The first anniversary of the February 24, 2022 military intervention by the Russian Federation into Ukraine is now upon us, and the U.S. and its NATO/EU allies, including Canada, are using the opportunity to launch a fresh round of ‘Russia bashing’ and calls for increased arms shipments to the Kiev regime to defend itself in the face of this Russian incursion.
The war itself continues to grind on, becoming a prolonged war of attrition, with each side striving to exhaust its adversary militarily, economically, and on the political-diplomatic front, regardless of the horrendous costs being inflicted. As one analyst phrased it, the war is on a one-way “escalation escalator”, as the imperialist powers led by the U.S. pour more lethal and advanced weaponry and equipment into the conflict, including main battle tanks, longer-range missiles and (potentially) modern fighter jets.
This irrational escalation is extremely dangerous, bringing not only the peoples of Ukraine, Russia and surrounding region, but also humanity as a whole to the suicidal precipice of a world thermonuclear war. There should be no underestimation of this existential danger; on the contrary, it is our responsibility – together with all those who cherish peace and humanity’s survival – to ring the alarm bells to this danger and to reinforce our call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and for a political negotiated settlement NOW! This is a demand shared by the vast majority of the countries and peoples around the world. There really is no alternative here. The prolongation and escalation of this conflict will only lead to global calamity.
In light of this extremely worrisome situation, we present here a review of some important aspects of the perspective of the Communist Party of Canada vis-à-vis this crisis, and of our tasks flowing from this analysis.
The Current War in its Historical and Global Context
U.S. imperialism and its apparatus of propaganda continue to claim that the Ukrainian conflict began with the military incursion of Russian forces on February 24, 2022. In fact, the political and strategic roots of the present crisis (at least) date back over three decades, to the overturning of Socialism in the former Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries in the early 1990s. U.S. President George H.W. Bush’s triumphalist speech of Sept. 11, 1990 made it clear that Washington would not be satisfied with the restoration of capitalism alone, but rather would use the favourable shift in the world balance of forces to construct a “New World Order” consolidating and extending U.S. hegemony to every corner of the globe. The economic counterpart of this ‘new political order’ was the so-called “Washington consensus” based on neoliberalism, privatization, the parasitic plunder of markets and resources in the Global South, and the imposition of various institutions such as the IMF, the WTO and the World Bank, all to the benefit of international finance capital.
In terms of Europe, this meant ensuring that the Russian Federation and the other fledging capitalist states in the CIS (“Commonwealth of Independent States”) would never again be permitted to gain strength, but rather would remain in a subservient role as a source of cheap labour and natural resources for U.S. imperialism and its European allies.
The grand deception of U.S. Secretary of State James Baker (who in 1990 solemnly pledged that NATO would not expand ‘one inch’ beyond the Eastern borders of a united Germany), paved the way for the eastward expansion of the NATO alliance; the ransacking of socialist state assets, productive capacity and intellectual elites in the former USSR and Eastern European countries; and the numerous “colour revolutions” in a number of states (including the recent failed attempts in Belorussia and Kazakhstan), all of which were planned and financed by US/NATO governments and their intelligence agencies – all of these were in service of this grand strategy.
Of course, much has changed over the past 30 years. Today, the leading imperialist powers can no longer hope that the 21st century will be the “American century”; instead, they are desperately scrambling to shore up their sagging influence and power around the world, and in particular to fend off the economic and political advance of Socialist China which Washington considers the principal ‘strategic threat’ to its supremacy.
The Ukrainian conflict and the ‘New Cold War’ against the Russian Federation and the PRC must be understood in this context. The heightened aggressiveness of U.S. imperialism (and its allies, including Canada) is not a sign of systemic strength; rather, it is symptomatic of the steady (and accelerating) decline of U.S./Western domination.
Was Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine an “unprovoked act of aggression”?
In the first few weeks of the war, virtually every headline and news bulletin in the Western capitalist media led off with the claim that Russia’s invasion was ‘completely unprovoked’. One is reminded of the Shakespearian line: “Me thinks thou dost protest too much!” This word-smithing is an essential part of the crafted narrative designed to demonize the Russia state as ‘expansionist’, that the Kremlin is run by a megalomaniac who fashions himself as a new ‘Czar’, etc. But the obsessive repetition of the phrase “unprovoked” has been singularly significant, intended to obscure – and indeed silence – any acknowledgement of the countless provocations by US/NATO imperialism (and its local puppets in Kiev) over the past several years aimed at threatening Russia’s legitimate security interests and concerns. These include, among others:
- the relentless Eastern expansion of NATO (including overtures to Georgia and Ukraine to join), and the forward basing of NATO forces on the very doorstep of the Russian Federation;
- Washington’s unilateral cancellation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) and the “Open Skies” Treaties;
- the 2014 Maïdan coup d’état removing the Yanukovych government, which was orchestrated by Western intelligence agencies, in collaboration with far-right Ukrainian nationalist and neo-Nazi elements;
- the deafening silence from Washington and other Western capitals over the brutal bombing of the breakaway Donbas region since 2014, which have claimed over 13,000 lives, including thousands of civilians;
- the shipping of NATO weapons, munitions, military advisers and trainers to the Kiev coup regime (in which Canada has played a significant role, under the codename “Operation Unifier”); and
- the harsh repression of Russian, Jewish, Roma and other minorities, as well as Communists and other progressives and social activists by the far-right nationalist regime in Kiev; etc.
