battalion and other paramilitaries. Out of the fire were born two self-reliant secessionist republics, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), each with its own militia. These Republics have suffered eight years of shelling by fascists, with indiscriminate attacks upon militia and civilians, killing and wounding the citizens and blitzing infrastructure.
In 2014 and again in 2015 the aggressors suffered serious setbacks at the hands of the DPR and LPR armed forces, prompting them to call for ceasefire and parlay. The secessionists readily agreed on both occasions, opening the way for the Minsk Accords brokered by Russia, Germany and France. But from the outset the Kiev army and freelance fascists simply used the ceasefires (which they at once violated) as a breathing space to rest and regroup, and never engaged sincerely with the Accords. In a nutshell, the Minsk Accords called for ceasefire followed by negotiation over terms granting autonomous status in the Donbass within the overall sovereignty of Ukraine. Clearly such an agreement would imply the readiness of the secessionists to row back from full independence, but unlike the Kiev Junta they were prepared to negotiate in good faith.
Perhaps in the hope of keeping the door open on Minsk talks, Russia has consistently referred to the DPR and LPR as ‘self-proclaimed republics’, doubtless a source of some irritation on the part of the secessionists. The decision to drop the ‘self-proclaimed’ caveat and openly come to the rescue of the beleaguered citizens will be welcomed by anti-fascists, anti-imperialists and democrats everywhere.
Sergei Lavrov explained in his press conference that the aim of the intervention is to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine, pointing out that Russia had had more than enough of fascists in wartime. The aim is to restore the neutrality of the country, ceasing its vassal status to the EU and freedom from the fascist menace posed by that minority of Ukrainians who seek to revive that nihilistic ideology. For every Nazi collaborator in Ukraine there were a hundred or a thousand patriots who flocked into the Red Army to rid Ukraine of the Nazi scourge. Thanks to the action being taken now by Russian forces, millions of decent Ukrainian workers will have the chance to reclaim their lives away from the shadow of the jackboot.
For NATO, too, the opportunity presents itself to take another look at Russia’s proposals for a workable agreement on security in the region, offering guarantees for the West in exchange for the renunciation of NATO’s destabilising expansion and abdication of plans to surround Russia with heavy duty armaments aimed at Russia.
The West maintains that its troops will not become involved over Ukraine, and it seems likely that it will rely on a number of economic sanctions to express its displeasure at the prospect of a demilitarised and neutral Ukraine no longer serving as imperialist catspaw. Some economic damage would appear inevitable, but there are factors limiting this. For example, moves to exclude Russia from the SWIFT system of international payments are likely to backfire, and sanctions against Russian imports and exports are already resulting in the unintended outcome of diversifying Russia’s economy. Perhaps the single most damaging move so far has been the German decision to halt the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline — but given the urgent energy needs not in Germany alone but across Europe, it strains credulity that the pipe is just going to lie there unused forever.
It is also hard to see how long and how far Europe will be prepared to crucify its own economies for the ‘greater good’ of NATO.
For eight years Kiev sabotaged every attempt to implement the Minsk agreements, violating ceasefires again and again and subjecting the citizens of Donetsk and Lugansk to year after year of murderous shell fire. Thousands were killed or wounded, resulting in a generation of children traumatised by living in a war zone. As Sergey Lavrov asked rhetorically: did Kiev expect to carry on for another eight years of sabotaging Minsk and attacking the DPR and LPR unchallenged?
Now, after just three days of Russia’s precision attacks on the junta’s military structures, it is being reported that the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenski is agreeing to talks in Belarus. If these talks go ahead and prove fruitful, then the way could be cleared (a) to resolve the conflict in relations between Kiev and the secessionists, and (b) to end the manipulation of the conflict by imperialist meddling.