March 13, 2022

Ukraine: Fire that the US Lit

R Arun Kumar

THE role of US and NATO in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia is discussed in these columns earlier. This is about how the larger impact of US intervention in Europe is expressing itself.

One of the first things that the US did to Eastern Europe after the collapse of the socialist bloc countries and the Soviet Union in the 1990s, was to push them into capitalist exploitation. They were soon converted into markets for imperialist countries, while their State sector industrial enterprises were consciously dismantled. The rich natural resources available in those countries were converted into private property and opened for imperial exploitation. These moves were used to ease the capitalist crises. A corollary was that these new entrants to capitalism found themselves deep in crisis. People witnessed hunger, unemployment, poverty, prostitution, deprivation, as never seen in their lifetime.

At the political level, communist parties and their associated symbols were banned in many of these former socialist countries. An intense propaganda demeaning socialism, communism and Marxism-Leninism was carried out. History was distorted. Communism was equated with Nazism. The heroic role of communists in defeating Hitler and his Nazi hordes was sought to be completely erased. So much so for all the talk of democracy that those former communist parties that had regrouped under various names, were not even allowed to contest in elections in some of these countries.

As a result of the neoliberal policies, the neo-Nazi groups that were lying dormant, gained a new breath of life. The role of US in the promotion of Nazi groups can be understood from what had happened in the Ukraine. The CIA deputed its operatives to egg Ukrainians and train them to fight Russians in 1949. Even though they learnt that they were involved in a losing ‘operation’, they persisted. After the collapse of Soviet Union, the US reaped the fruits from those seeds sown way back. Apart from many other factors, all such attempts too had a role to play in the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Great Russian chauvinism that Lenin, Stalin and the Bolshevik party sought to eliminate by correctly applying Marxist theory of nationalities in Soviet Union, once again raised its ugly head. And so did nationalisms of various kinds in all the former Soviet republics, Russia and Ukraine, included.

Western Europe, which was all the while complicit with the US, saw the dismantling of the welfare State after the collapse of the Soviet Union. With the threat of communism no longer staring down the borders, unbridled capitalist exploitation ensured. Both the Social Democrats and Conservatives did not differentiate much in the implementation of neoliberal economic policies and dismantling of the State. The discontent these measures had generated brought to life right-wing forces of various hues across the continent. Periodic economic crises and the failure of capitalism to wriggle out, strengthened extreme right-wing, particularly after the 2008 global economic crisis. Don’t the ruling classes know that they are creating Frankensteins? They do and do it without regrets.

President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, when questioned (1998) about the US role in creating the Talibans in Afghanistan and whether he had any regrets, replied: “Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war”? This only shows that to further its hegemonic ambitions, the US would go to any extent, no matter how it wreaks other countries. Something similar happened in Europe too.

The 2011 attack on a youth camp in Norway which killed 77 people, is one of the first expressions of the growing nationalist, racist attacks. A political expression can be found in the growth of extreme right-wing political forces in various countries across Europe – France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, UK and Norway. The imposition of austerity measures during the crisis gave a fillip to these extreme right-wing forces.

The way racial hatred and Islamophobia spread, came to the fore clearly after the US and its allies attacked Syria. The huge refugee flow from Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, etc., that were constantly bombarded by US and its allies, were refused entry into many European countries. Barricades were erected. Entry points closed. Attacks on Muslims, blacks, browns and all those perceived outsiders increased. Even Ukrainians are not considered completely Europeans, but only ‘like Europeans’. Chauvinism spread so fast that many parties changed their positions on migrants and refugees in order to win elections. Victor Orban of Hungary and his ilk won elections basing on this platform.

During the first year of NATO war on Syria, approximately one to one and half million refugees knocked on the doors of European countries. With the erection of barricades, many sought to slip in through the Mediterranean using inflatable life boats. They were prepared to take that risk to escape the US bombardment of Syria. Thousands have perished in the process. All their miseries did not evoke an iota of humanity among the ruling classes. Moreover, they tried to benefit from their plight by inciting right-wing violence against these migrants and refugees and dividing people.

