War in Ukraine – background and character of the conflict

Image: Tim Mossholder
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By CAIO BUGIATO*

The increasingly clear signs of Ukraine's accession to NATO and the instability in eastern Ukraine meant the crossing of a demarcation line

United States, NATO and imperialism

There is a foundation in US foreign policy: to contain and/or eliminate any autonomous politico-military (state) force that may arise in Eurasia. The classic and most influential theorists of geopolitics indicate that it is in this region that a threat to the supremacy of the United States would arise, due to its geographical, historical, economic and political characteristics. But this geopolitical dimension, in practice, is the containment and/or elimination of any force that proposes to be anti-Western or anti-capitalist.

It is not by chance that such theorists demonstrate concern with approximations between the States of Germany and Russia, between which there were friendly relations of the workers' movements of both countries, actively mobilized in the passage from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth century, when these theories They emerge. Linked to this geopolitical dimension is the economic-political dynamics of capitalism. The economy and the State in the United States, and other Western countries, were one of the pioneers of the development of capitalism in their territory and the formation of business monopolies.

These nation-states, capitalist powers, structure their capital accumulation processes so that they go beyond their national borders, that is, they expand their capital abroad, above all, in the form and in the activities of their transnational business monopolies. This is a second cornerstone of US foreign policy. The actions of the capitalist powers – those in which monopolies were formed, dictate the direction of the world economy, dominate the processes of scientific-technological innovation and have high military capacity – and their monopolies are key to understanding international economy and politics. In other words, the imperialist powers command the world political economy.

After the enormous war of worldwide proportions in the 1949th century, in two stages, the capitalist powers, which faced each other, laid down their weapons, entered into agreements and, in 1990, became part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), led by by the USA. Its very clear objective was to defeat the Soviet Union and all governments and states that proposed to build an alternative to capitalism. The defeat of the USSR in the early XNUMXs did not rule out the fundamentals of US and NATO foreign policy. On the contrary, it intensified them towards the former Soviet republics and their area of ​​influence. Thus, we can say: that we still live in the world order built by the US State and capitalists and that NATO's function is still to take care of the interests of the imperialist powers. This is a necessary explanatory basis for understanding the war in Ukraine.

 

Ukraine, neo-fascism and pro-Russian separatism

NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe has finally reached Ukraine, a former Soviet republic and border country with strong historical and cultural ties to Russia's social formation. Evidence of this arrival is the February 2014 coup d'état that overthrew the elected government of Viktor Yanukovych. A process known as part of the color revolutions – the Ukrainian one would be the orange revolution –, carried out in several countries by local pro-US and pro-NATO forces, from which funding and logistical support came.

In Ukraine, the process was marked by the awakening of neo-fascist forces, whose militants attacked trade unionists, socialists and communists (something very similar to the rise of neo-fascism in Brazil). In May 2014, a fire at the Odessa Regional Federation of Trade Unions building left 42 people dead. The conflict inside Ukraine has escalated into a localized civil war. In the east of the country, the People's Republic of Donetsk and the People's Republic of Lugansk were formed, in the Donbass region, whose peoples declared themselves independent in the same year, 2014.

In a referendum, more than 80% of the local population, linked to the Russian people, affirmed their separatist intention to no longer be part of Ukraine. However, the Ukrainian governments of Petro Poroshenko (2014-2019) and Volodymyr Zelensky (2019-current) did not recognize their independence. In practice the conflict between Ukraine and the independent republics was never stopped. Offensives by the Zelensky government and the neo-fascist hordes (the Azov battalion is talked about a lot, but there are large numbers of them scattered across the country) were frequent in the Donbass region and preceded the ongoing war.

The agreements of Minsk (2014) and Minsk II (2015), which proposed a special statute for the provinces that had proclaimed independence, autonomy and the holding of local elections, reduced the intensity of the conflict, but did not stop it. In fact, they failed. Compounding the situation, an amendment to the Ukrainian constitution was enacted in 2017 in which the state committed itself to joining NATO and its nuclear capacity to produce atomic warheads is considerable.

 

Putin government, autonomous capitalism and anti-imperialism

The Russian nation-state is certainly a capitalist state and economy, since the defeat of the USSR, like most of those around the world. Following the majority, it also does not fit into the group of imperialist powers, that is, it does not structure its capital accumulation processes in a way that goes beyond its national borders. However, unlike this same majority, the Putin government became an obstacle for the US and NATO, mainly by reversing the (neoliberal) policy of open doors to the West of the Yeltsin government (1991-1999) and modernizing the apparatus military inherited from the Soviets.

The Putin government implemented a project of autonomous development of Russian capitalism, organized by the state. This government represents a national bourgeoisie, which is largely unconnected to the capitalist circles of the western powers and seeks to strengthen the internal and regional market. In this sense, its foreign policy is focused on the regional scope of its geographic surroundings, an area that the Russian State defends – in a kind of pan-Russian nationalism – militarily.

The clash with NATO and the military operation in Ukraine are a brake on Western pretensions to expansion across Eurasia, over the vast Russian territory and its oil and natural gas reserves. It is important to note that the governments of Donetsk and Lugansk requested military support from the Russian government to defend against attacks from Kiev. Apparently the Ukrainian neo-fascist movement sees (mistakenly) the Russian State and its allies as the restoration of the USSR.

The Russian military operation seeks to defend its territory, its autonomous capital accumulation processes and its integrity as a sovereign state, in addition to its regional zone of influence. The Putin government warned more than once, in different ways, that it would not tolerate advances by the imperialists: it was like this in the war in South Ossedia, in the province of Georgia, and other conflicts during his administration.

The increasingly clear signs of Ukraine's accession to NATO and the instability in eastern Ukraine meant the crossing of a demarcation line. The Putin government then wages a defensive anti-imperialist war. Obviously their character can change (for a war of conquest?). It can even change the world order.

* Caio Bugiato Professor of Political Science and International Relations at UFRRJ and at the Graduate Program in International Relations at UFABC.

Originally published on the portal spotlight.

 

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