Russia, Ukraine and NATO: History always matters

Image: Magda Ehlers
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By JEFFERSON NASCIMENTO*

The condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine cannot be made without considering the action of the other power that invades countries or destabilizes them internally

I have followed certain positions critical of Russia's positions in this crisis. Arguments such as: “Putin is not on the left and, even mentioning Lenin, resorts to a nationalism that contradicts communist internationalism”, “It is not a fight against o imperialism, but a conflict of Russian imperialism” and, on the other hand, “Putin wants to rebuild the Soviet Union”. Okay, let's assume that the statements were correct. What does this explain the occurrence of the conflict?

In the nearly hour-long speech on February 21, Putin devoted more than 15 minutes to criticize the Bolshevik policy of recognizing the autonomy of the Soviet republics, in line with the communist ideal of self-determination of peoples. This long introduction should be read with concern, as Putin's discomfort with the Bolsheviks' nationalities policy, which would be responsible for the disastrous dissolution of the Soviet Union, is clear. Putin emphasizes his opposition to the communists and lists what he considers “mistakes by Lenin, Stalin and their comrades”.

Then the Russian president lists the mistakes of the new oligarchies and the Ukrainian political authorities. According to him, generalized corruption put the Ukrainian population in a critical situation, burning up the inheritances from the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, including dismantling the important industrial park that was a source of Soviet pride. In addition to corruption, the Ukrainian elite's option was to build an artificial state, unrelated to local history and culture, influenced by Western models. He mentioned the expansion of neo-Nazism, authoritarianism, the continuity of corruption, the escalation of political violence in Ukraine after the so-called Maidan coup (called the “Maidan Revolution” by the extreme right), supported even by intelligence services from Western countries. The warning sign is in the reasons why Putin contests the principle of self-determination of peoples and this can be read in two ways.

Externally, a clear message to the other former Soviet republics that align with NATO and put Russian integrity at risk. Internally, emphasizing what he considers the “mistakes” of the Bolsheviks in this case in which public opinion supports him is a way of increasing the costs of defending the Soviet legacy and, thus, stemming the growth of the communist left. After all, in 2018, 66% of Russians regretted the collapse of the Soviet Union, and in 2021, Putin's United Russia lost 21 seats while the Communist Party expanded its caucus.[I]

In fact, in any environment of power asymmetry there is no lasting tranquility for the weakest. Therefore, further advances by Russian imperialism cannot be ruled out. Still, exclusively In addition to the Russia-Ukraine-NATO case, there are very clear indications of the escalation of provocations against Russia that we will historicize below.

Ukraine's independence agreement, signed in 1991, provided for the delivery of nuclear weapons on Ukrainian territory for demobilization in Russia.[ii] Without this return, Ukraine would be the third nuclear power in the world, which perhaps explains Ukraine's reluctance to return the weapons. Such reluctance culminated in an agreement signed on January 14, 1994 between Ukraine, Russia and the United States.[iii]

The presence of the United States in the 1994 agreement took place in the context of the “Partnership for Peace”, formulated during the Clinton administration, aiming to pacify relations with Eastern Europe through “a limited cooperation” of NATO with countries in the region. On the occasion, Boris Yeltsin presented the Russian position: he did not accept his neighbors (at the time, he was talking about Poland and Romania) as full members of NATO. And the inclusion of Ukraine in the western military alliance was not even considered.[iv]

In 1997, at the Paris Summit, the NATO-Russia Council was created. Thus, NATO and Russia would no longer be adversaries and would work towards the creation of “a peaceful and lasting Euro-Atlantic area”.[v] In November 2001, in an agreement signed in Prague, NATO established “Russian acquiescence” as a criterion for its expansion towards Eastern Europe. In other words, 21 years ago Russian agreement was a requirement for NATO to expand to the East.[vi]

