Imperialist Escalation and Calculations Threaten Working Peoples of Eastern Europe

Ukrainian soldiers, January 21st, 2022

By: Louie B. Parker, New York

The peoples of the region have no interest in the war. The provocateurs of war are imperialists and their collaborator governments, who condemn the people to capitalist exploitation, worsening working conditions, unemployment, poverty and a precarious future.

The working people of Eastern Europe and Eurasia are being dragged into dirty imperialist deeds over an ongoing conflict spread across Russia and Ukraine. Since late March of 2021, the Russian army has been deployed mainly to surround Northern, Eastern and Southern Ukraine’s borders. According to the New York Times, there are about 100,000 troops in these areas. Western attention was immediately grabbed by the escalating Russian military belligerence against Ukraine. Although the world public witnessed a rush of diplomatic meetings between NATO countries, including Germany and the United States, and Russia, the pressure tactics of the European Union and the United States meant to establish more control over Russia’s traditional fields of influence, the bullying and provocations of the Ukrainian army against the de-facto republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, and Russia’s desire to reassert its control over its traditional fields of influence have failed and made the diplomat meetings fruitless. As Russia claims, disputes appeared after the US and NATO forces’ attempts to encircle Russia through NATO expansion began in the late 1990s. Russia says that after the USSR disintegrated, the US and NATO promised not to make the former Warsaw Pact nations and the former Soviet republics of the Ukraine and Georgia members of NATO and not to provoke these countries against Russia. But the US and its allies didn’t keep their promise.They made Poland (1999), Romania (2004) and Bulgaria (2004) and the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (all 2004) members of NATO and armed these countries.

Let’s remember: After the “pro-democracy”/”anti-corruption” Euromaidan movement of 2013-14 gained power by leveraging the Ukrainian peoples’ dissent against the economic policies of the pro-Russian Yanukovych government, the new government followed a pro-European Union and pro-US line regarding its foreign affairs. This resulted in tensions spreading to the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Within the same year, Russia intervened in Crimea and annexed it. And Russia supported the de-facto Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic. Most of this time, the Ukrainian army continued strong military intervention to crush the resistance in these regions against the new government. As a result, two ceasefire treaties were signed in Minsk in September 2014 and February 2015. The latter was more detailed than the former regarding solidifying the road map for a possible peace process.

It is worthwhile to note that these regions are the most Russian-populated areas of Ukraine, historically industrial regions where steel and coal are very central to their economies. It is also worth noting that people’s demands for a better Ukraine were manipulated by the political leaders who find support from different imperialist countries. While Germany and the US were hoping to increase their influence over Eastern Europe and the former-Soviet republics, Russia was trying to consolidate the influence it had regained in these areas.

The US attempts to realign Eastern Europe strategically militarily and exert authority over Russia were not as successful as it had expected. Poland provided space for a United States missile defense complex (which was cancelled in 2009 and eventually replaced by a ballistic missile defense system), which could be used against missiles fired from Russia and Ukraine. This prompted Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko to ask for nuclear capable missiles systems from Russia. Ukraine was divided, but Russia mostly held its strong position. The Belarusian peoples’ anger was being degenerated by Western provocations but liberal mismanagement of the protest movement and the effective authoritarian measures of the government resulted in it losing its grip. These have been the moves and challenges that the US was involved in over the last ten years of imperialist rivalry.

Although the tides changed swiftly for the Democratic Party in domestic politics, it didn’t result in a change in foreign policy. The Biden administration was expected to implement new programs that would have aided working people, a more multi-lateral and deliberative foreign policy and unify the country. None of these have been successfully achieved yet. Even the years-long expected retreat from Afghanistan ended with a fiasco. 

The administration has remained mostly inactive in the face of threats to abortion rights, its inability to pass its policy agenda, such as Build Back Better even in a watered-down version, and political retrenchment on police reforms. Rising inflation rates are making working people’s lives harder; however, working class organizing and actions such strikes, demonstrations and unionization drives are having an increasing impact. State suppression is increasing everyday although it is not manifested by such an authoritarian personality like Trump. While the administration presides over a lower standard of living and restrictions on democratic rights for working people in this country, they wave the flag of “America First” policy outside of it.

Today, the US is trying to keep its allies in line in East Asia, the Asia-Pacific region, Eastern Europe and Africa. Initially, they are picking up the pieces to get more control over Russia, and push Chinese economic and political influence back. On this road, the US is also aiming to regather the political-military influence and prestige that it has lost in Syria, Venezuela, Bolivia and Afghanistan. In early December, president Biden led the Summit for Democracy. And they didn’t invite Russia and China. The summit made clear that the US is going to shift its discourse to regain its international prestige by using democracy and human rights over its imperialist rivals, China and Russia.

