Ukraine: Current Focal Point of the U.S.-Led Imperialist War Drive
by RAY LIGHT
The picturesque cover of the 4-19 to 4-25-14 edition of the British ruling class newsweekly, The Economist, is a fancifully rendered map of western Russia, Ukraine and the Black Sea. Russia is imaginatively drawn as a big, hungry bear about to devour Ukraine and the word “Insatiable” is presented in large black type so that the cover’s message is unmistakably clear.
However, it would be a real mistake for the working people of the USA and the workers and oppressed masses of the world to believe that this Disney cartoon-like fantasy map contains a real explanation for the events of the past few months involving Ukraine, Crimea and Russia.
The truth is just the opposite. As U.S. imperialist apologist G. John Ikenberry observes in the current issue of the authoritative Foreign Affairs quarterly journal, “As worrisome [for U.S. imperialism] as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s moves in Crimea have been, they reflect Russia’s geopolitical vulnerability, not its strength.” Ikenberry substantiates his argument as follows: “Over the last two decades, the West has crept closer to Russia’s borders. In 1999, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland entered NATO. They were joined in 2004 by seven more former members of the Soviet bloc, and in 2009, by Albania and Croatia. In the meantime, six
former Soviet republics have headed down the path to membership by joining NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. … even though Putin is winning some small battles, he is losing the war. Russia is not on the rise; to the contrary, it is experiencing one of the greatest geopolitical contractions of any major power in the modern era.” (page 86, “The Illusion of Geopolitics,” Foreign Affairs, May-June 2014)
In this context, it is more accurate to view “the Russian bear,” surrounded by U.S and NATO military bases, and isolated politically and economically as well, like a cornered animal. It is the insatiable appetite of U.S.-led imperialism for maximum private profit that has finally provoked the Russian bear to lash out and fight back.
-The Debate On the U.S.-led Response to Russia’s Annexation of Crimea-
The Economist’s lead article, like its front cover in the 4-19 to 4-25 edition, is also entitled “Insatiable.” It strongly editorializes for the western imperialist powers to “stand up” to Putin’s Russia right now in order to stifle and suppress the momentum caused by Russia’s successful annexation of Crimea.* Among The Economist recommendations: NATO military exercises in central and eastern Europe, “strengthen air and cyber defenses there and immediately send some troops, missiles and aircraft to the Baltics and Poland … [and] NATO members should … increase their military spending.” The article also recommends increasing economic and financial sanctions against powerful Russians and “cut Russia off from dollars, euros and sterling” which would “deprive Russia of revenues from oil and gas exports, priced in dollars, and force it to draw on reserves to pay for most of its imports.”(page 11)
*NOTE: [Incredibly, the article admits Crimea “should have been Russian all along.”]
Most of the other four or five articles on Ukraine and Russia that appeared in the same issue of The Economist were much more nuanced than the “insatiable” cover and lead article or even contradicted them. The article focusing on financial sanctions (“Turning off the taps”) explained that, “Finance is the obvious place to start because of the pre-eminence of the dollar, America’s central role in the clearing of cross-border bank and credit-card transactions, and the American-led globalization of money-laundering compliance.” Nevertheless, while pointing out that even the limited sanctions already applied had had a “chilling effect on business in Russia,” the article admits that “sanctions will have collateral damage; hit Rosneft and you hurt BP, which owns 20% of it, and ExxonMobil, its partner in various projects around the world.” Furthermore, the article points to the likelihood of “countermeasures” that the Russian government could take against “foreign investors” or against “American banks and exchanges.”
A second article on business in Russia focuses on the already weakened ruble. But it also points to “a long promised deal for Gazprom to sell gas to China. Rosneft is seeking to treble its exports of oil to China. Sukhoi, a state-owned aircraft-maker, has just struck a deal to sell a fleet of small passenger jets to a Chinese airline … But its plane is chock full of key parts from American and European suppliers and thus its production is vulnerable to any tightening of sanctions.” Both these articles make clear that punitive measures against Russia are an even more complicated undertaking for U.S. and western finance capital than in the past. The increased internationalization of finance capital makes it even more of a priority to precisely “follow the money.”
