The war in Ukraine has cost thousands of lives, massive destruction and displaced millions. With the northern winter approaching, the prospect of further death and suffering could be even greater.
After a phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on October 10, PM Anthony Albanese said that his government was considering further military assistance to Ukraine and on possible deployment of Australian military to train Ukrainian troops. This was confirmed on October 27.
“Australia will provide an additional 30 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles to Ukraine, bringing the total number of gifted Bushmasters to 90,” the joint statement by the PM and Defence Minister Richard Marles said.
“Australia will also join other partners providing critical training to Ukrainian troops. A contingent of up to 70 ADF personnel will deploy to the United Kingdom in January 2023 as part of the UK’s Operation Interflex. No ADF personnel will enter Ukraine.”
Since the proposal to send Australian military trainers was floated, anti-war activists and groups have expressed concern that this would be an escalation of Australian military intervention in this war.
Australian involvement in the Vietnam War began with the sending of military trainers and advisors and they warned against “mission creep”.
Australia has provided approximately $475 million in military assistance, including armoured vehicles, howitzer guns, ammunition and drones. The Ukraine ambassador to Australia has asked for more Bushmasters, Hawkeis (another armoured vehicle), artillery, ammunition, heavy weapons and drones.
In his opinion piece “To help win peace, anti-war activists should support military aid for Ukraine”, Federico Fuentes argues that peace and anti-war activists should support the sending of such military trainers and demand that the Albanese Labor government “listen to the just requests of the Ukrainian people and government” for more military assistance.
The British-led Operation Interflex grew out of an earlier military training program called Operation Orbital, which was started by the former Boris Johnson Conservative government in 2015.
As an article in Politico explained: “Since June, the UK has trained nearly 5,000 Ukrainian early recruits under Operation Interflex, a program that aims to support 10,000 new soldiers within a year across a network of British training camps. Interflex is the successor to a longer-running British program, Operation Orbital, which trained up more than 22,000 Ukrainians between 2015 — shortly after Russia’s initial occupation of Crimea — and May of this year.”
Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Lithuania, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand have also participated in Operation Interflex.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, anti-war activists in Australia, like their counterparts in other imperialist countries, have campaigned for Russian withdrawal from Ukraine as well as against NATO expansionism.
This is the right thing to do because it both opposes the Russian aggression against Ukraine as well as NATO’s own imperialist agenda.
Australian governments, Coalition and Labor alike, have been on a major military drive. Their more immediate focus for this war drive is China. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been committed, Australia has entered new military alliances, such as AUKUS and the security “dialogue” Quad, decided to purchase nuclear-powered submarines and increased its basing of US marines in Darwin.
Alongside this is a war propaganda campaign.
In Europe, NATO and its allies (including Australia) are exploiting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to expand its membership and increase military spending.
It is encouraging the Ukraine war to drag on at great human cost, as well as sacrificing the interests of other peoples struggling for their liberation, including the Kurds.
As the pro-Kurdish, left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey put it in this interview with Green Left: “We also see that this war is not simply a war between Russia and Ukraine; it is part of a broader and bigger war between Russia and the expansionism of NATO. It is a bigger power struggle, whose battlefield is Ukraine.”
In this situation it is correct for anti-war activists and the working class in the imperialist countries to view with extreme suspicion and wariness any further Australian military intervention in this war, just as it is correct for anti-war activists in Russia to campaign against Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The anti-war movement should also call for a return to diplomacy to de-escalate the situation and resolve the current impasse.
This is not a call for Ukraine to capitulate, but rather a demand that both Russia and the Western powers abandon their war aims and allow Ukraine to live in peace.