The Russian invasion of Ukraine is now in full swing. Explosions have been heard near and around cities throughout the country. These appear to have been missile attacks on airports and possibly anti-aircraft armaments, aimed at establishing total air dominance by Russia. It seems that this objective has been achieved. Russian tanks are now apparently entering Ukraine from the north (near Khirkov) and from Belarus in the west. CNN has shown video of Russian troops who just landed by helicopter at an airport just outside Kyiv, and it seems clear that Putin’s objective is to eliminate the present Kyiv government in one way or another.
Putin’s claim that he was simply protecting the breakaway “republics” is therefore proven to simply be a coverup for his wider goal as anybody with any objectivity could have seen. That goal, as Putin has stated several times, is full integration of what is now Ukraine into a Greater Russia. Those on the left in the West who until now focused on calling for “self-determination” for the people of Donbas facilitated Putin’s coverup, whether they intended to or not.
The same as far as Putin’s claims about defending Russia from NATO expansionism. As Oaklandsocialist has pointed out time and again, there has been no prospect of Ukraine joining NATO any time soon, if at all. Further, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is actually facilitating NATO’s expansionism as a number of nearby states are now considering joining NATO for protection. First and foremost is Finland. So, for those on the left who oppose NATO’s expansionism and NATO itself, it was always self defeating to fall for this propaganda of Putin. (Oaklandsocialist has always opposed NATO but never fallen for this propaganda of Putin.)
Putin is now saying he will “denazify” and “demilitarize” Ukraine. Anybody who believe the first supposed
goal knows nothing about Putin, whether intentionally or not. It is no accident that Putin supports and is supported by nearly every fascist group throughout Europe and the US. Moreover, it is overt fascists who have played a major role in the creation of these separatist “republics” and even the fascist mercenaries of the Wagner Group are reported to be involved. As for “demilitarization”, all that means is destruction of the Ukrainian military, which means destruction of a Ukrainian government that is independent of Putin.
Zelensky has helped confuse the Ukrainian people by repeating Putin’s previous claims that Russia would not invade Ukraine. In reality, this was a policy of conciliating Putin. It has proven to be a total failure, and now the masses of Ukrainians are caught unprepared.
But what were his options? As a capitalist leader, the one thing he could never do was to start to build a working class movement that reached out to the working class of the surrounding countries, first and foremost the Russian working class. Among other things, Biden would have totally cut him off had he done so, never mind what the Ukrainian oligarchs would have done. For example, there was the Ukrainian gangster and fraudster, Ihor Kolomoisky who had been appointed as governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. One of the richest oligarchs in Ukraine, Kolomoisky had built his own private militia of some 15,000 to fight the Donbas separatists. He was also well known for his overtly gangster methods. Does anybody think for a minute that he would have allowed Zelensky to build a real working class movement (even if Zelensky were so inclined, which he is not)?
How Far Will Russian Troops Go?
It is now reported that Russian troops are landing in Odessa. This is right across the border from another country that separated from Russia – Moldova. Moldova also has a separatist Russia-backed republic – Transnistria. It is entirely possible that fighting could no develop there and Russian troops could enter Moldova too.
Perpsectives Within Ukraine
Within Ukraine, it seems that the military resistance will not be successful. There were talks about a civilian force of 800,000 Ukrainians who are in hunting clubs. The idea that even that number of people armed with shotguns or hunting rifles could do anything against tanks, APC’s, helicopters is totally unrealistic.
That is not the end of the story. What the US military found out in Iraq and Afghanistan is that air domination is insufficient; you need boots on the ground. Notonly that but the boots on the ground inevitably turn to war crimes and abuses. That will inevitably be the turn in Ukraine, no matter what Putin’s soldiers may think they are doing there.
Limits on Putin
That is where part of Putin’s problem may arise. When he sent his forces into Syria as well as Chechnya, the local people were seen as the enemy – not Russian and not even Christian. Therefore, the Russian troops’ brutality was acceptable to the majority back home. But Putin’s entire propaganda campaign at home is that the Ukrainians are really fellow Russians, all part of one people. Already there have been tiny anti-war protests inside Russia. As the true brutality of Putin’s invasion gets revealed, these will multiply. That is even more the case since the standard of living for Russian workers has been slipping in recent years and will now slip even further. (Update: CNN is showing video of Russians being arrested in Moscow for protesting against Putin’s invasion. CNN claims that there have been protests throughout Russia and close to 200 have been arrested so far. This seems to confirm our view that this war will be more unpopular than other such invasions, such as the one in Chechnya.)
In addition, as a dictator who has been in power for quite a few years not, Putin increasingly is living in a bubble of his own making. He is surrounded by yes-men. This was exemplified when he publicly humiliated his head of security on, Andrei Naryshkin, who meekly accepted the humiliation on Russian TV. These are the conditions that lead a figure like Putin to make massive blunders as well as leave smoldering resentment within his own people. (It was similar with Trump’s cabinet. The only difference was that his cabinet members only got fired if they weren’t complete toadies; Putin’s are liable to be poisoned.)
Working Class Solidarity
The US and the world’s working class must figure out how to link up with the working class of all of Ukraine (including the L/DPR’s) to start down the road of helping unite the working class so that it can assert its own needs. Socialists can play a big role in this but not if they even appear to take the side of one or the other imperialist power and its representatives. That includes the many socialists who are in effect helping to cover for Putin. Instead, a working class program should include:
- For an independent role of the working class in Ukraine, in Russia on the entire continent and in the world.
- Build a united working class movement to fight for basic economic demands (minimum wage, social safety net, environmental controls, etc.) and oppose the nationalist far right. Build direct international links between workers.
- Link that up with the call for the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops and the end of foreign military training of troops in Ukraine. Oppose NATO as well as the Russian-controlled Collective Security Treaty Organization.
- Oppose Putin’s recognition of the two breakaway “republics” and his invasion of Ukraine
- For a socialist federation of Europe and Eurasia and a socialist world.
- In the US, an independent working class movement, opposed to both capitalist parties and leading to a mass working class party, is necessary to even start down that road.
A real bright spot on the horizon is the uprising of workers in Turkey and Iran. If their movements are linked together, this can be the origin of a regional and in fact global working class rebellion, from Russia to the United States to China… and all stops in between. (Update: CNN is speculating on the possibility that Zelensky may have to flee Ukraine and form a government in exile. that could open up the possibility for a radical and working class force to develop within Ukraine. If that develops, the US, the EU, and NATO will do everything in their power to undermine or even crush it, up to and including helping strengthen a Russia backed regime.)