Even the most alarming-sounding article, “Boys from the blackstuff,” dealing with “Russian-inspired occupations in the industrial east” in the aftermath of the annexation of Crimea, observes that “Mr. Putin … seems unlikely to want to annex any more of the country.” Still more noteworthy is the matter of fact statement in the article’s conclusion that, “Russia wants to turn Ukraine back into a buffer state …”
It is this admission that Russia desires to have Ukraine as “a buffer state” that gives the lie to the whole propaganda campaign of U.S.-led imperialism against the allegedly “aggressive” Putin and Russia.
The May/June 2014 issue of Foreign Affairs contains three articles (including Ikenberry’s) that address the current crisis in Ukraine. Reminiscent of The Economist’s 4-19 to 4-25 “hungry bear” cover, Jeffrey Mankoff’s article is entitled, “Russia’s Latest Land Grab.” Mankoff, Deputy Director and Fellow in the Russian and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, opens with the following dramatic declaration: “Russia’s occupation and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in February and March have plunged Europe into one of its gravest crises since the end of the Cold War.”
But Mankoff then provides some historical perspective, pointing out that, “since the early 1990’s, Russia has either directly supported or contributed to the emergence of four breakaway ethnic regions in Eurasia: … [Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh] … in which the splinter territories remain beyond the control of the central governments and the local de facto authorities enjoy Russian protection and influence.” Furthermore, he observes that “In each of those cases, Russia intervened when it felt its influence was threatened.”
“… In Ukraine, once again, Moscow has intervened to stop a former Soviet republic’s possible drift out of Russia’s orbit and has justified its actions as a response to ethnic persecution, the claims of which are exaggerated.”* Mankoff also acknowledges that one reason the Russian government has regarded the Crimean peninsula as being so strategically important is that it already hosted Russia’s Black Sea fleet.
*NOTE: [Notice Mankoff refers to the claims as “exaggerated” not false, an admission that there is indeed “ethnic persecution” going on under the pro-Western government in Kiev that deposed and replaced the elected Yanukovych regime. More on this later.]
Mankoff presents Putin’s plan to push economic and political integration with post-Soviet states. For example, Putin wants to form a Eurasian Union, a new supranational bloc directly modeled on the EU that he wants to launch in 2015. Evidently, Belarus and Kazakhstan have already signed on; and Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have expressed interest. Without Ukraine joining, this Eurasian bloc will not be capable of becoming a cultural and geopolitical alternative to the West. Mankoff explains that the prospect of the Kiev government signing an association agreement with the EU back in November would have meant the permanent exclusion of Ukraine from the Eurasian Union. It led Putin to offer President Yanukovych Russian loan guarantees so that he would reject the deal with the EU. As Mankoff points out, Yanukovych’s refusal to sign on with EU spawned the protests that toppled him. And the interim Kiev government, loaded with pro Nazi fascists and put in by the Western imperialists, signed the agreement with EU. This in turn has led to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the current turmoil in Ukraine.
Clearly, even according to Mankoff, these recent events in Ukraine were precipitated by the U.S.-led western imperialist encroachments into this key former Soviet state on Russia’s border.
The second article was written by Walter Russell Mead, a Bard College professor and the Editor-at-Large of The American Interest; he also provides the Foreign Affairs book reviews on The United States. Of the three articles by these U.S. imperialist apologists, Mead’s argument contains the strongest rose-colored glasses by far. His article has the surprising title, “The Return of Geopolitics.” For Mead argues that U.S. imperialism and its western European imperialist allies, far from having a geopolitical agenda, have been selflessly attempting to “construct a post-historical, win-win world.” (!) According to Mead, Russia, especially in seizing Crimea, has (along with China and Iran) undermined the USA and EU both of whom “would rather move past geopolitical questions of territory and military power and focus instead on ones of world order and global governance.” “Indeed,” continues Mead, “since the end of the Cold War, the most important objective of U.S. and EU foreign policy has been to shift international relations away from zero-sum issues toward win-win ones.” (Is he writing these things with a straight face?! What world has Mead been living in since 9-11-01, during the unending Bush-Obama war of terror on the peoples of the world, including in the USA?!)
