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Mainstream, VOL LX No 14, New Delhi, March 26, 2022

Russia Must End the Invasion of Ukraine | Anil Rajimwale

Friday 25 March 2022, by Anil Rajimwale


Invasion by Russian troops in Ukraine has led to a serious situation in Europe. For the first time since Second World War (WW II), Europe stands on the verge of a wider war, even a nuclear one, threatening the whole world. US and Russia are the most powerful nuclear powers. They are coming to a head, thanks to the US policies and more recently to the military adventurism of Russia. Language of nuclear threat is highly irresponsible. One must never forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 Both the warring sides have advanced their own justifications. Russia has rightly accused NATO and US of building tension and military escalation. At the same time, armed invasion by Russia is a clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and of all the international laws including the relevant UN Charter.

 NATO has a long history of building military bases in Europe and elsewhere. Ever since the collapse of USSR and former socialist regimes in Eastern Europe, US has tried to dominate and control the East European states, instigating them against Russia. In the past, US justified its military-imperialist expansion and building NATO bases on the pretext of ‘threat’ from a powerful USSR, holding the latter responsible for the so-called ‘cold war’. Following that logic, the cold war should have ended with the disintegration of USSR.

 Yet, the collapse of USSR and former East European socialist regimes provided the West with a golden opportunity. Instead of withdrawing from Europe, they in reality have kept up their eastward expansion for the last three decades or so, and have strengthened and increased their military presence. NATO has established military, air force and naval bases in Poland, Baltic countries, Romania etc. Among the new NATO members are Albania, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria and some others. In a peculiar twist of history, Ukraine has never been a member of NATO, while post-1991 Russia has repeatedly applied for NATO membership, without success. Today it is accusing Ukraine of playing into NATO’s hands!

  US and NATO, as well as Russia, have converted Ukraine into a lab for military and political experiments, including using latest weapons. This was clear even before the Russian invasion. After invasion Russia is testing the latest weaponry, while the US also is doing its own bit including dangerous labs and so on. West, US in particular, has tried to destabilize Ukraine by interfering into its internal affairs, trying to set up governments to its own liking, influencing the electoral process, and helping anti-Russian fascist groups. US has used Ukraine as an anti-Russia political propaganda base.

 On the other hand, Russia is less than sincere in talking about NATO threat, which of course is very much there. Russia is increasingly using NATO threat and the fact of its bases as pretext to further its own interests in Ukraine and beyond towards the Mediterranean. There is no justification for military invasion by Russia. It is trying to crush Ukraine.

 The reality is far more complex and wider. Russia is pursuing a policy of ultra-nationalist expansion, and clearly wants to disintegrate Ukraine by using its latest military might without any immediate threat to itself.

Ukraine: some historical truths and Lenin’s approach

 The Tsarist Russia was widely known as the ‘prison of nations’; Ukraine was one among the ‘prisoners’. The nations were severely oppressed under Tsarist empire, generating a prolonged movement for national preservation and liberation. Poland and Ukraine were the two most oppressed nations, who were dealt with brutally, and were often severed into pieces to further imperialist and expansionist designs. Under the Tsar, smaller and weaker nations/countries were exploited by Russia’s monopoly imperialist feudal-militarist system and badly treated and discriminated against. Ukraine was one among them; to its credit it always fought for its independent identity. Great Lenin understood this, and wrote extensively on it.

 The Soviet Russian revolution of 1917 announced announced that it was liberating all the oppressed countries and nations, and the latter could choose as they liked: to remain or leave the Soviet Federation/Union. Lenin and the Bolsheviks were the first to recognize the right of freedom and independence including right to secede for the Ukrainians and other constituent nations of Tsarist Russia, without preconditions. They had to be freed from the Tsarist ‘prison of nations’.

 Soviet revolution of November 7, 1917, led by Lenin, and his government gave the option to the nations to remain in Soviet Russia or to secede. Finland separated in 1918. But Ukraine chose to remain within the Russia Federation and later USSR, formed in 1922.

 Lenin wrote extensively in Ukrainian and national questions. He made his position on Ukraine very clear and without any ambiguity. He wrote in mid-1917: “no democrat can deny the Ukraine’s right to freely secede from Russia. Only unqualified recognition of this right makes it possible to advocate a free union of the Ukrainians and the Great Russians, a voluntary association of the two peoples in one state. Only unqualified recognition of this right can actually break completely and irrevocably with the accursed tsarist past... Accursed tsarism made the Great Russians executioners of the Ukrainian people...”(V.I. Lenin, CW Vol 25, pp91-92)

 Lenin wrote again in December 1919: “Soviet power in the Ukraine has its own special tasks... One... is the question of whether the Ukraine is to be a separate and independent Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic bound in alliance (federation) with the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic...

