Imperialists have no interest in peace, argues Vladimir Unkovski-Korica. But as speculation mounts of a negotiated settlement, what should this look like?
Over the last week, there has been speculation that Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine, which has now entered its fourth week, could soon be stopped.
As Russia’s military advance seemingly ground to a standstill, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also appeared to be walking away from his demands for a no fly zone.
News emerged that the two sides were discussing Ukraine’s military neutrality as a key component of any peace deal. Ukraine has its aspiration to join Nato written into its constitution, while Russia has repeatedly said it sees the issue as a red line
Russian territorial demands
The change of stance in Kyiv was clearly one of Moscow’s main war aims. But it is clear that Ukraine’s neutrality in and of itself will not satisfy Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia is an imperialist state, and it is evident that it is trying to use its military muscle to improve its position vis-à-vis Nato. It has territorial demands on Ukraine. Already in 2014, it had annexed Crimea, which Ukraine has refused to recognise.
The pretext for Moscow’s invasion in February this year was in fact tied to its recognition of two breakaway territories in Ukraine’s Donbass region.
Russian military advances appear centred on securing and extending Russian gains in Ukraine’s east and south, providing a land corridor to Crimea, and possibly to the breakaway pro-Russian territory of Transnistria in Moldova.
These would consolidate Russian control of the Sea of Azov and possibly even see it extended to cover areas of the Black Sea. Not only would that cripple any rump Ukrainian state, but also increase Russia’s geopolitical power.
It is unsurprising that this continues to be a sticking point, even though Kyiv has shown preparedness to separate this issue from the issue of neutrality, should a ceasefire be reached.
Nato’s role in the conflict
If Russian territorial ambitions are one obvious reason why no peace deal has yet been done, another is the seemingly endless preparedness by the Western powers to have Ukraine bleed in order for it in turn to bleed Russia for Nato’s benefit.
After Zelensky addressed the US Congress this week asking the US to do more to help, American President Joe Biden said that his country had already given $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine in the preceding year, and was ready to send another $800 million.
The announcement underlined the reality that Ukraine may not be in Nato, but that Nato has been and continues to be in Ukraine. The West has much to gain from Russian military losses, and its crippling economic sanctions will hurt Russia more than they will hurt the West.
Clearly designed to pour oil on the fire, US officials in recent days have started referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a war criminal. British politicians have also begun speaking of the need for a Nuremburg-style trial after the end of the war, in an obvious reference to the trials of Nazi figures after the Second World War.
None of this should be a surprise. Nato eastward expansion since the end of the Cold War was never about securing peace, but securing Western interests against Russia in Europe. Nato engaged in offensive military action in that time, most obviously bombing FR Yugoslavia for 78 days without a UN mandate in 1999.
Nato’s goal in this conflict is not to spare Ukraine, but to damage Russia, with the ultimate hope that it can hasten regime change in Moscow, and thereby bring about the end of the Moscow-Beijing axis in international affairs.
This is because Nato countries outspend Russia militarily and dwarf it economically, but they fear China’s economic rise as a portent of a different global order in the 21st century, in which they are set to lose their hegemony. Hence all the warnings in recent days to China not to help Russia, at the pain of economic sanctions.
The role of the anti-war movement
It must be obvious that neither Russia nor Nato have Ukraine’s interests at heart. They are bleeding it in their mutual antagonism, for goals that go beyond Ukraine. The Ukrainian government’s own role in colluding with one or other side sets it against its own people.
We simply should not be where we are right now. Thousands have lost their lives already in Ukraine, but the number could grow exponentially. The danger of the war escalating beyond Ukraine is always there, as most dramatically symbolised by Putin’s implicit threat that he will respond to economic sanctions with nuclear weapons.
Moreover, the levels of repression against the Russian anti-war movement continue to be ramped up, while in the West we are faced with further increases to already high energy and food prices, and we are yet to start paying for the increased military spending.
Ordinary people have nothing to gain from the new Cold War between the West and Russia. We have much to gain by pressing our leaders to de-escalate the crisis now. The anti-war movement in Russia and the West has been doing the same thing: we have all been putting pressure on our own government to pull back.
Peace is indeed possible according to a simple formula: Russian troops should withdraw immediately from Ukraine. Nato should stop meddling and guarantee Ukraine’s neutrality. Ukraine should be a free and independent state.
Should this be guaranteed, it will be easier for labour movements in both East and West to tackle our governments and bosses. The role of socialists in fighting against war and the cost of living is now central and we have to rise to the occasion