Ukraine: Who will pay for the war?

The militant nationalist sentiments of supporters of the “Anti-Terrorist Operation” (ATO) have always been combined with expectations that the most difficult work for the Kiev government will be done by the West. At first it was thought that the European Union and the International Monetary Fund would pay for European integration, offsetting economic losses from the introduction of new standards. Ukrainians were then told that the IMF would provide money to “stabilize” the economy.

However, we learned that in reality the international financial institution imposes a neoliberal reform plan that includes cannibalistic cutbacks in social spending, increases in utility tariffs, freezing of pensions and salaries, and large-scale privatization — this time with the requirement “to establish control over all the territory of the country.” Thus, the IMF played an important role in pushing the Kiev junta toward a bloody war in the east.

Then, after the tragic destruction of the Malaysian aircraft, predictions widely spread of an imminent invasion by NATO troops, who would quickly inflict a crushing defeat of the “separatists.” Significantly, in the first hours after the tragedy, the notion quickly spread in the Ukrainian segment of social networks that many U.S. citizens were aboard [Flight] MH-17 and a U.S. invasion was inevitable.

However, most Ukrainian citizens simply do not understand the structure of public opinion in the EU and the U.S. The majority of voters, both in the EU and the U.S., are very anti-militarist. Suffice it to say that the invasion of Afghanistan required as a pretext the biggest terrorist attack in U.S. history: the destruction of the World Trade Center. While abstaining here from any assessment of those events, it should be emphasized that for an open military invasion, Western public opinion requires very serious and obvious reasons — especially after the exposure of the lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Even the expansion of economic sanctions against Russia was extremely controversial in Europe, since the transition from sanctions on individuals to economic sectors will damage European businesses closely associated with Russian investment programs.

So far the Kiev government has been left to deal with its own military, political and financial problems. Meanwhile, the war has virtually emptied the Ukrainian treasury. The ATO, which consumes about 1.5 billion hryvnia [2.01 billion dollars] per month, has put on the agenda the question of finding sources of funding for the war.

The establishment of unlimited control over the government by Ukrainian oligarchs removes the country’s richest people from the equation. Not only are they not going to lose money in this conflict; they also intend to increase their wealth at the cost of the largest privatization of the past 20 years, [Ukrainian Prime Minister] Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced, and through the supply of weapons, equipment, fuel and food to the Ukrainian army at vastly inflated prices.

The poorest sectors of the population are offered up to pay the costs, both indirectly (through frozen salaries and pensions and cuts in social spending) and directly (through higher utility rates).

Kiev has already officially announced new price increases in this most corrupt segment of the Ukrainian economy for Aug. 1. Well-known Ukrainian lawyer Tatyana Montyan has repeatedly pointed out the complete concealment of tariff-setting policy and lack of civilian control in this area. Meanwhile, this will be the second large-scale increase since the beginning of the conflict, causing confusion among the people: Will housing rates really rise every month? Given that in most areas of Kiev hot water is already shut off indefinitely, citizens will be left to solve the problem of heating this winter at their own expense.

Mass impoverishment, plunder of state property, robbing the population through exorbitant housing rates — these are the true results of the continuing ATO. More and more people understand this. However, the government is prepared to declare any disgruntled people as “agents of the FSB [Russian State Security],” as Yatsenyuk has already done. Protests will be suppressed by right-wing paramilitaries of the National Guard, and participants will be prosecuted for their “unpatriotic” attitude.

This raises the question of tactics of the left and democratic forces, who are already facing a new wave of repression. It is obvious that the time for picketing the government has already passed. Most likely, in the near future we will see new forms of struggle in the form of spontaneous civil disobedience. The massive evasion of conscription has become a much more important protest than any previous anti-war actions.

The organizer of this disobedience is the masses. And they are not in jail.

Translated by Greg Butterfield.