It is undeniable that all of these actions constituted serious provocations, and would be seen as such in Moscow, and amongst the peoples of Russia in general. Such, however, is the power (at least in the short run) of this intense infowar that the mere reference to any of these established facts will lead to one being labeled a “Putin stooge”.
That said, the acknowledgement of these provocations against Russia should not be understood to mean that Russia’s response, i.e., the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, was justified. It is crucial to defend the principles of the UN Charter and international law, including the right to sovereignty and the territorial integrity of all states. In this regard, we categorically reject Washington’s claim to “U.S. exceptionalism”, i.e., the view that U.S./NATO can repeatedly violate the Charter and subvert international law with impunity. The UN Charter has been violated many times, in many parts of the world – by the unilateral and illegal economic sanctions imposed on Cuba, Venezuela and many other countries; in the 1999 NATO war on Yugoslavia; in Palestine by the Zionist state of Israel; in the take-down of the Gaddafi government in Libya in 2011; by the imperialist-sponsored ‘proxy war’ on Syria over the past decade and the continued U.S. occupation of northeastern Syria; by the US/Saudi war on Yemen; to name only a few examples.
Adding Up the Costs of this War
In the fog of pro-war propaganda, what is often mentioned, but then quickly glossed over, is the staggering costs of this conflict, especially in terms of the loss of human life. While estimates of casualties among combatants are frequently under-reported and most likely massaged by the respective sides of the conflict, it is likely that tens of thousands have already died or been seriously injured on the battlefield. And of course there are the victims among the civilian population – the ‘collateral damage’ which is an ever-expanding feature of modern warfare.
Then there are the staggering costs relating to the destruction of infrastructure and housing which eventually must be rebuilt or replaced. This alone will amount to billion$ upon billion$, once the dust of war settles. And to this must be added the economic and social costs of environmental devastation, cleanup, etc.
To all this must be added the costs of all of the military equipment, weapons systems, and other war materiel which is being poured into the war, both by Russia and by Ukraine and its Western allies. It is conservatively estimated that the U.S. alone has already allocated more than $100 billion to Ukraine, ‘military assistance’ which only serves to prolong and escalate the conflict. This is also true of the billions of dollars which Canada has contributed (sic) to Ukraine’s war effort, pouring even more oil on the flames of war.
And then there are the economic costs arising from the various sanctions which the U.S., Canada and other Western countries have imposed on the Russian Federation. These sanctions – at least to date – have had only a limited impact on the Russian economy overall, but they are most certainly increasing hardships on the working class and the most vulnerable sections of the Russian population. While Western economic sanctions have so far failed to undermine the Russian economy, they have sharply hit the economies of other European states, driving up energy prices (by three times or more). The sanctions have also had a wider global impact, driving up costs for food and other basic commodities, especially in the Global South.
Predictably, those whose interests are best served by promoting and extending this war are quick to downplay its economic and social cost, arguing that it is a small price to pay to ‘defend democracy’ and stand up to ‘Russian aggression and expansionism’. Even those opposing this war, and calling for an immediate ceasefire and a negotiated settlement, tend to focus on the existential threat that this conflict constitutes, more than on its economic toll. It is important however to draw attention to this economic and social price-tag because invariably, inevitably, it will be working people, the poor and marginalized who will be forced to pay for this conflict – now and for many years to come. Only a handful of financiers and monopolists, particularly those connected to the war industry and the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC), stand to profit from its prolongation; everyone else loses.
What, then, is the True Character of the Current Conflict in Ukraine?
Despite surface appearances, it is patently clear that the current war is not being fought between Ukraine and Russia, but is rather a ‘proxy’ war waged by the U.S. and other Western imperialist powers, aiming to weaken and destabilize the Russian government and foment “regime change” in the Kremlin, and ultimately to carve up Russia into four or five weak and dependent mini-states in its place. To accomplish these aims, Washington and its allies intend to prolong and escalate this conflict as much as possible, ‘fighting’ this war to the last drop of Ukrainian and Russian blood if need be, regardless of the human, economic, and social costs this entails. The US/NATO war machine is even prepared to risk direct confrontation and a global thermonuclear war to do so.
