OPINION: Free Ukraine, End Imperialist Wars

Capitalist inter-imperial rivalry is behind the horrors in Ukraine. Russia must end the occupation, the U.S. must end its expansion, and the racist and nationalist double standards have got to go.

The imperial rivalry between the U.S. and Russia turned into a full-on Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. While the Ukrainian people have organized an incredible armed resistance, a growing and popular anti-war movement has shown itself in Russia and around the world. 

The world powers continue to play chess with the lives of Ukrainians; it is in the popular struggle for Ukrainian self-determination and against the imperial ambitions of Russia, the U.S., and all the bourgeois powers, including China, that we here at UWT should look for solutions.

Russian Imperialism

We have seen Russian imperial expansion throughout recent history. From intervening in the Middle East by supporting the authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Asad in Syria, to annexing Crimea in eastern Ukraine in 2014, to supporting the right-wing regime of Lukashenko in suppressing popular struggle in Belarus and actively suppressing a working-class rebellion in Kazakhstan, Russia is a significant power in world politics.

Not only is this invasion an attempt to increase Russian dominance in the region, but Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, is likely hoping to rally the Russian people around the nationalist project that is war, to undermine the resistance to his right-wing rule.

Putin’s regime is active in the overall right-wing turn in world politics. His own bigoted authoritarian rule is coupled with support for far-right governments and their repression of popular struggles. 

The U.S. right-wing is in solidarity with this project and is connected to it as evidenced by both Russian participation in supporting right-wing politicians like Trump and right-wing politicians and leaders supporting Putin’s regime, see Fox News’s political commentator Tucker Carlson.

U.S. Imperialism

This is all in the context of an inter-imperial rivalry with the other pole being the U.S. and its proxies in The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as well as regional European powers.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. has actively tried to maintain and increase its geopolitical and economic dominance.

NATO has been an important tool for this project, with Specter Journal’s editorial explaining that the “Clinton and Bush administrations expanded NATO into Eastern Europe, removing it from Russia’s former ‘sphere of influence,’ and subordinating it to Washington’s political, economic, and military domination.”

The editorial goes on to say, “NATO’s whole purpose, to paraphrase the infamous remark of its first secretary general, Lord Ismay, is ‘to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.’ The U.S., as always, cloaks this imperial project in the language of democracy and human rights. After its butchery and war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, however, such rhetoric rings hollow.”

Those of us living in the belly of such a beast as the United States must therefore make our positions clear when we call for the unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops, we also oppose U.S. militarism in the region and the continued expansion of NATO.

This is made all the more important given the state of U.S. politics. The potential to ride a wave of nationalist fervor that follows the war drum is surely appealing to President Joe Biden as he struggles and fails to address the social and economic issues at home. Progressive Democrats may also look to demonstrate their loyalty to politics of reformism and incrementalism by going along with such a ride.

A Bourgeois Conflict

Governments on the anti-Russian side of the conflict have responded to Putin’s aggression with the thoughtful moves of chess-masters. A combination of arming the Ukrainian resistance, mobilizing troops both for posturing and readiness, and sanctioning Russia.

But their motives as imperialists are clear when one considers how sanctions have been chosen. For instance, much has been made of the barring of Russian Banks from SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), but the sanctions are designed to not interfere with the Russian oil and gas that both Russian and European capital depend on.

Working Class Resistance

While I adamantly oppose U.S. or NATO troops on the ground, I support the Ukrainian people who have taken up arms in the heroic defense of Ukraine and its capital city, Kyiv. I support the half a million Russians who have signed a petition calling for peace or the thousands who have marched in Russian streets even though they face fierce suppression and consequences. 

I support the Russian platoon that surrendered when they realized they were an invasion force killing Ukrainians according to the Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. 

It is the Ukrainian resistance, along with the people of Russia both inside and outside of the army organizing for full withdrawal of Russian troops, and a global anti-war movement putting pressure on Russia and all imperial powers that can end the horrors the people of Ukraine are facing.

The Racist Double Standard

Lastly, I support the opening of borders to allow refugees access to safety. Just like refugees of Syria and Yemen, and all people really, deserve the safety of asylum, so do those fleeing the violence in Ukraine. 

This means all people in Ukraine, as reports have been made of people from Africa and the Middle East, including students studying there abroad, struggling to escape while Ukrainian citizens are prioritized for transportation and border crossing.

We must denounce the racist double standard we see when folks at CNN call Ukraine “civilized” in comparison to Iraq and Afghanistan, or when the Telegraph writes “they seem so like us. That is what makes it so shocking. War is no longer something visited upon impoverished and remote populations. It can happen to anyone.”

The people of Ukraine are no more deserving of shelter or support than those in the crosshairs of U.S.-funded weapons or troops whether in Gaza, Syria, or Yemen. Yes, shelter Ukrainian refugees, also open borders to all refugees and migrants. 

Furthermore, we must recognize the right of Ukrainian resistance is no different than the rights of Palestinians, or others, to resist invasion and occupation. We must champion them all. Lastly, we must end the inherent imperialism of Capitalism by abolishing the system itself.

Solidarity with the people of Ukraine!