The Geneva statement signed by the U.S., EU, Russia and the Kiev puppet government on April 17 was meant by the U.S. and European imperialists to gain time for the regime in Kiev to regroup and push back the struggle in southeast Ukraine. Judging by the torrent of bellicose U.S. threats and propaganda that followed, the effort failed miserably.
President Barack Obama had warned Russia that sanctions and isolation would follow if it didn’t get the resistance in southeast Ukraine to give up. Secretary of State John Kerry gave Russia “days, not weeks” to move against the activists. Vice President Joe Biden visited Kiev to show backing for Washington’s illegal coup regime in Kiev.
Three problems for U.S. imperialism
This arrogance, fortified with lies about Russian forces being responsible for the popular uprisings, is driven by frustration stemming from at least three fundamental problems that U.S. imperialism faces in its struggle to seize Ukraine.
First, no threats of any kind can bolster the faltering coup regime in Kiev.
Second, no threats and ravings of imperialist politicians and generals will gain one ounce of political support among the Ukrainian masses in the southeast.
Third, the dictates and ultimatums coming from the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department have so far had no effect on pushing back the Russian government in its opposition to a U.S. takeover of Ukraine.
A discredited puppet government, mass resistance to the West and Russia’s refusal to back down in the face of warnings and ultimatums have caused desperation among the militaristic and economic expansionists in Washington and Wall Street.
The threats and promises of support cannot give effectiveness or credibility to the Kiev government. It is propped up by fascists. Its military has failed miserably to oust the masses from the government buildings they are occupying or quell their resistance to the pro-imperialist regime that overthrew the legally elected government of Victor Yanukovich. The Kiev goverment is economically bankrupt and about to impose austerity upon the population, crafted by the International Monetary Fund.
Sending 600 U.S. troops from Italy to deploy in Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Poland cannot do anything to intimidate the people of southeast Ukraine into surrendering their the occupation. The deployment of ships and fighter planes and threats of economic sanctions against Russia cannot diminish the hatred felt by the people of southeast Ukraine for the Kiev regime and its imperialist backers.
The putschist regime’s “anti-terror” campaign has amounted to so-called commandos — probably Right Sector fascists in uniform — launching cowardly attacks on lightly armed checkpoints in Slovyansk.
The takeover of a dozen cities by militants in the southeast is the greatest barrier to an imperialist takeover of Ukraine. That is why the U.S. and EU are enraged that their ploy at the Geneva talks — meant to disarm and disperse the popular forces in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as in Odessa — has fallen flat.
Southeast Ukraine occupations wholly legal
The imperialists have tried through intense propaganda to equate the fascists in Maidan Square and the coup plotters now in the government, on the one hand, with the activist forces in the southeast who seized control of cities and towns and ousted the Kiev authorities.
The statement coming out of Geneva referred to “illegally seized arms” and “illegally seized buildings.” But the people’s seizure of arms and government buildings and the establishment of anti-coup political bodies are totally legal. It should never be conceded that they are illegal in any way.
Once the illegal regime took over — after the Yanukovich government had been ousted by fascist violence — its representatives in the districts, cities and towns of Ukraine became ipso facto illegal. The duty of those authorities opposed to the fascist putsch in Kiev was to do the legal thing: resign their posts and refuse to serve an illegal, right-wing coup regime. Setting up local governments that pledged to defy the coup plotters was the only way to enforce legality.
Just as bosses will do anything in a strike to get the picket line shut down and put an end to any occupation, in the same way the plotters in Washington and Kiev will do anything to get the masses to abandon their posts against the right-wing takeover.
The Kiev authorities were prepared to offer local and regional elections, more political and economic autonomy, and even measures to guarantee the official recognition of the Russian language — if only the people would vacate the strongholds they had won at great risk.
But once a picket line is taken down, once an occupation of a factory is abandoned, the bosses are free to impose their will later on. Putting the struggle back together again is difficult and often impossible. It is the same with the popular takeovers of governmental authority and self-defense in Ukraine.
Moscow’s greatest political support in its struggle to stop the U.S. takeover of Ukraine is precisely the anti-Kiev masses of workers and the general population in the industrial regions of the southeast. The most visible, most undeniable manifestation of their anti-imperialist sentiment is the seizure of government institutions in the cities and towns. This was further illustrated by the fact that columns of troops sent by Kiev to wipe out the resistance went over to the side of the people and abandoned their command and weapons to the popular forces.
‘Solving the Russian problem’
The deeper Washington sinks into a crisis of its own making, the more far-reaching its aggressive aspirations become. In fact, a front-page report in the April 19 New York Times stated:
“Even as the crisis in Ukraine continues to defy easy resolution, President Obama and his national security team are looking beyond the immediate conflict to forge a new long-term approach to Russia that applies an updated version of the Cold War strategy of containment.”
The Times continued: “‘That is the strategy we ought to be pursuing,’ said Ivo H. Daalder, formerly Mr. Obama’s ambassador to NATO and now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. ‘If you just stand there, be confident and raise the cost gradually and increasingly to Russia, that doesn’t solve your Crimea problem and it probably doesn’t solve your eastern Ukraine problem. But it may solve your Russia problem.’”
This view considers that Washington’s position in Ukraine is weak as far as taking over the country right now is concerned. But it puts the struggle in the context of opening up a broader campaign to weaken Russia and the Putin government. The goal is to economically strangle Russia until the government has been toppled by long-term economic sanctions and a more pliable, pro-imperialist regime takes over in Moscow. Once that happens, the thinking goes, then the U.S. can swoop in and take back Ukraine.
It is doubtful that the adventurist hawks in the Pentagon and State Department will settle for the long-term, go-slow approach now advocated by the Obama administration. It is probable that a more aggressive attempt to seize Ukraine will prevail. But it is important to note the long-term ambitions of Washington with respect to “solving the Russian problem.”
Aggressive stance on China
It is no coincidence that such a grandiose vision of the conquest of Russia has been put forward by the Obama administration at the same time that Obama has crossed a line in U.S.-China relations. During his visit to Japan, he openly declared U.S. military support for the hawkish regime in Tokyo that is attempting to illegally assert sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands in the South China Sea, 240 miles from China.
Obama is the first president to take such an anti-China stance, and he is doing it at a time when the Pentagon is planning to deploy more forces to Asia to strengthen its military threat to China.
This development puts the Ukraine struggle in the broader context of an advance in the expansionist ambitions of U.S. imperialism since the collapse of the USSR. The U.S. moved to destroy Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and Syria. It has sought to bring down the governments of north Korea, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and others in a long-term campaign of reconquest.
Until now, U.S. imperialism has directed its open hostility toward smaller countries. By openly siding with Japanese imperialism against China in a crucial military, geopolitical matter and by advancing the struggle to encircle and undermine Russia, Wall Street and Washington have entered an even more aggressive, adventurist phase with visions of establishing unchallenged global supremacy.
As the saying goes, “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” But it is not the gods that will destroy U.S. imperialism. It is the masses of the world, who will rise up against unspeakable aggression.
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.” Website and blog: lowwagecapitalism.com, where books are available.