Considering it is not “the same old story,” the US government only makes a promise that has lost its credibility even in the bourgeois sense. Even the famous liberal foreign policy pundits tell the current US government “not to lie itself.” In his article, Peter Beinart addresses that the US always ignores the principle of neutrality in the Monroe Doctrine when it comes to its neighbors–deploying Marines to Central America and the Caribbean, using the CIA to topple leftist governments, and the embargoes against Cuba and Venezuela.

Since the Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war in September 2015, it has become clear that although the US retains its primary and dominant imperialist position in the imperialist-capitalist world order, it is not as effective as it was in the past. The Biden administration is leveraging what they have in their hand to reconsolidate its power and gather the Western bloc together — this is an important moment of their “America First” policy. At the same time, it is an acknowledgement in which world policy is not divided as bipolar yet.

The division in the Western bloc showed itself publicly first in the scandal that resulted when it was discovered that Germany’s ex-chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone had been bugged by the US. Germany has always been a country in the target of the US for having as an ally. In his book, The Grand Chessboard, the late Zbigniew Brzezinski, a noted foreign policy strategist and former National Security Advisor under Jimmy Carter, pointed out that having Germany as an ally is crucial for the US to succeed in its goal to dominate Eurasia due to its weight in the world’s industry. However, the economic rivalry and unresolved military defense expectations have led to chills in the US-Germany relationship.

A similar misconception appears among the analyses of Chinese and Russian relationships. Acknowledging Kazakhstan’s peoples’ protests having genuine urgent demands against economic pressure over the workers, the Tokayev government took advantage of this tumultuous time, and arrested Karim Massimov, the head of the National Security Committee, based on claims of treason and organizing a coup against the government. Massimov is known to have a close relationship with former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, dating to when he served in Nazarbayev’s government. During that time they built a close economic and cooperative relationship with China. In addition to that, Russia intervened in the Kazakhstan’s peoples’ rebellion through a regional organization that did not include China. Although Russia and China have always been depicted as acting together mostly against U.S. interests in Asia, Kazakhstan is a country where contradictions arise in this sense.  Kazakhstan, a country balancing between the US, Russia and China, represents a manifestation of the solidarity of bourgeois forces, as the leader of the Kazakhstan Socialist Movement, Aynur Kurmanov, has mentioned in different statements and interviews. Consider that that two of the biggest investment groups in the country are Chevron and Exxonmobil, and that both Russia and China support the current government.

Although making moves to reshape US foreign policy and international realignments, the US is not confronting the Russian government directly. One of the possible outcomes for the US is that the tensions will bring Germany closer to it. Germany keeps calling on Russia to de-escalate tensions because it is expected that natural gas pipelines will be the most harmed infrastructure in a possible war. According to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung,  the head of the Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz, Yuriy Vitrenko, said that “The first bombs will be aimed at the pipelines.” And so, it is going to stop the natural gas stream to Germany. Vitrenko also says that Russia’s goal is to eliminate the gas transit in pipelines that go through Ukraine. By doing that, they want to punish and exert their regional power over them. A Reuters news article gives details on the other side of this conflict. The US energy monopolies have begun to examine if they can transport natural gas to Europe in an emergency. A US state department representative allegedly spoke to the energy monopolies about the natural gas capacity that could be transported to Europe. It was also stated that the US is far from being able to meet the needs of Europe in the event of a cut in Russian natural gas. Many assessments have been made before by experts that the US’s policy, especially against the introduction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline (which would bypass Ukraine), is to sell the shale gas it has extracted in recent years to Europe.

No positive outcome has emerged so far from the meetings between the USA and Russia. Saying that Russia may invade Ukraine, the US says, “In this case, Russia will be subject to very heavy sanctions.” The European Union shows similar intentions too. Russia has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers and heavy weapons on the Ukrainian border. Ukraine is also deploying troops and armored units on its side of the border. The country is also kept receiving military equipment from the US and NATO forces. The source of the problem is the struggle of the two imperialist powers for hegemony and influence in Eastern Europe. The peoples of the region have no interest in the war. The provocateurs of war are imperialists and their collaborator governments, who condemn the people to capitalist exploitation, worsening working conditions, unemployment, poverty and a precarious future.

Categories: International, Russia, U.S. News, Ukraine

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