Putin’s ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine should be totally condemned. It is a brutal invasion. Putin is harking back to the days of the Russian empire and is treating Ukraine as a ‘little brother’ that he can dominate.
Putin’s excuse that he is helping the ‘denazification’ of Ukraine is spurious. Putin and his associates have been assisting the far right in Europe for the past decade. The leader of the French far-right, Marie Le Pen, has been a frequent guest of Putin’s entourage. Putin’s attacks on LGBT rights and his promotion of the Russian Orthodox Church as the symbol of Russian nationalism has dovetailed with the familiar themes of the far right. The reality is that his invasion of Ukraine can only help to strengthen that country’s radical nationalists.
During his long rambling address to the Russian people, Putin attacked the legacy of the Russian revolution of 1917. He claimed that modern Ukraine ‘was entirely and fully created by the Bolsheviks’ who did so ‘ by dividing, tearing from Russia pieces of her own historical tendency’. In doing so, he revealed himself as part of a long tradition of Great Russian chauvinism that stretches from the Tsars to Joseph Stalin.
Putin’s actions are being used by military hawks in the US to whip up an atmosphere for war. The US military was humiliated by their defeat in Afghanistan and are determined to re-assert their ‘leadership’ over the Western world by posing as its defenders. This is why they have done everything possible to whip up tensions. They have sent an extra 5,000 soldiers to Poland and have been systematically supplying the Ukrainian army with missiles.
The political establishment in Ireland and the mainstream media seek to give cover to this warmongering by reverting to the old Cold War rhetoric that ‘Russia will invade Europe’. The reality is entirely different. Just as the US found in Afghanistan, Russia knows that while it can defeat a weaker Ukrainian army, it is in no position to occupy the country- still less launch further invasions.
While socialists are wholeheartedly opposed to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we do not fall for the double standards of the Western leaders.
Where are the sanctions on Israel which have been in occupation of Palestinian territory for more than fifty years?
Why have they not isolated Saudi Arabia whose invasion of Yemen has already led to the deaths of over a quarter of a million civilians?
And why is no one pointing to the rank hypocrisy of the USA who occupied Afghanistan for more than twenty years against the clear wishes of the majority of its people?
None of these questions are asked by the mainstream media because under the guise of ‘defending liberal values’ most of them have become mouthpieces for NATO. They have consistently failed to point to that organisation’s role in stoking up tensions. How many people, for example, are aware that last spring NATO held a two-month ‘Defender Europe’ exercise, involving 28,000 American and European troops on Russia’s borders, backed by ostentatiously aggressive US-UK naval operations in the Black Sea.?
NATO was set up as an anti-communist alliance in 1947. It is a military alliance, willing to escalate to full-scale nuclear war if any of its constituent members are attacked. But what is the purpose of such an alliance after the fall of Soviet communism?
Why have the pledges that NATO would not expand eastwards which were made after the fall of the Berlin wall not honoured?
The plain reality is that NATO has become the central vehicle by which the US enforces its leadership over Europe, and it is now being used to expand its ‘sphere of influence’ to encircle Russia. NATO should have been disbanded and anyone who wants to preserve peace on the European continent should be publicly calling for an end to its strategy of bringing its military machine closer to the Russian border.
Behind the conflict in Ukraine lies a major shift in the tectonic plates of imperial competition. The US is in economic decline compared to its major rival China. But it retains overwhelming military power, with its military budget of €778 billion exceeding the combined spending of the next eleven countries. It wants to shore up its economy and the profits of its corporations by using its military leverage to re-draw the rules of global capitalism to gain extra advantages.
The return to a new cold war has already led to an intensification of divisions inside Ukraine between Ukrainian and Russian speakers. Putin’s previous invasion of Crimea has provoked a backlash from an exclusivist government that granted special status to the Ukrainian language and made it mandatory for public servants. The US and the EU have contributed to this process by seeking to integrate the state into an IMF directed economy. Now, this cold war has gone one step further with the disgraceful sights of Russian tanks occupying cities like Odessa. If it is not stopped it can spill over into more deadly conflicts.
This is why the best hope for peace is not rowing in behind our own government in its efforts to use the Ukraine crisis to militarise our society. The Irish government’s main interest is using the conflict to hammer a final nail in Irish neutrality. If they were serious about the defence of human rights, they would have stopped the US army from using Shannon airport as a transit point for flights to torture centres. In reality, they have been turning a blind eye to Irish neutrality, and are now using the rhetoric of the conflict in Ukraine as an excuse to disband our neutral position entirely. They want to draw Ireland closer to NATO and increase military spending.
The real hope lies in an anti-war movement that crosses the border of East and West and opposes both Putin and NATO. We salute the actions of the Irish Anti-War Movement in calling people out to protest. We urge the international movement that came together to oppose the Gulf War in the past to rise again against the twin aggressors of Putin and NATO.