War in Eastern Europe?
* Socialist Tendency, Russian Federation
The armed conflict in southeastern Ukraine risks once again entering a “hot” phase. Ukrainian, European and opposition Russian media have accused the Russian government of tightening the deployment of its armed forces on the border with Ukraine, with intent to invade.
Pro-government Russian media accuse Ukraine and NATO of preparing to break the truce with the unrecognized Donetsk and Luhansk republics.
The United States European Command (EUCOM) has brought the army to maximum alert due to the movement of Russian troops.
Ukraine: between two imperialisms
Russia benefits from the continuation of the war in southeastern Ukraine because the protracted conflict does not allow Ukraine to become an official member of NATO and join the EU. If Ukraine joins these alliances, it will be a big slap in the face to Russia in its own backyard, which could serve as a precedent for other states dependent on it and trigger a chain reaction.
The United States and NATO are trying to pressure the Kremlin to finally bring Ukraine into their sphere of interest. American imperialism is by far the most powerful in the world: over the past 7 years it has replaced most Russian capital from Ukraine with its own. The ruling class of Ukraine receives economic aid and political support, Kiev gets subsidies from the West including the IMF, the Ukrainian army gets help from its European “colleagues” – all of which puts Ukraine in a dependent position.
But it would be a big mistake to assume that Russian capital has no influence in Ukraine today, or that it only has it in the occupied territories of the south and south-east.
Russian imperialism affects Ukraine in terms of its debts, loans, investments, low wages of migrant labour, military and international treaties, as well as cultural and language rights. Russian imperialism does its best to prevent the independent development of Ukraine.
Ukraine is torn apart by two imperialisms -“East” and “West.”
The Russian left is dominated by the idea that Ukraine is as guilty of the armed conflict in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as Russia. Most of the left in Russia assume that Ukraine is one of the “strong” sides with the LPR and DPR (the Russian breakaway republics in Donestsk and Luhansk) the “weak” side. But this ignores that the conflict is historically between oppressed and oppressor nations.
Seven years after the outbreak of war, the Russian Federation is providing military support to separatist formations under its control, and there is direct evidence that Russia was involved in fighting in southeastern Ukraine. Russia also isn’t hiding the presence of its troops in Crimea in the lead-up to the “referendum” on independence.
The victory of Russian imperialism today could lead to vast territorial losses on the part of Ukraine in future. Though unlikely, the worst-case scenario is the threat of losing statehood.
Both outcomes will lead to reactionary consequences: the strengthening and aggression of the Russian ruling class, as well as further Russian influence on an international scale.
An even worse result is the increase of interethnic strike in Ukraine itself, which could lead to mass clashes between Russian and Ukrainian speakers.
But a victory by the Ukrainian ruling class would only consolidate its reactionary position and foster a new wave of Ukrainian nationalism. It could also lead to further consolidation of Western imperialism in Ukraine.
Tasks of the left
We as Russian socialists are not representatives of the Ukrainian left, but we will attempt to put forward what needs to be done.
The main role of left movements inside imperialist states is to oppose imperialism at home, where the main enemy always is. But both imperialisms, from “East” and “West,” are both reactionary, regardless of which has more or less power at any given time.
The Ukrainian left faces a dual challenge. First, the need to fight imperialist forces that are tearing the country apart from both “East” and the “West”; and its own government, which is strengthening the hold of both in Ukraine. Secondly, the need to the oppose military expansion – which can lead not only to the growth of international conflict but also to the growth of chauvinist and fascist forces, cultural oppression, and possibly to the loss of Ukrainian sovereignty.
Only by the overthrow of the current government in Kiev and its replacement with a democratic workers government can Ukraine be freed from imperialist influence and protect the people from armed aggression from all sides.
The Ukrainian, Russian, and Western bourgeoisie cannot resolve this conflict without tragic consequences. With capitalists in charge the outcome will be more and bloodier conflict. Only the power of the united working class, across ethnic lines and against imperialism, can lead a way out.