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A first round of talks has taken place between representatives of the Russian government and military and their counterparts in the governing regime in Kyiv, Ukraine. They met for five hours along the Ukraine-Belarus border on February 28 with a view to halting Russia’s military intervention. No details are being reported yet except that further talks are to take place. The declared goal of Russia’s intervention is to demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine.

The political outcome will be complex, but any agreement to cease combat operations will upend the tales in Western media according to which the Russian intervention is a ‘catastrophe’ for Ukraine. Civilian casualties have been low–UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet reports there have been 102 civilian deaths since the beginning of Russia’s operation. No further detail is provided. If accurate, how many of those 102 deaths took place in Donbass, where thousands of civilians have died as a result of Ukraine’s eight-year military operation against the people of the rebellious region?

In the best of outcomes, Russia’s intervention will be a step in Ukraine’s salvation from the extreme, right-wing nationalism that has prevailed in the country since the 2014 coup that overthrew Ukraine’s elected president and legislature. For the NATO side, a negotiated settlement in Ukraine will be an unmitigated disaster because it has banked on the image of a harsh and unrelenting Russia to fuel its steady encroachment and aggression, now decades old, along, or near to, Russia’s western borders.

Today’s world is one of rising imperialist militarism, war, and global warming emergency. These crimes amplify social and national inequities.

Suddenly, NATO’s power risks dissipating like a fog in the night. If Russia can stand up to NATO war threats that have previously rocked or destroyed Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere, what other countries, or potential alliance of countries, may follow suit?

Official information on Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine is scant and will remain so in the coming days for security reasons, on both sides. But there is enough information on social media, other Russian and Ukrainian-language sources, and, rarely, in Western corporate and state-run media to see that Russian forces have taken the city of Kherson, 225 km from the Crimea border. Soon to fall to Russian forces are the Black Sea port cities of Odessa and Mariupol as well as Kharkiv in the Donbass region. Russian troops are in the capital city Kyiv, and all of Ukraine’s military airports have been taken or otherwise disabled.

Kharkiv is the second-largest city in Ukraine. Odessa and Mariupol are, after Donbass, where the worst killings and repression have taken place since the Ukraine coup of 2014.

A Coming Political Settlement

President Vladimir Putin describes Russia’s military intervention into Ukraine as one to ‘de-militarize’ and ‘de-Nazify’ the country. All attention now turns to the political settlement that will determine Ukraine’s future. It is not possible to predict the exact content of a settlement. But Russia has long advocated a federal, versus democratic, Ukraine that, as in Crimea, would recognize Ukrainian and Russian as official languages. Perhaps recognize other languages, too–Tatar is the third, official language of Crimea. Here is some of what to further expect:

  • The Donbass region will fulfill its dream of political self-determination, most likely through independence. The city of Kharkiv will take its rightful place in Donbass (this was cut short in 2014 by the violence of the coup that year.) It would be appropriate for the hero city of Donetsk to be the capital of Donbass.
  • Distinct regions of Ukraine will receive devolved powers, similar to the federal system in place in Russia (also in place in the United States and Canada!)
  • Ukraine’s military, including its neo-Nazi paramilitary units, will be dismantled and replaced by a national police force. There will be no ‘new’ Ukrainian army, at least in the short term.
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  • Those who perpetrated political killings and massacres during and after the 2014 coup in Ukraine will finally be brought to justice. (However, many of these criminals will escape to NATO countries and be welcomed there.)
  • The criminal economic and transportation blockade between Crimea and Ukraine (though not between Crimea and the NATO countries) will be lifted. That includes lifting the blockade of water supply to Crimea. Reuters is reporting on February 27 that the Russian troops in Kherson have already blown up the makeshift concrete barrier (called a ‘dam’ by Reuters) erected by the coup regime in 2014 to block water supply to Crimea (to the resounding silence of the heroes of democracy in Western governments and media!).

The difficulty for Russia and for the people of Ukraine will be the shared goal of rebuilding a democratic and federated Ukraine. That will be difficult if political violence gains a new foothold. But the success of Crimea’s peaceful rebuilding since 2014 augurs well. Crimea has been one of the fastest growing regions of the Russian economy, including the historic construction, opened in 2019, of the Crimean Bridge (Kerch Bridge), the first, permanent land bridge between the peninsula and the Russian mainland.

NATO and the remnants of the coup regime will seek to sabotage the political and economic renewal of a democratic Ukraine, just as they have sabotaged peace negotiations over Donbass ever since 2014. The NATO countries have already imposed ever-harsher economic sanctions against Russia. But acts of terrorism by the remnants of the former, coup regime will only strengthen the resolve of progressive Ukrainians and the rebuilding process. There is much reason to be optimistic for the future of a federated and democratic Ukraine.

Left-Wing Collapse Over Ukraine

The ‘World news’ page of A Socialist In Canada as well as the website’s Facebook page have already published analysis and critiques of the liberal and left-wing voices in the West that are condemning Russia’s anti-militarization and anti-Nazification intervention into Ukraine. These voices are calling for a ‘return to diplomacy’ by Russia. And how many thousands more people in Donbass must die while the NATO and Kyiv saboteurs pretend to talk seriously about Minsk? How many more years must political prisoners in Ukraine await to be freed?

NATO and the coup regime in Ukraine have, precisely, sabotaged diplomacy and negotiations over Ukraine by sabotaging the ‘Minsk 2’ agreement of February 2015 (text here). They thought they could play the Russian government for the fool. But they badly misjudged.

The Russian government has exercised enormous patience during the past eight years in seeking a genuine implementation of Minsk 2. In December 2021, it bluntly warned the NATO countries that its patience had ended. NATO gambled it could threaten and bluster the Russian government and people into submission. But now it is NATO that will submit.

A revived antiwar movement in the Western countries and around the world should raise three key demands in its program:

  • Abolish NATO
  • Withdrawal of all NATO forces from Ukraine
  • For a democratic and federated Ukraine

It should also join the international campaign for the abolition of nuclear weapons, which the NATO powers have ignored or sabotaged.

Roger Annis Promo Image

Today’s world is one of rising imperialist militarism and war, and global warming emergency. Together, these crimes are amplifying social and national inequities. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the frightful state of social negligence which the imperialist countries govern the world. To counter all this, the peoples of the world need to unite in new and unprecedented anti-imperialist alliances. Antiwar protests must not only be ‘antiwar’, they must also become ‘anti-imperialist’.

Roger Annis
A Socialist in Canada