In May 2002 in Reykjavík, Russia and NATO, led respectively by Putin and George W. Bush, signed an agreement in which Russia would participate in the bloc's decisions with the same weight as the members, except in internal NATO issues.[vii] On May 27, 2002, on the eve of signing the Treaty of Rome, which formalized the previous agreement, Russia stated its opposition to the accession of countries from the former Soviet bloc to NATO.[viii] Two days later, the Treaty of Rome was signed with changes in relation to the Reykjavík agreement: Russia would have a consultative role for nuclear issues, anti-missile defense and the fight against terrorism, without being a member of the bloc and without veto power to the inclusion of new members. The NATO-Russia Council was revised and sealed.[ix]

In 2006, Russia's discontent with NATO's posture is exposed. The 2002 agreement had occurred with the continued incorporation of the Baltic countries into NATO (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania), as well as others from the East (Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania). In 2006, however, Defense Minister Serguei Ivanov denounced the disrespect for the agreements: NATO was funding infrastructure and deploying military equipment in these countries. The Treaty of Rome did not give Russia the right to vote, but the agreements regarding the East had not been abrogated. Therefore, the completion of the incorporation of these countries close to Russia should not be accompanied by military infrastructure, as was happening.[X]

In addition to the stalemates between Russia and NATO, the question of Ukraine is complex. There are provinces with a pro-Russian majority, such as Donetsk and Lugansk (in Donbass), and others aligned with Ukrainian nationalism. This instability has always been used strategically. On Russia's side, to keep Ukraine as a border with the West. On the Western side, as a possibility to protect itself and put pressure on Russia militarily. The 2015 Minsk agreement set terms to pacify the Russia-Ukraine relationship that were not met. On the other hand, even with the end of the Cold War, the objectives of framing those with high military power never left the pretensions of the White House and the Pentagon.

No wonder, the United States began to support the Ukrainian extreme right to, through its nationalism, face the pro-Russian sectors. In this matter, there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats. John McCain (Republican) attended US rallies Svoboda. At the same time, the assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration, Victoria Nuland (now a diplomat), met with leaders of the same party. In 2014, these links were already known and disclosed.[xi] Recently, Biden's son's business in Ukraine came to light and, in the United States, pressure has grown to recognize the regime installed in Ukraine after the so-called "Maidan Revolution" as authoritarian.

For context, the Svoboda is an ultranationalist party associated with various neo-Nazi groups, with emphasis on the Pravy Sector (in the West known as Right Sector). This association brought anti-Semitic, supremacist, anti-communist, anti-anarchist and anti-Russian influence to the party. The then president of Svoboda, Oleh Tyahnybok, proclaimed the need to liberate Ukraine from the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia”. The vice-president of the party, in addition to constantly quoting Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda during Nazism, created a think tanks called the Goebbels Center for Political Research. O Svoboda did not restrict its activities to Ukraine and began to articulate the so-called Alliance of European National Movements.[xii]

As it was possible to notice in manifestations of support for Bolsonaro, the Svoboda and its neo-Nazi movements were not restricted to Europe either. Remember the words of Sarah Winter, Daniel Silveira and other Bolsonarists: “Let's ukrainize Brazil”. Remember the flags of the Pravy Sector in these demonstrations and the so-called “300 for Brazil”. The proposal of bolsucranization of Brazil was clear: the conquest of Parliament by the extreme right in consortium with neo-Nazi agitation movements. Sarah Winter and other Bolsonaristas even underwent training in Ukraine.[xiii]

The result of this so-called “Maidan Revolution” was the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych with pro-Russian political views. The United States supported the movement that would fight a corrupt government, without considering that it was democratically elected. After the destabilization operated with the support of the United States, Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian, was elected president of Ukraine. [xiv]

Zelensky resorted to anti-political rhetoric and ran for a party – until then small – called Servant of the People (same name as the humor series he acted in). Despite presenting his party as the “Center” and suggesting liberal behavioral measures (abortion, for example), the president has always been very close to the United States.

