Supporters of the Ukrainian state repeatedly refer to Vladimir Putin’s responsibility for the war and frequently cite his speeches as a guide to Russian motivation, often around the creation of Ukraine as part of the Soviet Union in 1922 or the essential unity of Russians and Ukrainians. In doing so they not so much contradict Putin as ape him in holding up a distraction that is obviously incapable of explaining why the invasion happened. An invasion to right the wrongs of 1922? Why now? Ukrainians will be persuaded that they are really little Russians through an invasion? Who could be that stupid?
It’s not that looking at what Putin or others say is not some guide to the actions of the Russian state but the leftists don’t quote those words of Putin that do most explain his decision–as one in defence of the interests of the Russian capitalist state.
As one of a number of previous posts explain, repeated warnings were made by Russia that Ukraine joining NATO was a red line, with many others predicting conflict if this line was crossed. Suddenly, however, for supporters of Ukraine these words from Russia are irrelevant and have nothing to do with its motivation and intentions or cause of the war, because if this was the case then their favourite capitalist state would bear some responsibility for it and so would NATO. This would then leave them looking like suckers in traipsing behind both, as minor camp followers of the Western war caravan pouring what it can afford into Ukraine.
Having failed to pay attention to what Putin said before the invasion ignorance now is not so much bliss as necessary to maintain their illusions in Ukraine and the West, on just about everything. The massive propaganda campaign of the Western state and corporate media evokes not a single rebuke as this left is perfectly happy to have swallowed the blue pill.
But there is really no excuse. It is unforgiveable to support one capitalist state in war with another, especially when this state is a proxy for the most powerful imperialist alliance in the world. Unfortunately, when you are plugged into this western imperialist matrix you see and hear what you want and justify your position by quoting Putin, except when he says something that indicates his articulation of the vital interests of the Russian state and that might explain its actions.
In this situation this pro-war left becomes an echo chamber of the bourgeois media in which we have repeated denunciation of Russian ‘talking points’, even when these ‘points’ relate to why the war actually started. So let’s look at some of what Putin said before the invasion; if any of the pro-war left is reading this they can scroll away now and click on something else, like ‘The Guardian’ maybe or the BBC, New York Times, CNN or any of the capitalist media outlets selling the same story and damning Russian ‘talking points’.
The historian Geoffrey Roberts states that ‘the first public sign that Putin was getting seriously concerned about the Ukraine situation were these remarks to his Security Council in May 2021’ when he said that:
‘It appears, and this is highly regrettable, Ukraine is being turned, slowly but steadily, into an antipode of Russia, an anti-Russia, a territory from which, judging by all appearances, we will never stop receiving news that requires special attention in regard to protecting the national security of the Russian Federation.’
Putin maintained support for the Minsk agreements, stating that ‘We have no other tool to achieve peace, and I believe they should be treated very carefully and with respect…’ This was, of course, before the other Western parties to these agreements revealed that they were purely to give time for Ukraine to build up its military capability.
This it did through growing western military support from 2014, mainly from the United States, which became more open and with clearer purpose:
‘In 2017 the Trump Administration began selling lethal weapons to Ukraine. Western states began to train Ukraine’s armed forces and allow their participation in military exercises. In February 2019, Ukraine’s constitution was amended to make NATO membership a compulsory government goal. Zelensky . . . in March 2021 . . adopted the Crimean Platform – a programme to secure the return of Crimea to Ukraine by any means necessary, including unspecified military measures.’
‘In April, there was a confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian naval forces in the sea of Azov, which ended without violence, but in June the United Kingdom agreed to enhance Ukraine’s seaborne capabilities. That same month NATO reaffirmed its commitment to Ukraine’s eventual membership of the alliance. In July, the United States and Ukraine co-hosted a naval exercise in the Black Sea that involved 32 countries and in August signed a US-Ukraine Strategic Defense Framework, followed a couple of months later by a Charter on Strategic Partnership. Between March and June, NATO conducted Defender 21, a multinational military exercise focussed on defending Europe from Russian attack.’
‘Russia responded to these developments by staging its own military exercises and by deploying more and more troops to areas bordering Ukraine. Estimates vary, but these certainly numbered tens of thousands by the autumn and increased rapidly during the ensuing war threat crisis. Ukraine responded by substantially increasing its forces in the Donbass area. According to Russian claims, half of Ukraine’s regular army was deployed there by the end of 2021.’
Putin said of Ukraine in November 2021 that “it is imperative to push for serious, long-term guarantees that safeguard Russia’s security in this direction because Russia can’t be constantly thinking about what could happen there tomorrow.” On 1st December he said that:
‘The threat on our western border is really growing, and we have mentioned it many times. It is enough to see how close NATO military infrastructure has moved to Russia’s borders. This is more than serious for us. In this situation, we are taking appropriate military-technical measures… ‘
‘While engaging in dialogue with the United States and its allies, we will insist on the elaboration of concrete agreements that would rule out any further eastward expansion of NATO and the deployment of weapons systems posing a threat to us in close proximity to Russia’s territory. We suggest that substantive talks on this topic should be started.’
‘I would like to note in particular that we need precisely legal, juridical guarantees, because our Western colleagues have failed to deliver on verbal commitments, Specifically, everyone is aware of assurances they gave verbally that NATO would not expand to the east. But they did absolutely the opposite. In effect, Russia’s legitimate security concerns were ignored and they continue to be ignored in the same manner.’
The next day the Russian foreign minister Lavrov stated: “Absolutely unacceptable is the transformation of our neighbouring countries into a bridgehead for confrontation with Russia and the deployment of NATO forces in the immediate vicinity of areas of strategic importance to our security.’
Only the most stupid or mendacious could possibly claim that noting these remarks excuses Russia, are irrelevant or need not be heard, or that they are diversions away from the real reasons behind the invasion. These purported reasons are, after all, other points quoted from Russians. The leaders of western imperialism are not stupid and I presume to believe that the majority of the pro-war left are not mendacious.
Back to part 8
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I think your presumption in relation to the mendacity or otherwise of large sections of the pro-war Left is misplaced. They may have started out simply making mistakes, but rather than correcting those mistakes they have systematised them, much as did the Stalinists in the 1920’s, in similar conditions. For much the same reasons as Trotsky described them in relation to the degenerating Stalintern, there is no real basis within their ossified sectarian organisations, led by long entrenched elites to discuss and correct those errors. Indeed, in that respect they are worse than was the Stalinitern in the 1920’s.
There are questions about the extent to which a lot of this Left has simply been infiltrated, especially given that the small size of these organisations does not require huge resources to effect that, and the petty-bourgeois, largely studentist milieu in which they operate as extremely susceptible to such activities, and has traditionally been where spies and provocateurs are first recruited.
My tongue was firmly in my cheek when I wrote that, although I know a few on the pro-war left who are simply lost. I do not expect them to find their way out.
I was once asked whether I thought Martin McGuinness was a British agent, although I don’t know why I was asked since I have no privileged information. I replied that the questioner should ask themself what he would have done differently if he was.
If I ask myself what the pro-war left would have done differently if they were led by state agents I can’t think of anything of any significance.