In the past weeks, the confrontation between USA–NATO–EU and Russia is sharpening, focusing on the developments in Ukraine. The verbal and diplomatic confrontation is accompanied by troops movements and major military drills by both sides as well as secret diplomacy.
This is not about the “Golden Fleece”
Today, it appears improbable that the peoples would enter a war and shed their blood for the “Golden Fleece” or “Helen of Troy”; however, the pretexts utilized to feed the monster of imperialist war have far from ceased.
On the other hand, Russia supports that this does not simply pertain to Ukraine but its security guarantees. It considers that the accession of Ukraine to NATO and the transfer of anti-ballistic systems in Romania and Bulgaria disturb the “balance of terror”, that is, the capability of responding to a possible first nuclear strike that NATO may launch against it. It notes that the accession of Ukraine to NATO while it has not accepted the Russian annexation of Crimea and considers it to be Ukrainian territory that must be liberated could lead to a conflict between NATO forces and Russia, with unpredictable consequences. The Russian side appears to be ready to take action —even military one but without speaking clearly about it— to thwart these military plans against it. Moreover, it uses the pretext of “peace” and the protection of Russian and Russian-speaking citizens from NATO aggression to disguise its anti-Western argumentation. In our country, some proponents of the pro-Russian narrative call upon us to wage an anti-fascist struggle against “fascist Kyiv”, overlooking the fact that not much time has passed since the President of Russia praised the Russian ideologist of fascism, philosopher Ivan Ilyin, whose works include “National Socialism. New Spirit”, “About Russian fascism”, “On fascism”, etc.
Many workers in our country and other countries wonder who is right and who is wrong. Which side is based on International Law and which violates it? In the final analysis, what should workers do in these conditions?
International Law: the modern “oracles”
Those waiting to find the truth within the current framework of International Law will be disappointed, as this situation is increasingly reminiscent of ancient oracles that each seer would interpret differently. Today, International Law is invoked by all sides since it is interpreted as they see fit.
The Euro-Atlantic powers invoke Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which refers to the right of individual and collective self-defence of each country, to invade the area and supposedly “protect” Ukraine. This Article has also been invoked by the USA for its intervention in Afghanistan and its air strikes in Syria. It is based on this Article that Turkey has invaded and is occupying Syrian territory and Russia made a military intervention in Syria.
On the other hand, Russia invokes the so-called “Charter of Paris for a New Europe” signed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 1990, which notes that “Security is indivisible and the security of every participating State is inseparably linked to that of all the others”. Additionally, the Charter for European Security of OSCE, approved in Istanbul (1999) highlights that the states “will not strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other States”. Based on the above, Russia demands to have a say in the issues of NATO expansion towards its borders as well as in the weapons and forces that NATO deploys in its member countries, such as Romania, Poland, and Bulgaria.
At this point, we should clarify that International Law is part of bourgeois law. At the time of the USSR and the other socialist countries, it was formed as a result of the correlation of power between capitalism and socialism —which nevertheless continued being unfavourable— while back then imperialist crimes were committed as well. After the overthrow of socialism, International Law has been exclusively formed as the result of the correlation of forces among capitalist states; it is becoming more reactionary and is utilized in competitions by imperialist powers as they see fit, at the expense of the people.
In the case that a conflict breaks out in our era, the era of monopoly capitalism or otherwise imperialism, it is misleading to hold a debate on who started it or who observes International Law, which has become more reactionary and “flexible” so that it can be invoked by the imperialist powers.
The communists must clarify to the people the essence of this matter, i.e. the ground on which this war is being held, which is none other than the interests of the monopolies. The essence is to be found in the powers that are coming into conflict, their specific class content, and their interests, which are foreign to the peoples’ interests.
The aspirations of each side
Numerous people argue that the Russian leadership seeks to go back to 1990 when the USA promised Gorbachev that it would not enlarge NATO but did not keep that promise. They claim that Russia today wants to go back to 1990 and demands legal guarantees for its security. In reality, this debate is meaningless when we look back at history and how many international agreements have been signed, capturing the correlation of forces of that particular time, only to be changed a few years or months later.