Not only that, under the Zelensky government, state bodies shut down media outlets and arrested pro-Russian politicians, constantly arresting opponents justifying being “Russian infiltrators”, even when protesting against actions of a city council – as happened with the 60 citizens arrested in Kharkiv.[xv] In addition, neo-Nazi and far-right nationalist militants were appointed to strategic positions in the Ukrainian state, the Azov Battalion remained incorporated in the Ministry of Interior. These details help to understand the escalation of laws and measures against Russian descendants, politicians and communication companies.[xvi] The climate of civil war remained and provoked an acute crisis that accelerated the emigration of Ukrainians in search of work.

Volodymir Zelensky also negotiated with Trump when the former US president wanted the investigation of Hunter Biden and his company Burisma, headquartered in Ukraine. The investigation was opposed by the US National Security Council. According to reports, Alexander Vindman, a member of the expert council on Ukraine, would have warned of the risk of the investigation being considered a “partisan move”. Vindman justified “I am a patriot, it is my sacred duty and my honor to defend the country”.[xvii]

That's right: a member of the Security Council, appointed by Trump, did not consider this investigation adequate to "defend the country". After all, from Obama to Trump, passing through McCain and Biden, Ukraine is a State project and the support of the United States to the so-called Maidan Revolution is not a commitment to fight corruption and much less an ode to national sovereignty. The year was 2014 and this support was not outside the context of the Arab Spring or the think tanks that were projected in Brazil during and after the July Days.

Jeff Rogg, US Intelligence historian, commented on the last day 25 a report that confirms the training of special forces and Ukrainian intelligence officers by the CIA since 2015. Rogg recalled a similar case during the Cold War interrupted with the massacre and deportation of thousands of Ukrainians after the identification of the CIA action by the USSR. The historian denounces the risk of this operation as a way for Russia to legitimize attacks on civilians to face and expel saboteurs, of generating a long and dangerous instability in Central and Eastern Europe, as occurred on other occasions when the United States resorted to paramilitary groups (such as Iraq and Afghanistan), and the possibility that weapons sent by the CIA end up in the hands of terrorist organizations (the history of Al Qaeda is an example).[xviii]

The construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline complex, started in 2011, plays an important role in the alliance and promotion of the Ukrainian far right by the United States. The Nord Stream 1 pipeline both supplies Russian natural gas for the functioning of the German economy and allows Germans to redistribute the fuel to other European countries, mainly Austria and Italy. Nord Stream 2 has gas and oil pipelines for exporting Russian oil to Germany as well. Why is Nord Stream 2 important in the question?

Without it, part of Russian oil and gas exports go through Ukraine. With it, Ukraine tends to lose around 1,8 billion euros in transit fees as Nord Stream do not pass through the country. It is, therefore, no coincidence that neo-Nazism, with a strong position against Russia, gained space among oligarchs and members of Kiev's political elite after the advance of the Nord Stream 2.[xx]

The United States claims that the work will make Europe more dependent on Russian gas and oil. Moreover, Russia's advance in supplying fuel to Western Europe affects the United States and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis, governed by a violent absolutist monarchy, have Europe as their main consumer market for their fuels. As part of the alliance with the United States, these fuels are traded in dollars, which requires the maintenance of high reserves of that currency in European countries, helping to finance public debt and the issuance of US coins. Therefore, two of the main threats of sanctions against Russia are the suspension of Nord Stream 2 and restrictions on allowing the conversion of rubles (Russian currency) directly into euros and other European currencies – and vice versa.[xx]

Furthermore, the Nord Stream 2 shifts the German position towards Russia in NATO and the European Union. Therefore, the Germans were reluctant to immediately censure Russia's position, supporting Ukraine and the western allies. Only on February 22nd, after years of pressure and with the Russian invasion of Ukraine in progress, did the German government temporarily freeze the authorization for the operation of the Nord Stream 2 and criticized the Russian invasion.[xxx]

Returning to the initial questions, in fact Putin is from the right, but that is not the central point for an assessment of this particular case, nor is it to ask whether there is a Russian imperialism that should be held responsible for the conflict. What we have is the repetition, for the umpteenth time, of non-compliance with an agreement signed by the US and NATO. We saw this in relation to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement. In which toughness with suspicious countries generated inspection of the Brazilian Nuclear Program (remember: Lava Jato also advanced on it) and sanctions in relation to Iran. Meanwhile, Israel continued to build up its nuclear arsenal. This is what is at stake in Ukraine.

