VLADIMIR PUTIN’S invasion of Ukraine is a catastrophe with horrific consequences for millions in that country and beyond.
Recognition of Nato’s aggressive record and the dangerous consequences of dismissing Russian fears about its expansion in no way justifies this terrifying act of war.
Nor should it blind us to the self-serving narrative Putin puts forward.
The Morning Star is well aware of the presence of neonazi units like the Azov Battalion in the Ukrainian National Guard, of the torch-lit processions in Kiev honouring the Waffen SS, of the Ukrainian government’s recognition of national days to honour anti-semitic mass murderers like Simon Petliura and Stepan Bandera.
Our paper has been documenting this since 2014. But Putin’s claim to be “de-Nazifying” Ukraine is a flimsy excuse for a blatantly expansionist invasion.
This is clear from the Russian president’s attacks on Ukraine as an “invention” of the Bolsheviks, a reference to Lenin’s revolutionary government’s recognition of national rights for the different peoples of the Soviet Union.
Putin uses the fact that the Soviet Union drew up borders for the various republics which would become independent states in 1991, and the fact that the fairness of such territorial divisions can always be disputed, to promote a nationalist revanchism of the crudest kind.
The victims in all this are the Ukrainian people. This is not in the propagandistic sense deployed by British politicians whose actions have done nothing to defuse tensions between Russia and Ukraine and everything to inflame them.
Ukraine is not the “front line of democracy.” Britain, like the US and EU, connived at the violent overthrow of its elected government in the Maidan coup of 2014.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky was later elected on pledges to negotiate a peace with Russia over the Donbass and, domestically, on a platform largely opposed to the wave of neoliberal economic reforms unleashed by Maidan. He attacked the privatising healthcare reforms of US-imported health minister Ulana Suprun and the “illegal privatisations” of Ukrainian land.
In power, he has been unable to act on these positions. Further land privatisation, opposed by three-quarters of Ukrainians, has been forced through at the insistence of the EU, so giant European agribusiness can buy up farmland and convert it en masse to monocultures, especially sunflower production for oil.
Ukrainians have got poorer year by year. The country has the highest poverty rates in Europe. The land that was once the breadbasket of Europe now mainly exports super-exploited labour to its neighbours.
It is unsurprising that Zelensky has been unable to negotiate peace in the Donbass. His front line there has been manned by heavily armed fascists with no interest in peace.
Ukraine’s president — whose tearful address in his native Russian to the Russian people today included the proud recollection of his grandfather’s service in the Red Army — may not have liked these neonazis, but has not been able to stem the rewriting of history demanded by Ukraine’s “Westernisers.”
Ukraine is the victim of a tug of war between Moscow and the West.
It is no apologia for Moscow to point out that by stifling the Minsk peace process, by their annual military exercises from the Baltic to the Black Sea, by rejecting out of hand any idea that Nato might agree to negotiate troop and missile reductions in Europe, Western powers have engaged in a brinkmanship that has now exploded.
The way out, however late the hour, is to address that context, commit to Ukraine not joining Nato, and to a dial-down of militaristic showboating by the world’s most powerful and dangerous military alliance, of which Britain is a part.
A war between nuclear-armed Russia and the West does not bear thinking about.
The peace movement must press for an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops and challenge the might is right doctrine Putin has picked up from US attacks on Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
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