The essence, therefore, lies elsewhere. After the completion of the overthrow of socialism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the newly formed bourgeoisie of Russia sought the socio-political consolidation of its power. During that period, the Russian bourgeoisie, led by B. Yeltsin, avoided an open front against the West; thus, it turned a blind eye to many moves made by the Euro-Atlantic forces promoting the interests of their own monopolies in the region of Europe and Eurasia. This stage in the development of Russian capitalism has been completed for some time now. The Russian bourgeoisie seeks to regain lost ground in the competition with Western monopolies and their imperialist alliances, NATO and the EU. The current global juncture is favourable since the next fight for supremacy in the international imperialist system is being prepared between the USA, which continues to be the greatest power in imperialism, and China, which is the 2nd greatest power in the modern capitalist world.
In the past years, the Russian bourgeoisie has implemented a series of plans for capitalist unification in the former USSR territory, where the presence of numerous common cultural traits is still strong and a substantial population of Russian and Russian-speaking people exists. Besides, it has been repeatedly highlighted by official Russian sources that the biggest nation, which has been “divided” by national borders, is the Russian one. The Russian bourgeoisie is interested in consolidating its monopolies in the former USSR territory, in the power struggle over energy wealth, commodity transport routes, and market shares. The expansion of its market shares is related to the capitalist unification it promotes such as the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Belarus and Kazakhstan play a key role in these plans as well as Ukraine, where at least half of the population is Russian-speaking.
However, those plans came into conflict with the plans of Western monopolies and imperialist unions that attempt to limit Russia, which they consider to be a competitive power in the framework of the global capitalist market. A characteristic example of this power struggle was Ukraine, which has relatively developed productive industrial capacities, raw material, significant agricultural land, and an extensive network of natural gas transmission pipelines.
In 2014–2015, a split occurred within the bourgeoisie in Ukraine. One part of it, under the active US, NATO, EU involvement and even through the utilization of fascist groups, staged an unconstitutional coup, cancelling Ukraine’s integration into capitalist unification plans with Russia. The reaction that followed led to the secession of Crimea from Ukraine, which immediately joined the Russian Federation, as well as to the secession of Eastern regions of Ukraine, which have declared their “independence” and enjoy the support of Russia.
The bourgeois part ruling Ukraine today imposes its power by reinforcing nationalism, anti-communism, and the anti-Russian sentiment. In this regard, not only does it deny to promote the “Minsk agreements”, which in any event are ambiguous, but it has proceeded to the persecution of communists —a fact that the KKE has condemned in many ways, even through the European Parliament— and the bourgeois political forces that dispute the political–military orientation towards the USA, NATO, and the EU.
It would be, therefore, much more rational to say that the aspiration of the Russian bourgeoisie at the moment is to return not to 1990 but 2014–2025, i.e. before the unconstitutional coup in Ukraine, securing nevertheless the annexation of Crimea to the Russian Federation. It calls upon the USA, the EU, and NATO to play fair in Ukraine and threatens countermeasures. What will these countermeasures be? “Russia may annex one-third of Ukraine”, recently stated Kurt Volker, Former United States Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations (2017–2019), in an interview to a Greek newspaper, considering that Ukraine could lose all access to the Sea of Azov and that a land passage could be formed connecting the Russian Federation with Crimea, apart from the newly built almost 20-kilometer bridge at Kerch.
It should be noted that the annexation of Crimea led not only to an increase in Russian territories and population (i.e. the Russian internal market increased by two million inhabitants) but also to the establishment of important positions for the Russian capital in the Black Sea region. The Ukrainian EEZ in the Black and the Azov Sea has been reduced by 3/4, allowing the Russian monopolies to take the lead in exploiting natural and energy resources in the region.
