Washington is using the upcoming referendum in Crimea and the strengthening of Russian military positions on the peninsula as a pretext to inflame the situation in Ukraine and stoke the fires of confrontation.
Another sign of the intransigence of U.S. imperialism is that, on the diplomatic front, an expected visit by Secretary of State John Kerry to Moscow to discuss the crisis was postponed by Washington. And in a new provocation, President Obama has invited the illegally installed, right-wing puppet prime minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, to the White House. In addition, Washington has arranged for Yatsenyuk to go to the United Nations.
The U.S. diplomatic and political goal is to give official status to the pro-Western imperialist regime in Kiev. This regime was installed when the legally elected government of President Viktor Yanukovich was overthrown by U.S.-supported fascist shock troops, who drove him from office by means of armed street violence and terror.
Pentagon raising military pressure
On the military front, the Pentagon is dispatching 12 F-16 fighter planes and 300 U.S. troops to Poland. All it took was one phone call from U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak to get Poland to “request” the aid.
Likewise, the U.S. is sending 4 F-15 fighter planes to Lithuania. In addition, NATO — primarily the U.S. — is dispatching AWACS planes to the region. AWACS planes are advanced airborne command and control centers, in addition to being spy planes. They will patrol the Ukrainian border and the eastern borders of Russia.
The USS Truxton, one of the largest destroyers ever built for the U.S. Navy, sailed through the Bosporus Straits into the Black Sea for joint exercises with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies.
Crimea and separation
President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and their echoes in the European Union have denounced the Crimean referendum and said in advance that “the international community,” i.e., the community of imperialist states, will not recognize the results.
But the people of Crimea have the right to separate in order to prevent coming under the rule of a pro-Western capitalist regime in Kiev. One of the first acts of the regime was to revoke a law that had established Russian as an official language equal in status with Ukrainian. The majority of the people in Crimea speak Russian.
There is fear and anger in Crimea that the ministries and the parliament in Kiev are filled with fascists and ultra-right-wing nationalist forces. Members of the anti-Semitic, pro-fascist Svoboda Party and the outright fascist Right Front have assumed high levels of authority. It is surely not forgotten that thousands of Crimeans were killed by the Nazis during their occupation of the area in World War II.
In addition, the government in Kiev is committed to bringing in the International Monetary Fund with its program of economic austerity. And another threat is that Western European and U.S. capital will flood into Ukraine as powerful exploiters.
Of course, West Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs are also exploiters. And trading one exploiter for another is not a program for the working class. Ethnic divisions can only damage the struggle of the Ukrainian masses. The best road to pushing back Kiev, Washington and the EU in their schemes to take over Ukraine is internationalist solidarity among all the peoples of Crimea and Ukraine as a whole in a common class struggle against Western imperialism, all oligarchs and capitalism itself.
Left internationalists in Ukraine
This sentiment was expressed in a recent communiqué by the Borotba (Struggle) union. The group describes itself as representing four or five anti-capitalist and anti-racist groups, including former members of the youth organization of the Communist Party of Ukraine. Some of the members of the CPU split when the party backed the corrupt, bourgeois candidate Yanukovich.
The group is engaged in the struggle against Ukrainian fascists and has been under violent attack by the right wing. Their communiqué #4 read in part:
“… [I]n the context of mass mobilization the activists of Borotba union and Center of Anti-fascist Resistance put forward the following slogans:
“Not to defend the surrendered power [Yanukovich] but rather to build up people’s self-organization.
“Not to ignite ethnic and language conflicts but rather to defend values of international and peoples’ friendship.
“The only solution to the crisis created by the oligarchs, officials and politicians is creating a socialist society.” (borotba.org)
Imperialism labels Russia’s defensive posture ‘aggression’
Washington has engineered a fascist insurrection and illegally seized control of the government of this highly strategic country. Ukraine has a population of 45 million, is rich in resources and industry, and has 1,500 miles of border with Russia. After incorporating 12 other countries, all former Soviet socialist allies and republics, into NATO, the U.S. and the EU are now making threats because of Russian measures to counter this clear act of aggression.
Washington is demanding nothing less than capitulation from Moscow. Before Yatsenyuk’s visit to the White House was arranged, Secretary of State John Kerry spent two days trying to press Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov into meeting with the puppet foreign minister, but Lavrov refused.
Washington then got British Prime Minister David Cameron to put pressure on Moscow, followed by phone calls from German President Angela Merkel. Obama himself spent hours on several phone calls with President Vladimir Putin.
All this pressure was to get the Russian government to reconcile itself to the seizure of governmental power in Kiev by the U.S. and the EU. Most important, all the phone calls and all the threats were designed to get the Russian government to accept a pro-NATO, pro-Western imperialist government on its borders.
Vulnerability of capitalist Russia
Washington is also threatening economic sanctions. Therein lies Russia’s greatest vulnerability, precisely because it is ruled by capitalist oligarchs, bankers and industrialists who are integrated into the world capitalist economy. The Russian ruling class has many tens of billions of dollars (in rubles) abroad. Either directly or through state companies the capitalists have investments from Ukraine to central Asia, the U.S. and Europe.
In sharp contrast, the Soviet Union was a socialist country with a planned economy and strong economic relations with its socialist allies in Eastern and Central Europe. It was not integrated into the world capitalist economy. On the contrary, the USSR was the victim of deliberate economic and technological isolation imposed by world imperialism.
During great crises, such as the invasion to crush the Hungarian counterrevolution in 1956, the intervention to stop a Western capitalist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1968, or the Berlin crisis of 1948-49, the imperialists had no significant economic leverage over the USSR.
In the present crisis, capitalist Russia is far more vulnerable. It is said that Putin anticipated such a development and has tried to get Russian financiers and investors to bring much of their money back to Russia from abroad. But that has limits. After two decades of integration into the world capitalist system, the U.S. and Europe have leverage.
The only saving grace is that this integration cuts both ways. The imperialists also have a lot to lose in an economic war.
Washington, the Pentagon and Wall Street have the immediate goal of enslaving the Ukrainian people. But their ultimate goal is to encircle Russia in the geopolitical struggle to dominate the territory of the former Soviet Union in its entirety.
The workers and the oppressed of the world will suffer if Washington is able to carry out its aims in the Ukraine and in Russia. The worst outcome in the present situation would be a victory for the U.S. Every effort must be made to stop this dangerous development.
Fred Goldstein is the author of “Low-Wage Capitalism” and “Capitalism at a Dead End,” which has been translated into Spanish as “El capitalismo en un callejón sin salida.” Both are available on Amazon.