The third article is G. John Ikenberry’s “The Illusion of Geopolitics,” cited earlier in this document. Its subtitle is “The Enduring Power of the Liberal Order.” As the Foreign Affairs Book Reviewer for Political and Legal books, it seems likely that Ikenberry was asked by Pete Peterson, the billionaire publisher of Foreign Affairs, to write an article to provide a reassuring counterbalance to what Ikenberry refers to as “Mead’s alarmism” in response to Russia’s successful annexation of Crimea. Ikenberry delivers.
He ridicules Mead’s thesis that since the end of the Cold War, “the United States has ignored geopolitical issues involving territory and spheres of influence and instead adopted a Pollyannaish emphasis on building the global order.” Exposing the “false dichotomy” that Mead makes between issues of global order and geopolitical conflict, Ikenberry reveals the fact that, “the construction of a U.S.-led global order did not begin with the end of the Cold War; it won the Cold War.” (page 81)
Like Mankoff and Mead (as well as The Economist writers), Ikenberry is an imperialist apologist. He claims that, in the post WWII period, geopolitics and order building converged and that, “with some important exceptions, such as Vietnam, the United States has embraced postimperial principles.”(!) (My emphasis) He finds no contradiction between his assertion, on the one hand, that U.S. “power is still unrivalled” based on its far reaching military presence and, on the other, the U.S. Empire’s allegedly “postimperial principles.” To this end, he cites the fact that “Washington and its allies account for more than 75 percent of global military spending”(page 87) and that “the United States boasts military partnerships with more than 60 countries, whereas Russia counts eight formal allies and China has just one (North Korea).”(page 82)
But Ikenberry’s biggest reason for continued confidence in U.S.-led imperialism, even in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, is the fact that “China and Russia have become deeply integrated into the existing international order. They are both permanent members of the UN Security Council, with veto rights, and they both participate actively in the World Trade Organization, The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the G-20. They are geopolitical insiders, sitting at all the high tables of global governance.” (page 88)
Ikenberry concludes that China and Russia “wish to enhance their positions within the system, but they are not trying to replace it.” (page 89)
- Russia’s Putin as a Stooge for U.S. Imperialism-
Less than nine months ago, Vladimir Putin politically rescued U.S. imperialist chieftain Obama from the corner into which he had painted himself in a build-up to a major U.S. imperialist war against the Syrian Regime! As I pointed out at the time, “Had Congress voted on a bill to authorize an attack on Syria in the days immediately following the President’s September 10th speech, there is no doubt that the bill would have been defeated in the U.S. House and in all likelihood in the Senate as well. Reflecting the current anti-war mood and will of the people, Congress would have represented a formidable, democratic opposition to an unjust imperialist war.” (“Obama: Drum Major for Imperialist War,” Ray O’Light Newsletter #80, September-October 2013)
There seemed to be no way out for Obama until he and Putin met secretly in Moscow during the G-20 Summit just ahead of the scheduled speech.* Putin and Obama met and “agreed to cooperate with each other on an effort to take from the Syrian government and ‘secure’ the Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles. Putin’s cooperation with Obama immediately allowed U.S. imperialism to break out of its international isolation on Syria.” (ibid., emphasis in original)
*NOTE: [Obama had declared to the world that he would not meet with Putin during the Moscow Summit to protest Russia’s harboring of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.]
