No war in Ukraine: Russian troops out, NATO out

The Russian invasion of Ukraine could herald the biggest land war in Europe since 1945. If the invasion escalates, millions are at risk of death, injury and losing their homes.

By Friday morning, little more than 24 hours after the invasion started, 137 Ukrainians had died with 316 wounded. Tens of thousands of internal refugees were streaming west to avoid the fighting.

Missiles and shells were hitting the capital Kyiv and major cities including Kharkiv and Odesa, many kilometres from the two south-eastern provinces in the Donbas which Russian president Putin claims to be “defending”.

Solidarity says that Russia should withdraw its troops and halt the attacks.

The western powers, operating through the military alliance of NATO, must pull back, too.

The Australian government should stop fanning the flames of war by providing Ukraine “non-lethal” military equipment.

Ukraine is a pawn in an imperialist struggle between the US and its allies, including Australia, on the one side and Russia and China on the other.

Workers have no interest in the victory of one imperialist power over the other. Instead we need to encourage a united fightback against our rulers.

In standing against the war, we can take inspiration from the thousands who have taken to the streets of Russian cities in the teeth of vicious state repression.

The Guardian reported: “Police had made at least 1702 arrests in 53 Russian cities as of Thursday evening … Most of the arrests were made in Moscow and St Petersburg, where the crowds were largest.”

It added that a poll by the independent Levada Centre released on Thursday showed that only 45 per cent of Russians supported Putin’s recognition of the independence of the two mostly Russian-speaking Donbas regions.

Al Jazeera reported that an anti-war petition started by a prominent Russian human rights advocate attracted more than 150,000 signatures within several hours and 289,000 by the end of the day.

“More than 250 journalists put their names on an open letter decrying the aggression. Another one was signed by some 250 scientists, while by 194 municipal council members in Moscow and other cities signed a third,” it said.

Our task in Australia is to stand in solidarity with those in Russia opposing war by speaking out and organising against our own warmongers—Morrison, Biden and Johnson.

No to sanctions

Many people pin their hopes of stopping the war on sanctions on Russia. But sanctions are a weapon of war in their own right.

When the United Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait in 1990 it led to massive civilian suffering.

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was later asked if sanctions were justified given estimates that half a million Iraqi children had died. She replied: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it.”

The sanctions had other damaging effects. They bought time for the US and its allies including Australia to prepare to invade Iraq in 2003.

And they undermined anti-war arguments. The right were able to argue that if sanctions were justified but did not force Iraq to retreat, then escalating to war was a logical and necessary step.

The sanctions announced by Morrison, Biden and others have not prevented Putin’s invasion.

Anti-war activists must not fall into the trap of arguing that the response must be even tougher sanctions. That would be a slippery slope risking even greater confrontation.

Western hypocrisy

Sanctions are being imposed by the same states that are themselves guilty of invasion and war.

In 2001, the US, Australia and Britain invaded Afghanistan because it had harboured the leaders of Al Qaida, the organisation behind the 9/11 attacks on the US—even though the attackers themselves were Saudi.

The bloody occupation came to an end only last year with the flight of US forces, leaving behind a society wracked by sectarian divisions and poverty.

In 2003, the same allies invaded Iraq on the basis of a “dodgy dossier” claiming that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction—the same kind of “false flag” operation that Biden now denounces.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians died during and after the invasion, which laid the basis for the emergence of ISIS.

In 2004, Australia bugged the offices of the government of newly independent Timor Leste, to gain an advantage in negotiations over oil supplies in the Timor Sea.

Morrison said in relation to Ukraine that Russia was guilty of bullying and coercion. But his words carry no weight unless he is prepared to apologise to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Timor Leste.

Imperialist rivalry

Russia may have fired the first shots in Ukraine but the origins of the military clash lie in the much deeper rivalry between competing imperialist blocs.

The US is losing economic ground to China and the European Union. But in military terms it is still far and away the most powerful global player, with almost 800 overseas bases and a military budget bigger than those of its closest nine competitors combined.

It has tried to compensate for its relative economic decline by using its military might. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the West has broken promises to Russia and incorporated almost all former Soviet republics in Eastern Europe into the US-led NATO military alliance.

Only Belarus, under the dictator Lukashenko, has remained loyal to Russia. Since an uprising in 2014 destroyed a pro-Russian government in Ukraine, the country has sought to join NATO and the European Union.

If that were to happen, NATO forces could be stationed just 535 kilometres from Moscow.

NATO and Russia are like two tectonic plates—when they push against each other it can create earthquakes. That is what we are seeing now.

But the imperialist rivalry has other dimensions. In taking a hard line with Russia, Biden and Morrison are trying to send a message to their biggest strategic rival, China, that it should think twice before challenging US dominance in the region, including by invading Taiwan.

But as the tragic events under way now show, imperialist posturing can lead to horrific real-world results.

Workers everywhere need to stand against this system of competition, nationalism and war. That starts in Australia with rejecting the AUKUS and Quad military alliances with the US and other powers.

We need to campaign against grotesque military spending, including the $100 billion-plus purchase of nuclear-powered submarines, and to fight for military dollars to be spent on health, renewable energy, public housing and ending poverty.

The great Polish-German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg warned more than a century ago that we face a choice between socialism and barbarism. Barbarism is now hailing down on the people of Ukraine. Fight back and join the socialists.

By David Glanz

Further reading

Russian socialists on Ukraine anti-war protests and turning resistance into class war. Socialists have to oppose their own ruling class and imperialism as a whole.

Russian socialist speaks out against Putin’s war. Alexey, a member of the Russian socialist group aligned with Solidarity, gave this interview to the Ukrainian website Black Banner. It is a shining example of courageous anti-war agitation.

No war on Ukraine: Ukrainians must decide their fate. Clare Lemlich from Solidarity’s US sister group, Marx21, summarises the issues.

Ukraine’s taste of freedom. Ukraine has been a pawn in the imperial games of more powerful nations for centuries—but the 1917 Russian revolution offered a glimpse of hope, writes Ken Olende.

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