Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin. Photo: / CC BY 4.0, license linked below article

The powder keg that threatens to ignite over the situation in the Ukraine is, more than anything, a manifestation of the turn towards intensified global rivalry on the part of the US, argues John Clarke

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, travelled to the Ukraine this week. As he prepared for his visit, allegations of a ‘false flag operation’ and an impending Russian invasion of the country were being hurled by Washington and its allies. Diplomatic efforts to resolve differences with the Putin government over the Ukraine having produced no results, the US struck a decidedly belligerent posture.

The Secretary’s tone was echoed by a group of US senators who visited the Ukraine ahead of him. They ominously declared that:

“Our bipartisan congressional delegation sends a clear message to the global community: the United States stands in unwavering support of our Ukrainian partners to defend their sovereignty and in the face of persistent Russian aggression.”

Doubtless, the Russian government has a considerable interest in the Ukraine, with its large Russian population and great strategic significance. A major troop build-up along the Ukrainian border has been undertaken, and Russian support for insurgent forces in the eastern part of the country, during eight years of conflict, is clear enough. However, it is not necessary to be an admirer or a supporter of Vladimir Putin to understand that, behind the supposedly selfless, freedom loving motives of the US, lie strategic interests and a pursuit of global rivalry that has nothing to do with the well-being of people in the Ukraine.

US motives

It is horribly clear that the threat of armed conflict over the Ukraine is a very major one. The US and its allies want a Russian troop withdrawal, while Putin is demanding firm assurances that the Ukraine will not be used as a staging post for Nato expansion and military deployment against Russia by the Western powers. ‘For Western analysts, it seems a situation in which Putin will have to compromise if conflict is to be avoided.’

This intransigence, on the part of the US led alliance, can be understood quite readily if we consider the period in which the Soviet Union was breaking up. At that time, US leaders were ready to assure their Russian counterparts that Nato expansion into eastern Europe would not be pursued. These promises were false to the core, and a strategy of advancing a military threat to Russia has been relentlessly pursued. ‘At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Nato was 1,000 miles from St. Petersburg, after the Baltic States joined up it was a little more than 100 miles away.’

In 2014, Obama’s efforts to draw the Ukraine into the Nato alliance led to the overthrow of the existing government and a violent internal conflict, in the midst of which Russian troops took over the Crimea. Following the more erratic course taken by Trump, Biden has picked up where Obama left off. The crisis that has now come to a head is only the latest result of unceasing efforts to ensure that the military threat to Russia is as powerful and well positioned as possible.

Whenever the US and its imperial allies start justifying their expansionism and aggression with tales of the ‘freedom’ they are trying to spread across the world, it’s always worth taking a close look at some of the forces they are promoting for this task. At the time of the 2014 conflict, Foreign Policy ran an article that admitted, ‘Yes, There are Bad Guys in the Ukrainian Government.’ It acknowledged that Russian claims that the Ukraine had come under the control of ‘neo-Nazis and Nazis and anti-Semites,’ were not entirely unfounded. It pointed out that Svoboda, ‘arguably Europe’s most influential far-right movement today,’ held nearly a quarter of the ministries in the government. It further noted that one of the parliamentarians from that organisation had founded the ‘Joseph Goebbels Political Research Centre’, and described the Holocaust as a ‘bright period’ in history.

Earlier this year, a ‘report exploring the far-right in the Ukraine’s military found that neo-Nazis and supporters of far-right groups in the ranks bragged online about receiving training from Canada and other NATO nations.’ Thoroughly integrated into the Ukrainian military, this group of ‘European traditionalist military officers’ were devoted to ‘reshaping Ukraine’s military with right-wing ideologies, and defending what they call the “cultural and ethnic identity of European people.” They had been provided military training by representatives of the armed forces of ‘Canada, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K.’

Global rivalry

The powder keg that threatens to ignite over the situation in the Ukraine is, more than anything, a manifestation of the turn towards intensified global rivalry on the part of the US. In 2018, the Pentagon’s National Defence Strategy included the observation that the ‘central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security is the re-emergence of long-term, strategic competition.’ It continued to state that it ‘is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions.’ This marked a shift away from the ‘war on terror’, and a turn towards another form of the great-power rivalry that had marked the Cold War period.

In keeping with the pretensions and polite fictions of US hegemony, this global exercise in political gangsterism is presented as the upholding of the ‘liberal international order’. Indeed, the return of the Democrats to the White House was heralded as an opportunity to implement ‘the Biden plan for leading the democratic world.’ The crudities and blunders of the Trump period are now supposed to give way a more sophisticated and carefully packaged brand of ‘human rights imperialism.’

Yet, for all the democratic formulations and diplomatic niceties, the present ruthless pursuit of rivalry with Russia, and the effort to employ the Ukraine as a strategic asset in this, is an expression of an ugly and brutal agenda of global domination. As dangerous and dreadful as the present standoff is, it is hardly the main event. The logic of this attempt at domination must lead to a confrontation with China, the rising power that is by far the main rival to US hegemony. Taiwan might soon be the next flashpoint in the struggle to ensure that the US system of global violence and exploitation retains its leading position.

It is no expression of support for Putin to acknowledge the predatory role of the US led powers and their Nato alliance, as the threat of war looms in the Ukraine. Working-class people in the countries that make up that alliance have no interest in conflict with Russia. A peaceful solution will not be found as long as the agenda of US domination casts its long shadow over the Ukraine. We must utterly oppose that brutal agenda and the death and destruction it brings with it.

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John Clarke

John Clarke became an organiser with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty when it was formed in 1990 and has been involved in mobilising poor communities under attack ever since.

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