Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine is a violation of that nation’s sovereignty and must be opposed by anti-war forces in the United States.
At the same time, we should continue to oppose the actions of Presdent Joe Biden's administration, which are the main cause of the current crisis.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, despite its promise not to do so, the US has marched forward, enlisting former Soviet Republics into the NATO military alliance aimed at Russia.
Even if Russia were the most liberal capitalist democracy, it would see the expansion of NATO’s armed forces — which have nuclear weapons and missiles in Western Europe aimed at Russia, up to its borders — as an existential threat.
Russia has explained that fact, which the US has ignored. If Ukraine joins NATO, it would bring NATO’s armies up to the longest border Russia has with the rest of Europe.
From the time Ukrainian nationalists launched a civil war against Russian speakers, after the events of 2014, they have said that Ukraine intends to join NATO. Putin has clearly stated that Russia would not allow that.
The threat of Ukraine joining NATO receded in recent years, until Biden’s administration launched its campaign against China and Russia. He declared both countries the greatest enemies the US faces, and made a new anti-Chinese military alliance in the Pacific with Britain and Australia.
Largely ignored by the US media, Ukraine recently deployed 120,000 troops to the front lines of the still simmering civil war in the Donbas, egged on by the US. That was another red line for Russia.
Biden then stepped up his belligerent assertion of Ukraine’s “right” to join NATO. The current conflict was inevitable.
Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine is likely a blunder and could lead to a catastrophe for Putin and the ruling oligarchy.
Putin articulated his vision most clearly in his recent speech on Ukraine, in which he attacked Vladimir Lenin and the Russian Revolution for its policy of national self-determination. This policy included the right of the former oppressed nations under Tsarism to secede, which led to the formation of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Putin dismissed Lenin’s “revolutionary ideas” and also appeared to support Joseph Stalin’s reimposition of Great Russian chauvinism over the other Soviet peoples as a step in the right direction.
Clearly Putin doesn’t want to reestablish the USSR. He is firmly for capitalism, is a conservative anti-communist and has again elevated the Russian Orthodox Church into a virtual state religion. He thinks he can reestablish the kind of Russian empire that existed under Tsarism, including Ukraine. However, this is a pipe dream.
It is not yet clear what his aims are in invading Ukraine. US military analysts have correctly said Russia could not possibly occupy Ukraine with the forces it has used to invade. Such an occupation would require at least 800,000 troops.
Putin would also pay a heavy political price, as there would be mass resistance within Russia to a war with a substantial number of Russian casualties. The Russian people would not accept that, and Putin would be overthrown.
Given the forces and air war Putin is using, his aim is most likely to establish a puppet state in Ukraine, similar to that in neighbouring Belarus.
An immediate result of the Russian invasion has been to bolster US domination of Western Europe under NATO.
It has also bolstered armed far-right groups in Ukraine.
The invasion cannot solve the issue of NATO’s expansion into Ukraine. The people of Ukraine must be convinced not to join NATO. The invasion is having the opposite effect.
Even if Putin succeeds in setting up a puppet government in Ukraine, it would be difficult to maintain in the face of mass opposition. The result would likely be a prolonged conflict.
Indications are that the Russian people are not prepared to support that possible result. Already, there have been street protests in more than two dozen Russian cities, including Moscow and St Petersburg, on the day of the invasion. At the time of writing, more than 2100 anti-war protesters have been arrested in Russia since the invasion started.
Many have posted their opposition on social media.
Condemnation has even come from figures in the arts world in Russia. As reported by Business Insider, Elena Kovalskaya, director of the state-run Meyerhold Center theatre, posted her resignation on Facebook, saying: “Friends, in protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, I'm leaving my post as director of the state theater … It is impossible to work for a murderer and get a salary from him.”
Prominent Russian sports stars, scientists and journalists have also spoken out against the war.
Despite his absolute power, Putin still fears the people. Even in the most repressive regimes, the voices of dissent always find ways to be heard. If there is a prolonged conflict in Ukraine, Putin’s invasion could lead to his own political unravelling.
In the US, anti-war forces combine opposition to Putin’s invasion with opposition to their own imperialist government. The US government is responsible for the crisis, with its aggressive threats and actions against Russia, including sanctions.
Two days before the invasion, about 1200 anti-war activists joined an online forum in the US sponsored by the United National Antiwar Coalition. Participants represented a broad cross-section of organisations.
Speakers emphasised that the campaign must focus on the role of US imperialism.
Black Alliance for Peace national organiser Ajamu Baraka made the opening remarks. Other speakers were: Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODE PINK; Joe Jamison, from the US Peace Council; Margaret Kiberley, from Black Agenda Report; Nancy Price, from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (US); and Susan Schnall, from Veterans for Peace.
These groups have participated in protests against the Russian invasion, while raising opposition to NATO and US policies. That includes rejection of the economic sanctions against Russia. Economic sanctions are a form of warfare. Those who suffer the most from economic sanctions are the Russian people, not its rulers.
“No to Putin’s war in Ukraine! No to NATO! No to economic sanctions!” have been the main demands of the US antiwar groups.
In addition, recognition should be given to the Ukrainian nationalists’ oppressive war against Russian speakers centered in the Donbas region. Donbas deserves self-determination, too.
CODE PINK, in conjunction with Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament UK, Stop the War UK and International Network No to NATO have called a global day of action on March 6.