There are numerous examples of the manoeuvres of U.S. imperialism (and its allies) to intensify and prolong the war, and to sabotage any and every pursuit of achieving a peaceful resolution. A few in particular deserve our attention:
- The recent revelations – confirmed by several leaders in Washington, Bonn and London – that it was never the intention of the Western powers to pressure Kiev to implement the terms of the Minsk and Minsk II treaties (2014-2015) to avert a conflict, but rather a manoeuvre to ‘buy time’ to militarize Ukraine for an eventual war with the Russian Federation;
- Washington’s immediate and categorical dismissal of Moscow’s proposals, submitted in December 2021 (on the eve of the outbreak), to resolve and protect the legitimate security concerns of all states in the region;
- The covert intervention of the imperialist powers to cancel the fledgling peace negotiations between Kiev and Moscow in the first months of the conflict, to which the governments of Belorussia and Turkey, and most recently former Israeli PM Naftali Bennett, have all attested; and
- The U.S. role in covertly blowing up the NordStream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea in September 2022 – a serious war crime in its own right – as the acclaimed journalist Seymour Hersh has meticulously documented.
Most of the reformist and social democratic ‘left’ in Canada, the U.S. and other Western countries have chosen to lend support (with varying degrees of hubris and enthusiasm) to the pro-war, imperialist narrative. By jumping on this bandwagon – as they have done on numerous previous occasions (adopting anti-Sovietism during the last Cold War, supporting the NATO war on Yugoslavia, justifying the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya and the ‘proxy war’ against Syria, etc.) – they have once again exposed themselves as the ‘left’ bower of imperialism.
Within the anti-war movement itself, there are also some problematic positions which should be noted and avoided. One tendency attempts to conflate the policies and actions of the Putin government with the foreign policy of the former Soviet Union, and to portray Russia’s role in the current war as somehow ‘anti-imperialist’ in character. This wrong perspective obscures the bourgeois class character of the Putin-led government and of the Russian capitalist state itself.
There is also the view that because both the U.S. (and its allies) and the Russian Federation are capitalist states, they are equally responsible and culpable, and that the present conflict is simply another case of inter-imperialist contradiction and rivalry. In our view, while aspects of this line of argument are valid, it is not a completely accurate or particularly helpful assessment, especially at this critical moment.
The most central and fundamental reality we must grasp is that the United States remains the most powerful and aggressive imperialist power on earth, and as such, the main danger to humanity and the cause of peace. The very fact that its power is in relative decline is what makes U.S. imperialism even more dangerous at the present juncture. And with respect to the war in Ukraine specifically, there is no question that the U.S., together with its NATO and other allies are the main forces driving escalation and preventing any ceasefire and negotiated political settlement to the conflict.
Nor must we lose sight of our primary responsibility as Canadian Communists – and for that matter, of all left, progressive and peace activists across the country – to struggle against the pro-war policies and actions of our own government and its state apparatus in prolonging and escalating this crisis. This is our prime duty!
Our Tasks in the Peace Movement at this Critical Juncture
Given the deluge of pro-Ukraine and pro-war propaganda in the Canadian and international corporate-controlled mass media, it is very difficult to promote the cause of peace and specifically to demand a ceasefire and negotiated settlement. The sad reality is that virtually no one in the halls of power in Ottawa is prepared to question, let alone challenge, the dominant pro-war narrative and militarist hysteria. We welcome and appreciate the recent statement from Green MP (and co-leader) Elizabeth May that “arms will not end the war” and that the Canadian government should “press for peace talks and … for a negotiated solution”. Unfortunately, she is the only MP (to date) willing to even question Ottawa’s foreign policy on Ukraine.
That said, with each passing day more and more people are beginning to realize how dangerous the war has become, and how Ottawa’s military support to Kiev – now well over $5 billion and growing daily – is depriving vitally needed resources from social services and priorities like healthcare, education, housing, etc. As a result, views on the conflict are beginning to change among the peoples of Canada.
So far, this process of re-assessment is only evident within a minority of the population. But the direction is clear, and prospects to win an active majority of the people to openly challenge Canada’s pro-war course are growing.
Our task – acting independently in our own name, and in support of the Canadian Peace Congress, the Canada-wide Peace and Justice Network, and other mass organizations such as the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians – should be clear. We must use every opportunity to win over and mobilize the labour movement and other mass democratic forces – indigenous, women, youth and student movements, etc. – to take concerted actions for peace over the coming weeks and months.
Specifically, we should advance and support the following demands:
- that Ottawa cease all military-related shipments to Ukraine
- that all Canadian military personnel, including trainers, etc. be removed
- that the Canadian government should openly call for an immediate ceasefire, and press for a negotiated political solution to the conflict;
- that new military procurements for fighter jets, frigates, tanks and other lethal hardware be rescinded, and that the defence budget sharply reduced; and
- that a serious reappraisal of Canadian foreign and defence policies be undertaken with a view to Canada’s exit from the NATO alliance, and that Canada instead pursue an independent foreign policy based on peace and disarmament.
Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada
February 24, 2023