“The independence of the Ukraine has been recognised both by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee of the R.S.F.S.R. (Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic) and by the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks).” “...only the Ukrainian workers and peasants themselves can and will decide...”

 USSR or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was founded in 1922. There were several stages to its formation between 1917 and 1922 (December). All the while the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine was consciously protected. Initially, the federation was a lose one. Gradually, Ukraine became one of the constituent republics of the USSR as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The USSR consisted of 15 republics, all with the right to secede.

 Ukraine gained much from USSR. The living standards of the people rose appreciably during the Soviet regime. Housing, jobs, education, health, communications etc were greatly developed. It became a strong republic.

 It should be realized that the USSR was not ‘one country’ in the usual sense. It was a federation or union of ‘republics’ or countries. This fact was often forgotten and distorted after Lenin;s death, particularly during Stalin’s regime. Stalinist rule once again began to suppress the legitimate rights, culture, traditions, way of life etc of the constituent nations. They were victims of great power arrogance. There was lot resentment on this question. Smaller nations suffered heavily, including through physical liquidation under Stalin’s repressive machine.

 Ukrainians also felt that several cultural and identity factors of their nation suffered, particularly after the death of Lenin, and that their tradition, culture and way of life were being ‘Russified’ and suppressed. Ukrainians are fiercely nationalist and independent-minded people. The Soviet regimes at various times, pre- or post WW II ones, did not always deal with this problem satisfactorily. This fact was often used by the rightwing and fascist elements, as is happening even today.

Ukraine not ‘Lenin’s creation’

 It has been stated by Vladimir Putin and other leaders that Ukraine was ‘Lenin creation’. Obviously, this formulation has been coined and is being used to justify the Russian invasion and expansion. Russia simply does not recognize the independent status of Ukraine. All other arguments are being built to justify this approach.

 As soon as Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ukraine declared its independence, and separated out. It is wrong to suggest that Ukraine is ‘Lenin’s creation’. On the contrary, it is the creation of history, as shown above. Ukraine must be treated as an independent and sovereign entity. It cannot be treated as a guinea-pig in the big-power rivalry, targeted constantly by NATO and the West to force it into their designs. On the other hand, it is threatened and aggressed upon by Russia, which has developed new vested interests.

 It is interesting to note that USSR had, not one, but three votes in the general assembly of United Nations: USSR, Belorussia and Ukraine. This underlined the republican status of the constituents. Ukraine and Belorussia were conferred this status for their special position and role during the WW II.

Socioeconomic and geopolitical changes in Russia

  Lot of changes have taken place in Eastern Europe and Russia during the last three decades. The disintegration of USSR and of centralized socialist regimes in East European countries created conditions for new directions of social development. Each one has undertaken its own path, which have not so far been properly analyzed. Money-commodity relations have spread very fast, and a vast market has emerged. Russia has become home to new bourgeois capitalist and petty bourgeois relations. During this period, drastic geo-political and economic changes have taken place in the region and in Russia. Russia has emerged as a major world power in the interregnum.

  Initially, Russia’s rise has been a relief for people of the world, who looked upon it as their supporter and a deterrent against the West. They expect much from Russia. It has in fact helped several countries of the Middle East against western machinations, and has proved to be a counter-weight and deterrent to the US and NATO. Russia, for example, continues to have close economic, political and defence ties with India, much to the dislike of the US and the West.

 Economic changes also have occurred in the regions bordering Russia, such as in Ukraine. It is today crisscrossed with oil and other pipelines and wires. Oil is an important source not only of economics but also of politics. Differing political structures have emerged in the region. New dominating and ruling classes and circles have emerged in Russia, Ukraine and others. Coal, wheat, oil, transport, new technology and military build-up determine increasingly the political positions taken up. Ukraine has emerged as a new economic and political hotbed, often for rightwing. Trade through the Bosporus and Dardanelles to and from the Mediterranean has increased many-fold, a crucial geopolitical factor, enhancing Ukraine’s importance.

 Ukraine is also one of the largest producers of an item of the microchips, crucial for the motherboards in the computers.

