Let us take as a given that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was an outrageous breach of international law without justification.
Now, what is the road to peace for the world?
The road to peace must include guarantees for Ukrainian independence and security guarantees for Russia unless we are to drift towards world war and a nuclear holocaust.
The US reacted to the revolution with hostility and sponsored terrorist groups to attack and undermine the revolutionary regime. US companies were nationalised in August 1960 and the US responded with an economic blockade that has lasted to this day. In April 1961 the US also launched a failed military invasion of Cuba by mercenary forces based in the United States.
Cuba was convinced a new invasion was being planned.
Then, more than 100 US-built missiles having the capability to strike Moscow with nuclear warheads were deployed in Italy and Turkey in 1961-62 despite the US already having an overwhelming nuclear superiority.
Russia feared a US first strike was being planned. They were right to do so.
Russia then asked Cuba if it could place nuclear missiles in Cuba in response. Fidel Castro made it very clear that Cuba did not request the missiles because they were confident they could defend their revolution with their own conventional weapons, short of a nuclear attack. But as a gesture of international socialist solidarity they agreed.
The US discovered the missile deployment on October 16, 1961. Russia was given an ultimatum to remove them on October 22.
Russia and the US then agreed in a secret deal that: 1) Cuba would not be invaded; 2) Russian missiles would be withdrawn; and 3) the US missiles in Turkey would be withdrawn. The third part of the agreement was not made public initially.
A few months later the first nuclear test ban treaty was signed as tensions subsided.
Cuba was not consulted and was angered by Russia making unilateral decisions whilst ignoring Cuba’s sovereignty when making a secret deal. Cuba was also skeptical that the US would keep its side of the bargain. The US has continued to support terrorist attacks and maintained an economic war on Cuba to this day.
However, the world averted nuclear war and Cuba has not been invaded again That’s is a good thing. Also, I’m sure the Cuban revolutionary leaders never relied on a diplomatic guarantee to protect themselves.
It seems obvious to me that Ukraine and the world need to accept that Russia needs a guarantee that Ukraine will never become a member of Nato. Of course, that involves an element of Ukraine’s national sovereignty that is diminished. But that was true for Austria and Finland after World War Two which also accepted neutrality.
Until recently this was the common opinion of practically all experts on Russian affairs.
Nato had been formed originally as a “defensive” alliance against Russia and its allies in eastern Europe. Russia formed the “Warsaw Pact” in response. But when the east European regimes collapsed in the early 1990s the Warsaw Pact dissolved but Nato moved all the way to the Russian borders.
Recently the US has installed missile bases in Poland and Romania, ostensibly to protect them from……..(you will never guess). Obviously, it takes little effort to change over missiles from defensive to offensive.
In 2019, US President Trump withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty which had led to the elimination of 2,692 U.S. and Soviet nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Of course, Trump blamed Russia for alleged violations of the Treaty but tearing up the treaty was a further aggressive unilateral act.
Before the invasion, Ukraine had become a defacto member of Nato with hundreds of millions of dollars in arms flowing into the country, along with constant military training and exercises with Nato forces on Ukraine soil.
In February 1997, George Kennan, one of the architects of the US’s Cold War policy of containment of the USSR, wrote this in the New York Times:
[E]xpanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era. Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking….. Why, with all the hopeful possibilities engendered by the end of the cold war, should East-West relations become centered on the question of who would be allied with whom and, by implication, against whom in some fanciful, totally unforeseeable and most improbable future military conflict?
Today we need to bring the war to an end. Escalating the war with free-fire zones as demanded by the Ukraine President is simply reckless and foolish. It would lead to an immediate nuclear standoff and possible incineration of Ukraine and much of the rest of the world.
That also means, to achieve peace, the world has to accept Crimea as part of Russia, not Ukraine. Crimea was never part of Ukraine historically and was made part of Ukraine in 1954 by the old USSR as more of an administrative decision by the then Kremlin leadership. The people of Crimea have also overwhelmingly voted to become part of Russia. and independent opinion polls in the territory affirm that decision. That is probably not surprising since 90% speak Russian and their language had been effectively banned by the new regime that took power 2014. A US University survey in 2019 “found that 82% of Crimea’s population supported Crimea’s accession to Russia, as opposed to 86% in 2014. The survey also found that 58% of Crimean Tatars now supported Crimea’s accession to Russia, as opposed to 39% in 2014.”
