The announcement June 24 that the private mercenary Wagner Group was marching toward Moscow, with an implied threat to the Russian government, brought joy to U.S. imperialist strategists and their corporate media hacks.
Within 24 hours, however, the march and implied coup were over, at least for now. Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was reported to be heading to exile in Belarus, and in a statement June 26, he declared that he had no intention to depose Russian President Vladimir Putin. Joy in the corporate media subsided, replaced by the normal anti-Russian propaganda.
That this event exploded and subsided so quickly threw a spotlight once more on the dangers that the U.S.-NATO proxy war in Ukraine raises for Russia, Ukraine, Europe and the world. The initial joy of the imperialists illustrates how antiwar and anti-imperialist forces in the NATO countries must react to the events.
Antiwar activists must demand an end to weapons shipments, advisers, and training missions from the U.S. and its allies to the Kiev regime in Ukraine. This escalating intervention has intentionally prolonged the war and caused so much suffering and so many deaths among Russians and Ukrainians.
The movement in the West must demand an end to NATO and its role as world police for the imperialists’ global exploitation of resources and labor.
Washington’s strategic goal
Washington’s goal, to expand NATO eastward since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, has been aimed at dismantling Russia as a competitor. What the U.S. strategists have written is that they want to turn Russia, the country with the largest land area in the world, into a supplier of cheap ores and energy to the dominant imperialist countries in North America, Europe and Japan.
For the last decade Washington’s anti-Russian strategy has focused on Ukraine. Since the February 2022 Russian intervention, U.S. officials have prevented negotiations to end the fighting and have twisted the arms of the European NATO members, forcing them to feed weapons to the Kiev government and prolong the war.
The U.S. strategists’ goal has been to impose a regime on Russia that, like the Boris Yeltsin regime in the 1990s, opens up Russia completely to imperialist penetration and gives no support to countries in the Global South that resist imperialist domination.
Russia is a capitalist country. Its gross domestic product is smaller than Canada’s, Italy’s or South Korea’s. Despite its military power and especially its nuclear weapons, the Russian government had no choice but to evaluate the continued advance of NATO and the right-wing takeover in Ukraine as an existential threat to Russian sovereignty.
The result was what can now be seen as the world imperialists’ proxy war in Ukraine. This war has provoked infighting within the Russian state, which the imperialists hope will bring about the same sort of lackey regime in Russia as during the Yeltsin period.
To succeed, the Washington strategists have been willing to sacrifice Ukraine’s population and infrastructure, as well as to supply the weapons that kill Russian youths. Should this strategy be successful, it would free Washington to turn its full attention to China.
President Joe Biden’s initial announcement last year that economic sanctions would unravel Russia has evaporated, as countries all over the world, especially in the Global South, expanded their business with Russia. But 16 months of war have taken a toll.
The first fault line of this pressure was between the official Russian military and Prigozhin, the CEO of a mercenary company – Wagner group. Prigozhin had been criticizing the Russian army leaders in Ukraine during an extended period. This conflict between Prigozhin and the Russian generals led to Prigozhin’s march into Rostov-on-Don, the military HQ of the forces battling in Ukraine and then on to Moscow. This raised hopes in Washington for a coup or even a civil war.
This internal battle in Russia seems to have been quickly averted with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko’s help as mediator. The Wagner Group was pulled back under Russian Military command, and as of June 26, Prigozhin was headed into exile in Belarus.
NATO is determined to continue the war in Ukraine, despite the costs. The responsibility of the anti-imperialist movement in the NATO countries is to oppose the U.S. and NATO role in the war.
This is a Workers World commentary, with contributions from Sara Flounders, Otis Grotewohl and John Catalinotto.