NATO is an imperialist organisation, dominated by the USA and responsible for innumerable wars of aggression. The dismantling of this political-military monster generated by the Cold War is a fundamental requirement of democracy. Its weakening in recent years has led Emmanuel Macron, France’s neoliberal president, to declare in 2019 that the Alliance was ‘brain dead’. Unfortunately, the criminal invasion of Ukraine on the part of Russia has resuscitated NATO. Several neutral countries (Sweden, Finland, and others) are now contemplating joining it; US-troops are stationed in Europe in great numbers; Germany, which two years ago refused to enlarge its military budget despite Donald Trump’s brutal pressure, has decided to invest 100 bn euros in rearmament. And so on. Vladimir Putin has saved NATO from its slow decline, perhaps disappearance.
Why this invasion of Ukraine? As long as Putin wanted to protect the Russian-speaking minorities of the Donetsk region, there was a certain rationality to his policies. The same can be said for his opposition to NATO’s expansion in Eastern Europe. But this brutal invasion of Ukraine, with its series of bombings of cities, with thousands of civilian victims, among them elderly people, women, and children, has no justification.
What arguments is Putin using to try to legitimate this criminal war against the Ukrainian people? The purpose of ‘de-Nazification’ of Ukraine cannot hold water. The Ukrainian people elected a Jew as their president who is proud of his grandfather having fought in the ranks of the Red Army against Nazism. Of course, there are neo-Nazi parties and groups in Ukraine, but in the last elections they only garnered 3% of votes. There are similar groups in Russia. How can Putin claim to be anti-fascist when he politically and financially supports several neo-fascist parties in Europe, such as the Le Pen family’s Rassemblement National in France or the Lega of Matteo Salvini in Italy? The other ‘legitimation’ of the invasion was presented in the speech Putin gave on 22 February 2022. In his view, Ukraine ‘was entirely created by Bolshevik and Communist Russia’, for ‘Lenin and his comrades wrested Ukraine from Russia!’ Ukraine, he went on, ought to be called ‘Lenin’s Ukraine’ for he was the ‘author and architect’ of this country. It was Lenin who invented the disastrous ‘right of peoples to self-determination including even secession, which is the foundation of the Soviet state’, an absurd concession to the nationalists of the different republics formed after the 1917 revolution. To give these republics the right to separate themselves from the Russian state was, according to Putin, ‘madness, something totally incomprehensible’, a veritable destruction of ‘historic Russia’ (that is, Tsarist Russia). Addressing himself to the leaders of Ukraine, Putin asserted: you speak of ‘de-communising’ Ukraine (that is, breaking with the communist past), but you have stopped half way. ‘We are going to show you real de-communisation’, Putin concluded, referring to his project of reintegrating Ukraine – by force, that is – into the Russian state.
This then is the Putinist ‘justification’ of the invasion of Ukraine: anti-communist, anti-Leninist arguments and the ambition to restore the pre-Bolshevik ‘historic Russia’ – that is, Tsarist Russia – by annexing Ukraine. It is no coincidence that the great majority of the world’s communist parties, including even those most nostalgic for Soviet socialism, such as those of Greece or Chile, have condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
One could level many criticisms at present-day Ukraine: the lack of democracy, the oppression of the Russian-speaking minority, ‘occidentalism’, etc. But one cannot deny the Ukrainian people their right to defend themselves against the Russian invasion of their territory in brutal and criminal contempt of the right of nations to self-determination.
You can choose between communism and Putinism, between Vladimir Ilyich and Vladimir Putin, between the right of peoples to self-determination and the right of empires to invade and attempt to annex other countries – but you cannot have both for these are irreconcilable options.
Let us hope that one day the peoples of Europe and of Russia will be liberated from their capitalist oligarchies. This was the project of the revolutionaries of October 1917.