Ukraine must also give back the language rights that Russian-speaking Ukrainians had before the 2014-15 rebellion and pro-Western nationalist coup. Russian-speaking Ukrainians are at least 20% of the population. A “civilised, democratic” country that denies its minorities the right to be educated in its own language and publish Russian newspapers, is not what it claims to be. If Ukraine can’t do that, then the people of the Donbas cannot be expected to become part of Ukraine again. Why would they want to?
When the old USSR and allied Warsaw Pact folded in the early 1990s the nations that gained their independence suffered a horrific economic and social decline. GDP fell by up to two-thirds and life expectancy often declined. The old state-owned industries were essentially handed out to the new governing elite to become the new “oligarchs”. Virtually everything was privatised. Many ordinary people felt betrayed given that the nirvana promised by capitalism never eventuated.
When this theft originally occurred in the USSR under the then Russian president Boris Yeltsin and his secret police offsider Vladimir Putin, the West cheered them on.
Branko Milanović drew up a balance sheet of transitions to capitalism, which concluded that ‘Only three or at most five or six countries could be said to be on the road to becoming a part of the rich and (relatively) stable capitalist world. Many are falling behind, and some are so far behind that for several decades they cannot aspire to go back to where they were when the wall fell’. Despite promises of democracy and prosperity, most people in the former Soviet Union got neither.
Ukraine, seemed to do worse than most in the transition to a free market and today is the poorest nation in Europe.
The USSR and Eastern Europe had a false version of “Communism” attached to their economic and social structure. There was essentially free education, free health care, and a guarantee of a job which are traditionally associated with “socialist” policies. But alongside that, was extreme authoritarianism and bureaucratic mismanagement. The elites in this system welcomed the transition to capitalism because it gave them wealth on a scale that couldn’t be imagined before and the right to pass that wealth on to their children.
But the new elites had no common purpose or vision for their societies. “Greed is Good” only goes so far. The oligarchs were forced to sponsor political and social movements that were based on “identities” like ethnicity rather than class or social interests. Nationalism and ethnic exclusiveness became the common denominator. Right-wing, fascist ideologies became common throughout the states that restored market economies. A religious attachment to free-market fundamentalist ideology went with that since they had no other choice.
Working Class interests and social solidarity became ostracised and labeled as a new socialist or communist demon to be driven out.
That was true for Ukraine as much as for Russia.
Ukraine is effectively a colony of the US. The IMF uses the debts Ukraine was forced to accept as a lever to carry through the free-market economic policies successive governments have tried to implement. The ability of US agricultural big businesses to buy agricultural lands is being been pushed through by the current government despite widespread opposition.
With Russia, Ukraine is part of the breadbasket of the world with a quarter of the globe’s grain exports grown there. For 2021, GTAS Forecasting from S&P Global Market Intelligence estimates the exports of Ukrainian corn for 27.2 million metric tons, and the export of wheat is estimated at 21.2 million metric tons. This two stand for 12.8% and 10.5% of the total world exports, respectively. Fertile land covers an area the size of France and Germany combined.
“Opening up the country’s land market was one of the main conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), whose support is the last hope for the Ukrainian economy as it teeters on the brink of default. For President Volodymyr Zelensky, land reform had become a matter of survival, but the political cost of getting it approved was very high.”
If people genuinely want to support Ukraine’s independence we should support the abolition of its debts to the IMF, World Bank, European and US banks.
The chance to join the European Union ( and Nato) has been held up as a carrot by the West to attract support from people in Ukraine who desperately want to escape the economic nightmare they have been in. This is popular with many working people also because if they were let into the EU workers would have the right to live and work throughout Europe. Ukrainians now largely replace the Poles and others who leave their countries to work in Europe. But it was never a realistic option for Ukraine which has a GDP per capita of less than $4000 US dollars. It was never going to get the right to subsidies that EU membership gives to help make up the gap between $4000 per capita GDP in Ukraine and $44,000 in the EU as a whole. Nor was a nation of 45 million and a labour market of 21 million going to get work rights across the EU.