Now with the Russian military attack on Ukraine, they are trying to put a facade of humanism. Alas, one reason is, it is not they who are the attackers on Ukraine, it is Russia. So they deem it fit to assume a moral high ground. And from that high pedestal they are preaching refugee rights, plight of migrants, cruelty of war and the displacement it causes. In fact, the number of refugees from Ukraine in a week swelled to more than 1.3 millions, nearly totaling the number of refugees from Syria in one year. The very same governments that refused entry of Syrians are trying to prove their humanism by opening the gates for Ukrainians. It is no one’s point to argue that Ukrainians should also be denied entry. The point is only to prove the prevailing double standards – standards defined by racial characters, which is condemnable.

The growth of nationalism and racism even in Ukraine is now out in broad daylight. Thousands of Indian students studying there, along with students from other countries were subjected to racial discrimination and attacks, even amidst military attacks. Instead of standing together and helping each other in safe evacuation from cities and regions in the line of attack, racial discrimination is finding an expression. Several Indian students recounted how they were denied entry into railway stations to board trains because of their colour. The way they were treated by the guards at the border points indicates the penetration of racism and nationalism into the State apparatus.

A student from Guinea who fled from the city of Kharkiv, said: “They stopped us at the border and declared ‘blacks are not allowed’”. The ambassador of South Africa commented: “We've heard all of these accusations, we've seen the videos and we are concerned…We've protested ourselves on an official level to the government...” He condemned the discrimination and wryly stated that ‘bombs don’t discriminate’!

In Ukraine, it is no secret that neo-Nazi groups exert considerable presence and influence over the State apparatus after the US backed coup in 2014. The Azhov battalion in the Ukrainian military was formed with neo-Nazis, for the explicit purpose of fighting Russians. They were involved in the attacks on ethnic Russians living in the eastern regions of Ukraine, including the contested Donbas region. They are directly funded by the interior ministry of the Ukrainian government since 2014.

The Ukrainian State had launched many attacks on the communists. The general secretary of Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU), Petro Symonenko was attacked, arrested. The central committee office was attacked. After the war had started, the first secretary of the Young Communists of Ukraine, Mikhail Kononovich and his family were attacked on March 7, and their whereabouts are not known till date. Thus in a systematic manner the communist party and other progressive forces are being targeted by these neo-Nazi forces that control the government.

The involvement of US in Ukraine further came out in the open after a cable of conversation involving the US ambassador to Ukraine in 2014, Victoria Nuland, now a senior official in the Biden administration was leaked. It specifically mentioned about their complicity in the 2014 coup. On March 9, 2022 it came to light that US is funding at least 30 biolabs in Ukraine that are capable of producing chemical and biological weapons. Similarly, documents showing US involvement in the preparations of an attack on Donbas also were brought out by the Russians. The US plan is simply not to help the Ukrainians, but to use Ukraine to bleed Russia, weaken it and pre-empt its potential rise as a world power.

Experience shows us that wherever the US gets involved, its implications would not be confined only to those particular countries, but the entire region. This has happened in West Asia, starting from Iraq, to Syria, to Yemen, to Libya. It happened in Afghanistan. The same is going to happen in Ukraine. Destruction of property, loss of lives and displacement would further breed chauvinism and extremist forces. These effects would not be limited to Ukraine or Russia, but to the entire Europe and the world. Already energy prices all over the world, Europe in particular, are on the rise. The rise of oil prices are going to benefit US oil majors, more than anybody else. Military conflicts would benefit the military-industrial complex, of which the US is the leader. All in all, while the world fights, loses lives and sanity, US corporates feast, sing and dance merrily, dreaming about consolidating their hegemony.

Our cry for peace is hence also our anguish against imperialism. It is our anger against the growth of right-wing forces that divide our unity. Peace and progress are guaranteed only when we unite. They can be dreamt, but it is also our duty to realise them. There is not much time left.