Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine which began on 24 February 2022 is an unprovoked and unjustified attack on a sovereign state. Left Unity condemns this invasion and calls for the immediate withdrawal of all Russian troops and a cessation of all military action.
We call for the resumption of diplomatic negotiations to resolve the crisis.
We are at a historical turning point and it is necessary to fully spell out the dangers faced.
The possibility of military escalation into a de facto war between NATO and Russia is increasingly likely. Tensions between NATO and Russia have reached alarming proportions. Britain should have no part in escalating this military crisis. Calls for a No Fly Zone (NFZ) are irresponsible and extraordinarily dangerous. An NFZ would involve NATO aircraft directly engaging Russian aircraft in battle. This would amount to a declaration of war by nuclear-armed NATO on nuclear-armed Russia, raising the increased likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons, leading to the current war in Ukraine becoming a global nuclear war.
Thus the threat of nuclear warfare and the dangers to the future of humanity that such a war poses is only too real.
Current tensions have been three decades in the making. Despite dramatic changes across Europe after 1989, with the demise of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, NATO – under US leadership – began the process of expansion into eastern Europe. This has continued to include former Soviet republics and NATO has gone on to become a global military force, abandoning its ‘defensive’ remit and engaging in war far beyond the North Atlantic. NATO expansion has caused significant regional tension and its continued expansionary plans are threatening to drag Europe into a devastating war – because it refuses to take Russian security concerns into account. NATO’s refusal to rule out membership for Ukraine is provocative and destabilising. Dialogue is essential to resolve these issues.
At the moment there is no such dialogue and as Russian missiles pound Ukraine there is a build up of nationalist and war fever. Both the ruling classes and the media in Russia and the West are engaged in a propaganda campaign that lays the basis for the further escalation of military activity which can only lead to mass death and destruction. NATO states are now pouring military equipment into Ukraine. Germany has reversed its historic policy of never sending weapons to conflict zones, saying the Russian invasion of Ukraine was an epochal moment that imperilled the entire post-World War II order across Europe. It is sending huge quantities of military equipment to Ukraine as are other EU states, the UK and the USA. NATO troops are flooding into the wider region. Some on the left are applauding this but it increases the possibility of war between NATO and Russia. There can be no winners from such a war. Although no historical moment replicates another exactly the parallels with the beginning of WW1 are difficult to ignore.
The people of Ukraine are suffering horrifically and they have the right to self-defence as do the Palestinians and all other peoples under attack. We stand alongside them, as the anti-war movement stood alongside the people of Iraq when they faced the same illegal invasion from our own government. Ukraine is paying a heavy economic and human price as a result of the brutal Russian invasion. Britain must throw open its borders and welcome without restriction all those fleeing conflict in Ukraine – as it should to refugees from other war zones. We reject the racism that underlies much of the reporting about Ukraine and condemn the racism experienced by refugees of colour.
The working class of Russia, Ukraine and the UK have much in common: poor wages, poverty, poor conditions for women and children, repressive labour laws, environmental and climate crises, huge inequalities and internal strife. This is in spite of the fact that each country is wealthy with immense potential to provide for human needs. The three economies are linked by oligarchy capitalism with some of the ultra-rich operating in all three countries. The sanctions that the West is now introducing will do nothing to damage the interests of the billionaires. They will be safe on their luxury yachts and on their private islands. In the first instance, the sanctions against Russia will impoverish the working people of that country. There is already considerable opposition to the war in Russia and we salute those brave activists like Yelena Osipova, one of the last survivors of the siege of Leningrad, who was arrested for protesting the war. These anti-war protests have been heavily suppressed by Putin but they should give us hope. However the sanctions may well have the effect of inflaming nationalist feeling and increasing support for the war.
Some on the left are now arguing that the West has to dramatically increase its military budget to counter the threat from Russia. This turn to militarism is not the way forward. Already austerity measures and rising inflation are damaging the lives of working people in Britain. They are being forced to skip meals, being denied health care, having their benefits cut or even terminated as energy prices are rising sharply. Struggles are taking place to fight for pay increases and protect essential services. Increasing military spending will only make conditions for working people even worse. They will pay the price for the new war drive. We have already seen London underground workers vilified as ‘stooges of Putin’ because they dared to take action this week to defend their pay and conditions.
A word on the Labour Party and the war in Ukraine. The Starmer leadership is waging a war of its own. This is a war against its own membership and against those MPs on the left of the party who signed the Stop the War statement on Ukraine. So far the Labour leadership has succeeded in stamping out any dissent in the party from its full-throated support for NATO. It is disappointing to say the least that eleven left MPs chose to remove their signatures from the STW statement. Their action is a somewhat farcical re-enactment of the tragic decision of the German Social Democratic Party MPs to vote for war credits in the Reichstag in 1914. The only MP remembered from that time is Karl Liebknecht who opposed the war and voted against the credits. Jeremy Corbyn’s name remains on the Stop the War statement.
So we totally condemn the Russia military invasion of Ukraine and call for Russia to immediately cease all military action and withdraw its troops. The intense militarisation of the region must end. There can be no military solution to this conflict; only a political solution based on the needs of the people, on peace and justice, not the interests of the wealthy elites of any country. A shared commitment to post-carbon fuel must be part of this process – ending one of the causes of war and helping secure the future of the planet. Europe needs a non-military security policy, based on cooperation, mutual respect and trust.
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