There is no military “solution” in the Ukraine war

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By VALERIO ARCARY*

For the overthrow of the governments of Wolodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin

“We were told that during the critical week of September, voices were heard, even on the left wing of socialism, maintaining that, in the event of a “single combat” between Czechoslovakia and Germany, the proletariat should help Czechoslovakia and save its “national independence” (…) This hypothetical case did not occur – as expected, the heroes of Czechoslovak independence capitulated without a fight. However, for future memory, we have to point out in this regard the serious and very dangerous error of (…) theorists of “national independence” (…) Even if other imperialist states do not get involved immediately, it is inadmissible to consider a war between Czechoslovakia and Germany out of this tangle of European and world imperialist relations from which such a war could break out as an episode. A month or two later, the Czech-German war – if the Czech bourgeoisie could and wanted to fight – would almost inevitably involve other states. For a Marxist, therefore, it would be the greatest mistake to define his position on the basis of temporary and conjuncture diplomatic and military groupings rather than on the general character of the social forces behind the war. (Leon Trotsky, “The Question of Defending Czechoslovakia’s “National Independence”, October 1938).

The Brazilian government renounced its neutrality by voting on the resolution approved at the UN. It sacrificed, perhaps irreversibly, the possibility of playing a progressive role in mediating a ceasefire and building a negotiated exit. Unfortunately, Brazilian diplomacy yielded to US pressure in an inexcusable alignment. The Brazilian left cannot fail to criticize, frontally, this capitulation to the imperialist pressures of the USA and NATO.

Ukraine's war is not a just war. All wars are catastrophic, but there are just and unjust wars. We live in a historic age of wars and revolutions. Since the end of World War II, although the apocalyptic danger of nuclear terror, among other factors, has prevented a global confrontation, wars between states and civil wars have continued to erupt. Every war is a humanitarian tragedy, but sincere emotion at human suffering does not justify a position of unconditional neutrality.

In the age of imperialism, that is, the world domination of capitalism, pacifism as a principle is, at best, politically naive and, almost always, a complicity with the stronger side. The Marxist tradition was irreducibly positioned against war, for peace and for revolutionary anti-defensism, therefore, for the overthrow of the governments of their countries, during wars between imperialist states. They are unfair wars. So were the two world wars of the twentieth century.

The world left established four criteria to assess whether or not a war is fair: (a) the socio-historical nature of each State; (b) the place of each State in the international system; (c) the type of political regime in each State; (d) the role of a State aggressor. But he recognized the existence of just wars: (i) for the defense of post-capitalist States against capitalist States, that is, for the defense of countries where social revolutions triumphed; (ii) for the defense of peripheral or colonial states against imperialist states; (iii) for the defense of states with liberal-democratic regimes against fascist or bonapartist states; (iv) for the defense of the attacked State against the invader, during wars between dependent or non-capitalist countries.

The first criterion legitimized support for the Soviet state against the German invasion in 1941 and the defense of North Korea in 1951. The second criterion legitimized support for all national liberation struggles such as in Vietnam, Egypt and Algeria. The third criterion legitimized the defense of all wars against fascist regimes. The fourth criterion legitimized Vietnam's defense against China in the late XNUMXs conflict.

Ukraine's war does not fit any of these four criteria. Russia and Ukraine are capitalist states and both have authoritarian, bonapartist or semi-fascist regimes. It is not a just war because it is neither Russia's defensive war nor Ukraine's war of national liberation. It is an inter-imperialist war.

It is not Russia's defensive war because there was no real and immediate danger for Moscow. The invasion was a “preemptive” provocation. Vladimir Putin's recent speech evoking all that is most paranoid, reactionary and grotesque in extreme Great Russian nationalism was the maximum expression of the Bonapartist, even semi-fascist character of the regime. It was Moscow that precipitated the war.

But if Ukraine's war began as a fair defensive war by Kiev in the face of an imperialist invasion, it changed its nature with NATO's military engagement on Ukraine's side. The absence of NATO troops on the ground does not legitimize those who insist on the military defense of Ukraine. It cannot be the decisive criterion, nor is it of decisive importance militarily if there is no American or European infantry on the battlefield. Modern wars are decided by other factors. Military superiority depends on sophisticated, state-of-the-art weapons. In addition, of course, to the capacity for social cohesion and popular mobilization of governments. The dissimulation of NATO's open intervention in the war is a political maneuver to prevent the explosion of an anti-war movement against the government of Joe Biden and the subordinate European Union with the arrival of coffins with thousands of dead. But it is undisguised.

Those on the left who stand for the military victory of the Ukrainian government or the Russian government are wrong. A military victory for Vladimir Putin would condemn Ukraine to the status of a Russian semi-colony. Preserving the government of Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine would be reduced to the status of a US protectorate. There is no progressive outcome with the continuation of the war.

But beyond that, a modicum of realism suggests that Ukraine's war has no military solution in sight: no one is closer to military victory today. The Russian government was and remains in a fragile position in the face of the US and NATO offensive to increase the siege on Moscow. It has the utmost interest in a negotiation that establishes a neutrality statute for Ukraine. The decision to precipitate the invasion was not a defensive move. It was an assault. Vladimir Putin had already sent the army to Georgia in 2007, annexed Crimea in 2014, and sent troops to defend Hafez Assad's government in Syria. He miscalculated by invading Ukraine.

Washington cannot go beyond supporting Kiev to allow the Russian army to be contained. He will maintain and may even increase military support for Kiev, but he cannot support a counteroffensive across the Russian border. It would signal a willingness to try to overthrow the Putin regime. Russia's threat of possible use of tactical nuclear weapons remains a red alert. But the Biden administration has no interest in a ceasefire. It will let Russia bleed.

Moscow, even with the preservation, for the time being, of popular support for Vladimir Putin, knows that NATO cannot let Volodymyr Zelensky be overthrown. What is certain is that the indefinite continuation of the war will irreparably destroy Ukraine within a generation. After a year, the stalemate is terrible. The only internationalist position is the struggle for ceasefire and peace and anti-defensism, therefore, solidarity with those fighting for the overthrow of the Zelensky and Putin governments. Yes, the situation is not encouraging.

*Valério Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of No one said it would be Easy (boitempo).

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