In the days that followed, Putin was crucial to the successful efforts to get the Assad Regime in Syria to agree to get rid of its chemical weapons stockpiles and even extended this major deal with Obama and U.S. imperialism to include cooperation from the Iranian regime.*
*NOTE: [Additonally, Ikenberry refers to the fact that U.S. imperialism had been successful in making Iran “the target of the strongest international sanctions regime ever assembled, with help from China and Russia.” (opus cit., page 87, my emphasis)]
Putin must have been stunned when he realized, so soon thereafter, that Obama and the U.S.-led major imperialist powers of Western Europe had convinced the corrupt Yanukovych Regime in Ukraine to move decisively into the European Union orbit. This is the provocation that led Putin to provide loan guarantees for Ukraine that led Yanukovych to opt to move closer to Russia. This in turn led to the western-inspired “street demonstrations” that led to the ouster of Yanukovych by Ukrainian fascist elements around the Svoboda party and the Right Sector. Among the first actions of the rump Rada or parliament were to terminate the official status of Russian and Greek as minority languages, rescinding the Crimea’s autonomy and outlawing the Ukrainian Communist Party. The new unelected pro-western and chauvinistic government in Kiev thus scared the Russian-speaking enclaves throughout eastern Ukraine and especially the people on the Crimean Peninsula who rushed into the embrace of Putin’s Russia.*
*NOTE: [The one humorous aspect to this serious situation was the spectacle of Barack Obama, still wrapped in his wretched and tattered costume of “U.S. Democracy,” trying to explain to the peoples of the world why the vote by the overwhelming majority of the Crimean people to become part of Russia should be considered “illegitimate.”]
It is no wonder, too, that imperialist apologists like Walter Russell Mead and The Economist writers are extremely worried about how quickly and decisively the Putin government ceased functioning as a stooge for U.S. imperialism (at least for the moment) and made the bold move of annexing Crimea. And this has led to a general uprising of Russian speakers throughout Ukraine that Putin is trying to help the U.S.-led imperialists to contain!
-The Contradiction Among the Imperialist Countries and Groupings-
Comrade Lenin taught that, along with the contradiction between labor and capital and the contradiction between the hundreds of millions (now billions) of colonial and dependent peoples of the world and the handful of “civilized” (i.e. bestial) oppressor nations or “great powers,” the other fundamental contradiction plaguing imperialism as the last, dying stage of capitalism is the contradiction between and among the imperialist powers and groupings themselves.
The brief period of time between Putin’s rescue of Obama on Syria and Obama’s and western imperialism’s attempt to further isolate Russia economically and militarily by removing Ukraine from its orbit underscores the fact that this fundamental contradiction is an objective phenomenon. Russian and U.S. imperialism are partner-rivals. U.S.-led western imperialism, just like Russian imperialism is motivated by the constant need for maximum private profit. It is a fundamental weakness of the political-economic system of imperialism that cannot be wished away or signed away by treaties and other paper promises. Regarding Ukraine, we can hear Obama saying to Putin: “Nothing personal; it’s just business.” And, regarding Crimea, we now hear Putin saying to Obama: “Nothing personal; it’s just business.”
The Russian oligarchs have their own interests that have conflicted and will, in the future, conflict even more sharply with the interests of Wall Street finance capital. When Putin or other political representatives of the Russian monopoly capitalist class feel sufficiently threatened or find the opportunity/need to struggle against U.S. imperialism they will do so by whatever means are at hand. Economic, political and military blocs have been formed and will continue to be formed until such a time when a major war will break out so as to settle on a new redivision of the world or until the international working class leads humanity in putting an end to imperialist war and plunder and human exploitation entirely.
CONCLUSION: For now, the U.S.-led imperialist bloc is still the most belligerent and violent bloc. It remains the main danger of new wars of all kinds. The working class and oppressed peoples in the USA as well as the tiny U.S. revolutionary vanguard have a special responsibility to oppose “our own” imperialists in Crimea and Ukraine and in so many other countries around the world.
Down with U.S.-led Imperialism Main Source of War and Terror!
For A Soviet Socialist World!
CINDY SHEEHAN'S SOAPBOX RESPECTS A WIDE RANGE OF VIEWS AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH. GUEST ARTICLES MAY, OR MAY NOT, (BUT PROBABLY DO) COMPLETELY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF CINDY SHEEHAN or CINDY SHEEHAN'S SOAPBOX AND COMMENTS/DISCUSSION ARE WELCOMED AND ENCOURAGED.