We do not know whether the above statements by the US official indicated what the new borders of Ukraine will be, whether this is a compromise proposal of the USA to Russia regarding the partition of Ukraine —demanding something in return— or just an exercise of pressure on the current leadership of Ukraine. What we do know, however, is that in general the borders do not change without bloodshed and that the role of our country in these developments is of profound importance for our people.
Greece’s position regarding the conflict. Dead-end proposals about new architecture and an intermediary role.
The ND government, with the assistance of SYRIZA and KINAL, has turned our country into a “hub” for the deployment of US military forces and a NATO “launching pad” for new imperialist wars, such as the one that may erupt in Ukraine. Furthermore, it is actively participating in NATO plans aiming to encircle Russia in the Balkans and the Black Sea. In this regard, Greece on the one hand becomes an perpetrator against other peoples and on the other hand may become a victim of these imperialist wars since it may face retaliation.
Wearing their NATO blinkers, ND and SYRIZA have been recycling their fruitless and so-called pro-peace initiatives. N. Dendias, the Foreign Minister, appears as a “mediator” and “bearer” of de-escalation messages. Some political actors call upon the government to play a leading role and submit intermediary “proposals for de-escalation” or “confidence-building measures”, while former SYRIZA Foreign Minister G. Katrougalos is reopening the debate on a “new security architecture”, where Russia will participate. All this is the “fig leaf”, which seeks in vain to conceal the common strategy of both parties (ND and SYRIZA) in the dangerous plans of the Greek bourgeoisie and its foreign allies.
These dead-end approaches try to conceal the main fact that war goes hand in hand with capitalism, that it is the “continuation of policy with other, violent means”, and that there cannot be such a thing as pro-peace imperialism.
What is to be done
In addition, the labour–popular movement must reject the dilemma of having to choose between one or the other side of an imperialist conflict, even if it is camouflaged with the religious doctrine of Orthodoxy or with “anti-fascism”, which in this case is nothing but a smokescreen.
It is also irrational to support the “weakest” against the “strongest”. Lenin said “The former country, let us say, possesses three-fourths of Africa, whereas the latter possesses one-fourth. A repartition of Africa is the objective content of their war. To which side should we wish success? It would be absurd to state the problem in its previous form since we do not possess the old criteria of appraisal: there is neither a bourgeois liberation movement running into decades nor a long process of the decay of feudalism. It is not the business of present-day democracy either to help the former country to assert its “right” to three-fourths of Africa, or to help the latter country (even if it is developing economically more rapidly than the former) to take over those three-fourths. Present-day democracy will remain true to itself only if it joins neither one nor the other imperialist bourgeoisie, only if it says that the two sides are equally bad and if it wishes the defeat of the imperialist bourgeoisie in every country. Any other decision will, in reality, be national-liberal and have nothing in common with genuine internationalism(…) In reality, there can now be no talk of present-day democracy following in the wake of the reactionary imperialist bourgeoisie, no matter of what “shade” the latter may be(…)”.*
In conditions of imperialism, which is the highest stage of capitalism, the communist and labour movement must chart an independent line, away from bourgeois–imperialist plans and based on the interests of the working class and the other popular strata, which have nothing to do with the interests of the bourgeois classes.
This is what the KKE has been doing, defending the interests of the working class and the popular strata and intensifying the struggle for the disengagement of Greece from NATO–EU imperialist plans, wars, and alliances, from the strategic alliance with the USA and France.
This is the line of conflict with those who lead the people to the slaughterhouse of war in the name of enhancing the interests of the bourgeoisie.
This is the path of rupture with capitalism, for workers’ power, which will build the new socialist–communist society.
* V.I. Lenin, “Under a False Flag”, Collected Works, Vol. 21, Synchroni Epochi, pp. 140–141, 146.
* Eliseos Vagenas is a member of the Central Committee and head of the International Relations Section of the CC of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). The article was published in "Rizospastis" on 12 February 2022.