There was a strategy of interference in the country's internal politics (supporting movements, protests and guerrillas), as occurred in the Arab Spring. From this process of destabilization and increased influence, the United States moved forward with the proposal to include Ukraine in NATO, participated in projects to modernize Ukrainian airspace and built the Naval Operations Center in Ochakov, facilitating access to Russian naval troops. of the Black Sea. There is nothing Ukrainian self-determination about this US sponsorship of the far right. The appeal to Ukrainian sovereignty is a justification for failing to comply with agreements signed within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council and imposing its geopolitical and economic interests. This takes place in a different context from the 1990s: Russia has reorganized itself economically and Putin does not act like Boris Yeltsin on issues related to sovereignty and the West.

In other words, even if Russian imperialism moves Vladimir Putin to recognize the sovereignty of the pro-Russian rebel provinces and to advance militarily over its neighbor, it cannot be hidden that the other imperialism has advanced militarily there and is progressing all over the world, either by force of weapons or the internal destabilization of countries considered strategic. The condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine cannot be made without considering the action of the other power which, time and again, culminates in a humorist or a submissive boça in the presidency of these areas of interest and, this time, met with an energetic reaction.

*Jefferson Nascimento is a professor at the Federal Institute of São Paulo (IFSP). Book author Ellen Wood – rescuing class and the struggle for democracy (Appris).

 

Notes


[I] View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGqVwFaLBJg. See also: https://oglobo.globo.com/mundo/em-votacao-marcada-por-denuncias-de-fraude-partido-de-putin-mantem-supermaioria-25205412

[ii] Ver: https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/fsp/1994/1/15/mundo/6.html

[iii] Ibidem

[iv] Ibidem

[v] View: https://operamundi.uol.com.br/permalink/22193

[vi] View: https://www.dw.com/pt-br/otan-e-r%C3%BAssia-tornam-se-aliadas-em-reykjavik/a-520324

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] View: https://www.dw.com/pt-br/r%C3%BAssia-rejeita-amplia%C3%A7%C3%A3o-da-otan-em-v%C3%A9spera-de-acordo/a-561882

[ix] View: https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/fsp/mundo/ft2905200201.htm

[X] View: https://g1.globo.com/noticias/mundo/0,,aa1334470-5602,00-ministro+russo+diz+que+otan+mentiu+sobre+ampliacao+ao+leste.html

[xi] View: https://outraspalavras.net/geopoliticaeguerra/ucrania-o-lacos-discretos-entre-eua-e-neo-nazistas/

[xii] Ibidem

[xiii] View: https://theintercept.com/2020/05/31/sarah-winter-300-brasil/

[xiv] View: https://www.cato.org/commentary/ukraines-accelerating-slide-authoritarianism

[xv] Ibidem

[xvi] View: https://www.wsws.org/pt/articles/2022/01/28/ukra-j28.html

[xvii] View: https://oglobo.globo.com/mundo/militar-que-acompanhou-conversa-de-trump-zelensky-presta-depoimento-na-camara-24049692

[xviii] View: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-02-25/ukraine-cia-insurgents-russia-invasion

[xx] View: https://economia.uol.com.br/noticias/bbc/2022/02/09/russia-x-ucrania-o-gasoduto-vital-ameacado-pelo-conflito.htm

[xx] View: https://expansao.co.ao/mundo/interior/suspensao-do-nord-stream-2-e-a-ameaca-de-restricoes-a-conversao-de-rublos-em-moedas-ocidentais-pairam-sobre-moscovo-105869.html

[xxx] View: https://observador.pt/especiais/alemanha-de-comprometida-a-cavalo-de-troia-da-russia-como-o-nord-stream-2-afeta-a-geopolitica-e-a-economia-europeias/

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