Emerging class formations

 East Europe and its countries, Russia and Ukraine, and others in the region, have each followed their own lines of further development. In both Ukraine and Russia, new wealthy, parasitic and crony capitalist interests have emerged rapidly, often based upon trade and commerce. Russia has developed giant bourgeois oligarchic interests, which has used massive wealth inherited from the Soviet times and also using new wealth with new enterprise. Russia is among the leading countries of the world ‘producing’ billionaires! The regions, particularly Russia, areas also being industrialized. A new middle class has come into being in both the countries, as also in neighboring countries.

 It is an altogether different scenario than what was to be found some three decades ago. Russia and its action must not, therefore, be scene through the nostalgic prism of a ‘revival’ of the USSR. Some ‘old -era’ leftists and Communists tend to do so, leading to erroneous conclusions.

 While Russia may be justified on issues such as threat from NATO etc to its security, yet certain other disturbing realities cannot be ignored.

New disturbing features of Russia: big power expansionism 

  Today, Russia has become a powerful new world power, economically, politically and militarily, developing its own military-industrial complex. This is a crucial development. Consequently, it has developed its own vested interests, which display certain disturbing features, which cannot be zoomed down only to threat from NATO. One even finds unnecessary references to the possible use of nuclear weapons by the Russian political and military leaders, completely forgetting Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While the question of security threat to Russia from NATO is understandable, the massive invasion by Russian troops is totally uncalled for. Russia could have met threat from Ukraine in other ways.

Russia tends to become ‘Greater Russia’.

Russian invasion of Ukraine: dangerous 

 Suddenly, hundreds of thousands of Russian troops have invaded Ukraine. This at a time when negotiations between the two countries were going on. This military invasion is totally unnecessary. There was no immediate military threat from Ukraine to Russia, or massing of Ukrainian troops. NATO threat is true only in the long-term considerations. Russia kept on changing its versions. It first talked of taking in Luhansk and Donets. Then it began to spread, and is now shelling civilian targets too. One could understand pressurizing by massing of Russian troops, and simultaneous talks. But why invasion? It is not even a formal NATO member. There is not a single foreign or NATO soldier on the soil of that country.

 Ukraine has handed over its nuclear arsenal to Russia and nuclear fuel to the US. So, there is no nuclear threat from it. It handed over 176 ICBMs (inter-continental ballistic missiles), 44 cruise missiles, 2000 warheads, 2600 tactical nuclear weapons. It handed over its nuclear fuel to the US. All these for a pittance. Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurance of December 1994 sealed Ukraine’s place in the NPT and its status as a non-nuclear country, in return for security assurances. Today we find all these and the Minsk 1 and 2 being flagrantly violated.

 Ukraine certainly has encouraged rightwing, even fascist elements; it is nobody’s case to defend the wrong-doings of Ukraine. But that does not constitute any basis for its invasion.

  The massive invasion of Ukraine brings to light a new dangerous feature of Russia: it is tending to solve problems through military means. One cannot avoid the conclusion that the Russian step is more of a military-strategic one, aimed at crushing Ukraine and creating a pathway to the Mediterranean, with Crimea, Mariupol, Sevastopol, etc as crucial bases. Luhansk and Donetsk are crucial for coal and other things. Ukraine is rich in wheat production, an important basket for the world. It provides important base against Turkey, a NATO base.

 The Russian invasion is also a brazen step of an ultra-nationalist power aiming to establish its hegemony over Eastern and South-eastern Europe, and through it on the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Ukraine is sought to be silenced and crushed, with common people being driven out.

Ukraine is a sovereign country

  Ukraine is an independent and sovereign country, fighting to protect its independence against invasion by mighty armies. Any independent country will and must do so. 21st century is one of democracy, independence, sovereignty and mutual cooperation. It is a century where military means need to be avoided. This applies very much to the US and NATO, but also to Russia and others.

  In today’s world, the independence and sovereignty of smaller, weak and vulnerable nations and countries need especially to be protected. People: old men, women, children are being driven out and converted into refugees. Some 5 to 10 million refugees are reported to have fled to various countries, for no fault of theirs. Russia is trying to exhibit its military might, using NATO expansion. This is an unprecedented crisis, which should have been solved through negotiations.

Hope for end of war

All the peace-loving people of the world want an immediate end to hostilities and war in Ukraine. Russian troops must withdraw immediately, and peace must be restored. Ukraine and its people should be allowed to lead a normal life once again. Let the big power politicians try to resolve problems through discussions. All the parties should come back to negotiating table.

Peace is the only alternative.

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