January 30, 2022

Imperialist Designs in Ukraine

R Arun Kumar

TENSIONS are building around Ukraine due to the US imperialism’s hegemonic attitude. The moves to expand NATO and enroll Ukraine as a member of that military grouping is resented by Russia, which considers it a threat. US and its allies are alleging that Russia is about to ‘invade’ Ukraine and has moved thousands of troops to the border. In the name of looming ‘war clouds’, US and UK withdrew some of their embassy staff in Ukraine and issued advisories to their citizens residing/touring that country. A series of discussions were held between Russia and the US on the situation, viewpoints were exchanged, but it appears that both of them are sticking to their positions. All these have upped the tensions in the region as US and Russia are two countries that have sophisticated weaponry and this includes nuclear arsenal.

In order to understand the reasons for the current situation, we need to dig into some history, particularly after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine and Russia share common history and familial bonds. After the formation of the Soviet Union in 1922, exactly a hundred years ago, the boundaries between various provinces were fixed with an objective to integrate various nationalities into the Union. As a result, some Russian speaking regions too were added to Ukraine. With the collapse of Soviet Union in 1990s, various provinces that formed the Union split and proclaimed their independence. The boundaries of such countries remained as they were designated during the Soviet period.

The role of US imperialism in the collapse of the Soviet Union, along with various other vital internal factors, are discussed many times. Without going into those details it should be recalled here that during the period when Ronald Regan was the president of the US, intense propaganda war against the USSR was carried out. In the name of Radio Liberty, canards were spread in Ukrainian region and efforts were made to instigate nationalist sentiments. The role of Red Army during the Second World War was maligned and instead those forces that supported the Nazis and called for the extermination of Jews were praised. In this manner, a long drawn plan to create discord discontent based on nationalism was put in place since then. These efforts proved fruitful and helped create divisions between the Western regions of Ukraine and its Eastern parts, which traditionally enjoyed close relations with Russia.

After the collapse of the USSR, the then president of the US, George H W Bush promised Russia that NATO would not move ‘one inch to the East’. This meant that it would not expand an inch east of East Berlin. Everybody was expecting the winding up of NATO, as the purported objective behind its formation – the existence of USSR – ceased. Moreover, the Warsaw Pact, formed to counter the formation of NATO came to an end with the collapse of USSR and other socialist East European countries. Agreements were signed on gradual disarmament and reduction in nuclear piles. So, there was a natural feeling that military blocs like the NATO were not needed. But imperialism had other ideas. Instead of disbanding NATO, it was gradually expanded to rope in many East European countries.

This policy gained traction during the presidency of Bill Clinton. Letters exchanged between Boris Yeltsin, the then president of Russia and Clinton show the assurances made on the role of NATO in the changed world. From those letters, it becomes clear that the US started shifting goalposts on its promises made few years earlier. The policy changed ‘from not an inch’ to ‘slow expansion of NATO’. Yeltsin, the renegade that he was, was satisfied with this promise and did not insist on the adherence to earlier promise of non-expansion. Majority of the Russians resented this compromise even at that point of time and strongly expressed their discontent.

Violating even these promises, NATO began to expand rapidly from the late 1990s, with the addition of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. It was gradually revealed that the eastward expansion of NATO would stop only at the borders of Russia, with the eventual inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine also into the militarily alliance. Russia voiced its strong objection to these moves. The US uses NATO and its financial power to ‘export its socio-economic model’ to other countries, irrespective of the preferences of those countries and over-riding their sovereign concerns. The same play book was put into operation in all the East European countries. The height of this plan is to destabilise Russia and weaken it completely, preventing its any further growth or rise as a powerful country.

However, the growing assertion of Russia due to its improved economic condition, economic crises that weakened the US and the emergence of China as a force to reckon, marked a change in geopolitical realities. In 2008, Russia unequivocally registered its opposition to NATO’s expansion and made it clear that it draws a ‘red line’ on the inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance. Ignoring these protests, US spent billions of dollars on Ukraine – to ultimately force it join the NATO. The US continued its efforts to meddle in the internal affairs and carry out ‘colour revolutions’ to topple the democratically elected governments. Experts point out that Ukraine’s induction into the Western alliance system would mean that the US missiles could hit Moscow in 5 minutes, rendering Russian air defence systems ineffectual and obsolete.

Since its breakaway from the USSR, Ukraine’s politics which were balanced between the various nationalities, particularly those residing in the Western and Eastern regions, saw a sea change. The economic hardships that resulted in the post breakaway scenario – growing inequalities, unemployment, poverty, the dismantling of the Soviet-era social security systems – made life difficult for the common people. This was in stark contrast to the lives of the rich oligarchs who controlled the vitals of the economy. The failure of successive governments to address these issues built discontent among the people. This brewing discontent was effectively used by the imperialist forces to further sow discord among the various nationalities, particularly against the Russians.