The people of Ukraine have been cheated and lied to by Nato, the EU, the US, and their own political leaders to get them to serve as foot soldiers by the US and its Nato allies against Russia.
To achieve peace in the world we need to advance class and social solidarity internationally. That means an international defense of all nations’ right to self-determination – not just friends of the United States.
The problem at the moment with any attempt to hold a country to account for breaching international law is that the US refuses the jurisdiction of the World Court and will veto any criticism of itself (or close allies like Israel) at the UN Security Council.
The US is also the only nation in the world with the military capacity to go to war wherever and whenever it so desires.
Steps towards world peace mean removing the veto power of the nuclear states at the UN Security Council. It means pushing for universal nuclear disarmament seriously.
Nato – the military alliance ostensibly to protect Europe – became the tool of choice for the empire to impose its will. Nato destroyed Yugoslavia and bombed Serbia into submission in 1999. Serbia has been forced to accept the separation of Kosovo from its territory. The leader of the US-backed Kosovo Liberation Army and first Prime Minister and then president of Kosovo has since been convicted of horrendous war crimes including organ trafficking.
The Nato-led wars in Afghanistan (2000) and Iraq (2003) soon followed.
New Zealand is now a “partner’” at Nato. For what reason?
Nato (with New Zealand’s support) destroyed Afghanistan leaving at least a quarter of a million direct casualties. The US has now stolen billions of dollars of Afghan gold reserves that will literally stavre millions of people in that country. More than 23 million Afghans face acute hunger, including 9 million who are nearly famished, according to the UNICEF World Food Program.”
As one of the allies of the US who helped the US destroy then abandon the country, and then has stayed silent about this theft, our government must share in the responsibility for these deaths to come.
The world must eliminate the ability of the US to impose cruel economic sanctions on nations it dislikes unilaterally – as it has today against Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Russia, China, and many others.
The US also imposes these economic sanctions with extra-territorial force. This means Kiwbank in New Zealand is too scared to give the Ambassador of Cuba a credit card even though New Zealand has good relations with Cuba!
Steps towards world peace mean removing the US refusal to subject itself to decisions of the World Court like when it was found guilty for blockading Nicaragua’s ports.
The only times I support sanctions are when that is the expressed will of the people of a country – as demanded by the people of South Africa and Palestine. Otherwise, sanctions are always a weapon of the rich and powerful against the poor. It is working people not oligarchs who will lose out.
When sanctions can be applied only if one superpower, the US, agrees then they have no usefulness unless imposed by the UN. That way they can only be used if there is an agreement between the superpowers. New Zealand has just given itself the power to impose sanctions without the UN agreement. The media reports this like it is a new discovery because Russia used its veto without noticing the dozens of times the US used its veto before. Over the past five decades, the United States has vetoed at least 53 UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel.
The current sanctions against Russia seem designed to collapse the economy. This is not just targeting “oligarchs”. This will be a disaster not to Putin or the oligarchs but to working people in Russia and Ukraine and the world.
The New York Times reported March 20 that “For those living on the brink of food insecurity, the latest surge in prices could push many over the edge. After remaining mostly flat for five years, hunger rose by about 18 percent during the pandemic to between 720 million and 811 million people. Earlier this month, the United Nations said that the war’s impact on the global food market alone could cause an additional 7.6 million to 13.1 million people to go hungry.”
The war in Ukraine must end. Russian military forces must be withdrawn, Whatever compromises are needed are a brutal fact of life but are justified if the world can achieve an end to the war.
The wars must end and for the war to end sanctions must end. NZ must end its military and political alliances with the old imperialist powers (US, UK, Europe, and Japan) who are using their dominance of the “Western” world to continue their economic exploitation of the Global South and wage war through economic sanctions and military might, to dominate Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Getting New Zealand out of Nato, the Five Power Defence Alliance, and the Five-Eyes Network is the road to genuine peace in the world, not sanctions and war.