- Russian war atrocities not limited to Bucha
- Atrocities reveal Putin’s real goal
- Putin’s trajectory towards complete domination at home and regionally
- Reasons for Biden’s completely inadequate response
- For a real workers program to stop Putin
Once Russian troops were forced to retreat, the evidence emerged of barbaric atrocities committed by them in Bucha. Tragically, this will not be the last such evidence. The fact that Putin has denounced this evidence as a “provocation” shows that those
atrocities were and are the deliberate policy of the Putin regime. Putin’s denial of the fact of these atrocities is no different from the neonazis denial of the fact of the Holocaust. If there is any doubt, Putin’s regime is committing just as grave atrocities in Mariupol, where the entire remaining population – those who have not already been killed by Putin’s bombs and shells – is on the verge of starving to death.
These atrocities should be seen in the context of Zelensky’s proposal to Russia that the situation in Ukraine basically return to the situation before the invasion (as far as territorial control) and that Ukraine commit to being nonaligned, meaning that it would not join NATO or any similar accord. Putins’ response was to ban publicizing this proposal within Russia.
Taken together, these mean that Putin’s invasion has little or nothing to do with feeling threatened by Ukraine potentially joining NATO (which was always highly unlikely anyway). If there ever was any doubt, taken together these two facts show that what is happening is an imperialist invasion by a far right regime. The goal of the invasion originally was first of all annexation of important parts of Ukraine. This would be done either formally or by creating Bantustan-like “independent” republics. As for the rest of Ukraine, Putin’s goal was regime change – the creation of a client state. In order to carry out these goals, massive population removal is necessary. That’s what the atrocities in Mariupol and Bucha represent.
Putin’s troops behaving like Nazis
Putin’s troops are behaving hardly any different from Hitler’s when they invaded one country after another. This will help propel the Putin regime even further down the road towards complete personal dictatorship and even possibly outright fascism. Consider the frame of mind of those soldiers who committed those atrocities – multiple rapes of women, torture and executing dozens if not hundreds of civilians, some with their hands tied behind their backs. Hundreds of US veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars came back brutalized and turned to fascist ideology. What they did in general pales in comparison to what Russian troops are doing in Ukraine. It’s difficult to see how these Russian troops who return home won’t be many times more brutalized and won’t turn to fascism even more strongly.
Putin’s removal by a coup from some of the generals – or by some of the oligarchs – seems increasingly unlikely. Putin seems to have taken care to ensure that his generals do not start to develop an independent power base. As for the antiwar movement: Those who participated in the protests are admirable, in part because truth be told they are a relatively small minority of the Russian population. There is little evidence that a movement from below will be able to remove Putin any time soon. That is especially true because all reports are that the majority of Russians still support Putin.
As for Biden, his role fits the model laid out by Samuel Charap of the Rand Corporation. Writing in the influential journal Foreign Affairs, Charap poses the matter entirely from the point of view of the interests of US capitalism. The goal of the US, Charap argues, is to prevent Russia from achieving its war aims, while at the same time taking extreme care to avoid both a direct US-Russia military conflict as well as avoiding pushing so hard that Putin’s regime becomes some sort of “rogue” actor on the world scene. The interests of the people of Ukraine don’t even enter into consideration.
This is what explains Biden’s weak response to the evidence of atrocities in Bucha. He blustered about new sanctions. But not a word about giving Ukraine the fighter jets or tanks that Zelensky has been calling for. Even what Biden has committed to give is completely inadequate. He has committed to sending 800 additional Stinger missiles and 2,000 Javelin antitank weapons. According to Ukraine, they can use 500 of each per day!
On the other hand, Biden talked about war crimes, but that only has meaning in the context of bringing Putin before the International Criminal Court, to which the US does not even belong. (And for good reason. After all, there are several ex presidents and secretaries of state – like Kissinger – who would well deserve having been brought before that court.) In any case, all this is just talk, since there is no chance Putin will come before that court. As for the emphasis on “negotiations”, we should keep in mind the comment by former US Secretary of State George Shultz. He said, “negotiations are a euphemism for capitulation if the shadow of power is not cast across the bargaining table.” In this case, power can only be seen in military terms, which is what Ukraine needs more of – military power.
Putin may have put outright regime change on the back burner for now, all the better to concentrate on either formally or informally annexing the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts (provinces) plus Ukraine’s east coast, possibly all the way down to Odessa. Along the way, the Ukrainian people will see even more Bucha’s and even more Mariupol’s. And Biden must bear some of the responsibility for this.
Putin will not stop here
Nor will it end there. Putin’s entire regime rests on the dream of a 21st century version of a Tsarist Greater Russia. He cannot abandon that goal, because if he does then his time in office – and on this planet – are likely to be severely limited. Therefore, it’s hard to see how he won’t turn even further to the extreme right, possibly even outright fascism. Within that, he will be propelled to pursue his expansionist goal of incorporating all of Ukraine.
A real socialist policy would demand full support for Ukraine, including military support. It also would include a real program of asset seizures of both the Russian and the Ukrainian oligarchs’ full assets, not only their private jets and luxury yachts. It would include their hidden bank accounts and real estate investments all around the world, with the billions of dollars of these assets turned over to Ukraine. This would have to include then a program to end the secret shell companies through which the oligarchs hide their assets. The state which makes these shell companies more welcome than any other state in the US is Delaware, Biden’s home state! In addtion, how about the assets of the war profiteers – the arms industry and the oil companies? (Oaklandsocialist has spelled out this issue in more depth in our article The Invasion of Ukraine: A Socialist Analysis.)
Here in the US, workers need their own voice and their own party to fight for our interests and to connect our interests with those of the workers in Ukraine, and around the world.