It is in this background that the colour revolution to topple the democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovych was executed by the US. Yanukovych was considered to be closer to Russia as he advocated cordial relations between Ukraine and Russia. He had rejected the conditions laden loans from the European Union and IMF that wanted the implementation of ‘austerity policies’. Instead, he turned towards Russia, which was offering a $15 billion loan and was keeping Ukraine’s economy afloat with discounted natural gas. This threw spanner in the imperialist grand designs and all efforts were made to topple him.

These efforts succeeded in 2014, when he was forced to abdicate and flee the country. In his place, far-right nationalists, neo-Nazi groups were brought into power. An authoritarian, pro-imperialist government that took pro-European and pro-NATO positions was put in place. Attacks were carried on Russians living inside Ukraine. The offices of Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) were attacked, its leaders, including General Secretary were arrested. Democratic rights were curtailed. The functioning of KPU was severely restricted. The attacks on Russian nationals in Ukraine provided the excuse for Russia to send its troops to ‘liberate’ Russian dominated Crimea and extend its help to those who were fighting in Donbas region.

In the 2019 elections, Volodymyr Zelensky won as president on the promise that he would work for rapprochement with Russia and bring in peace and stability to Ukraine. However, he could not keep his promise. Tensions between the two countries continued.

Judging the increasing influence of imperialist US on Ukraine as detrimental to its economic interests, Russia started the Nord II gas pipeline to supply is natural gas to European countries. The route of this pipeline completely by-passes Ukraine and hence differs from the Nord I pipeline which passes through Ukraine. With this change in the route, Ukraine will not only lose economically (it will be deprived of the revenue it collects from allowing the pipeline to pass through its territory), but also loses the strategic advantage it had until now, which was used to blackmail Russia (threatening to cut-off the gas supply and deprive access to its market).

The other concern for imperialism to strongly ensure Ukraine remains in its fold is the strategic location. Russia wants to form an alliance of Eurasian countries and having Ukraine in such an alliance will definitely increase its economic power. Most of these countries share friendly relations with both Russia and China. Ukraine joining such an alliance or maintaining friendly relations with such countries would not only strengthen Russia and China, but also means that imperialism will completely lose their foothold. Given the setback received in Afghanistan, this would mean another major blow to their hegemonic designs. The US is not ready to accept this changing reality.

Moreover, the failure of president Biden to control the pandemic in the US and address economic issues like rising inflation, is showing in his falling approval ratings. To show that ‘America is back again’, he needs to flex its muscular foreign policy and divert people’s attention. It is for this reason that a highly deceptive propaganda campaign is launched stating that Russia is about to invade Ukraine. It is on this pretext that US troops are sent to Ukraine under various guises.

US efforts to mobilise all its NATO allies is facing resistance as Germany and France are not buying this idea of Russian invasion. Both of them earlier had even vetoed against the decision to include Ukraine into the NATO alliance. Many of the European countries are dependent on the cheap natural gas supplied by Russia and hence cannot afford to forego their relations with it. They are also aware of the growing threat of neo-Nazi forces in Ukraine, the corrupt and authoritarian regime there and are concerned about the fall-out of all this in their own countries. They are also skeptical of US and the outcome of a military conflict with Russia. After all, Russia still possesses high grade military technology and a war with it, will be disastrous to not only European countries, but to the entire humanity.

The only way of the present impasse is to stick to the Minsk agreement signed between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany. This agreement was unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council and this includes the US also. Some of the major provisions in this agreement include non-inclusion of Ukraine into NATO, disarmament of the separatist Russia-oriented region (Donbas) and withdrawal of Russian forces (‘volunteers’), demilitarisation; restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty, including control of the border with Russia; and full autonomy for the Donbas in the context of the decentralisation of power in Ukraine as a whole. But in practice, neither Ukraine, nor the US is serious in implementing this agreement. On the contrary, they are moving to negate these agreed principles. This led to the present crisis in the region.

Without learning any lessons from its interventionist attitude and continuing with its belligerent policies, the US is now trying to poke its nose in another Central Asian country, Kazakhstan. The reason is once again the same as in Ukraine – to instill a pro-US government in that country, which shares long borders with both Russia and China – and destabilise the entire region.

The developments in Ukraine and Kazakhstan reflect the attempts of the US to impose its hegemony over the entire world. It is intolerable to the rise of any other country, particularly that of China and Russia. It is attempting to come out of the deep crises that engulfs the US by using its military might on other countries. History has proved that such attempts would never succeed. The US and its imperialist allies should once again be taught the same lesson. This is essential for the survival of humanity and world peace.