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Editorial Knee-jerk posturing offers no rational resolution to Ukraine crisis

THE war scare being whipped up around Ukraine has hit new heights. US President Joe Biden has declared that he expects Russia to “move in” on its neighbour at any moment. This demands a response from the anti-war and labour movements. 

While it seems clear that Russia has moved significant numbers of troops and military hardware to its western borders, it should be noted that it denies any intention to invade. The Putin regime speaks instead of a “military-technical response” should its demands regarding Russia’s security be ignored. 

Perhaps Biden finds it easier to predict where Russia might invade than it is to guess the next target of US aggression, since the range of options for the latter has proved more-or-less endless. 

Two issues underpin the crisis. First is the instability of Russia-Ukraine relations, rooted in the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, which severed political ties between Russia and most of independent Ukraine going back centuries. 

Elsewhere the hasty dismantling of the USSR stored up new conflicts as internal borders became state frontiers. Last year’s war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over festering ethnic/territorial disputes was an example. 

In the case of Ukraine, the present poisoning of relations began with the 2014 overthrow of the elected — if indisputably corrupt — Yanukovych presidency in what amounted to a coup by nationalists backed by the US and the European Union. 

This led to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a territory mainly populated by Russians and arbitrarily attached to Ukraine in the 1950s, and to an enduring conflict in Donbass, where anti-nationalists supported by Russia established two separatist “people’s republics.”

Accords signed in Minsk between Russia and Ukraine to settle the dispute included guaranteeing the breakaway areas autonomy within Ukraine, but Kiev has declined to implement this. 

Second, the international dimension is critical. In 1991, the US administration pledged to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that in the event of the withdrawal of Soviet forces from eastern Europe, Nato would not take advantage by expanding. 

Indeed, the liquidation of the Warsaw Pact should have been the moment for Nato’s dissolution too, replaced by all-encompassing European security arrangements. 

Instead, the US broke its word and has extended Nato relentlessly, including into the former Soviet territory itself. Nato has also been repurposed as a direct instrument of US hegemony.

The idea that it is a “defensive” alliance is risible — ask the peoples of the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan or Libya, all attacked under Nato auspices. 

So Russian concerns are far from absurd. It demands no further Nato expansion — Ukraine having been offered eventual membership in 2008 — an end to military deployments on its border and the return of all nuclear weapons to the territory of their possessing state. 

This is not to endorse the oligarchic Putin regime, nor to deny self-determination for the Ukrainian people. But the Russian position offers a better prospect for stability than Western posturing. 

And no-one has postured more than British politicians, government and Labour opposition alike, despite the lack of any discernible British interest at stake.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has been sabre-rattling in Australia and Britain this week sold weapons to the Ukrainian regime. 

Not to be outdone, David Lammy and John Healey flew to Kiev to offer Labour’s backing to Ukraine, an exercise with no purpose beyond underlining Keir Starmer’s reliability for imperialism. 

The anti-war movement should fight the inane warmongering of the British government and oppose Nato’s further expansion. It should demand de-escalation of the crisis, a halt to arms sales and an inclusive European security architecture under no-one’s hegemony.  

Stop the War and CND should be fully supported in fighting for these aims.

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