The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Escalation in Words and Aggression

Jan 31, 2022

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

What will result from the saber rattling by the Western camp and Russia over Ukraine? Tension keeps rising. It’s fueled by various proclamations on each side, but also by reports of multiple deliveries of Western weapons to Ukraine to help it respond to potential Russian aggression.

On January 21 Moscow asked Washington and NATO to commit in writing not to integrate Ukraine into NATO. Called by its initials, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also known as the Alliance, is a military alliance created by the United States in 1949 against the Soviet Union. Ukraine’s possibly joining is increasingly on the table. Russia’s request is not surprising, considering that NATO is still aimed firstly against Russia. But Russia and Ukraine have shared the same culture for more than a thousand years. They were part of the same country—the Tsarist Empire and later the USSR—starting in the middle of the 17th century.

And it must not be forgotten that 14 of NATO’s 30 member states which joined after 1997 had been part of the Eastern Bloc or even part of the USSR. No matter that American leaders had promised (verbally) in the early 1990s not to extend NATO to the countries that formed after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and therefore not to deploy their military forces on Russia’s borders.

The Western camp replied to the Kremlin with a firm “no” accompanied by threats of immediate reprisal in the event of an attack on Ukraine. All of this was reinforced by a plethora of military measures.

NATO says it will “continue … to strengthen the eastern part of the Alliance.” This means militarily, of course. NATO has reserved this right for years. Washington put 8,500 troops on alert, ready to deploy to Ukraine and the Baltic countries, and the U.S. is planning for naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean by April. President Biden announced he is sending defense systems, small arms, and ammunition to Ukraine. He doesn’t say it, but this is in addition to the military trainers and American missiles already there.

NATO’s second stringers like Britain, France, Holland, Spain, Denmark, and several others, have promised to send warships, fighter planes and troops to support NATO on Russia’s border. In fact, ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and more so since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the imperialist powers guided by the United States and NATO never stopped pushing their pawns in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. These are regions that Russia considers its backyard.

Certainly, Russia does not hesitate to intervene in the region, asserting itself as a dominant regional power. This was evident in the Caucasus last year and more recently with quashing the mass uprising in Kazakhstan. But this must be seen in the light of the fact that imperialism has been strengthening its position relative to Russia’s in the region for three decades. And imperialism wants to keep doing this, reminding everyone that imperialism dominates the world and intends to lay down the law. Even if this means risking provoking a conflict in Europe, with Ukraine as the theater of battlefield and the pretext for war.

Self-proclaimed Kremlinologists pontificate that Putin wants to rebuild the Soviet Union whether voluntarily or by force. Everyone knows the Kremlin uses force. Whether Putin wants to rebuild the USSR is another matter. In 2005, Putin did describe the fall of the USSR as "the worst geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century." But in the same sentence he added that only a madman would believe the USSR could be reconstituted.

He would know! Firstly because Putin comes from the bureaucracy which caused the break-up of the USSR that it had led, in order to appropriate its wealth. But the USSR could only exist as the product of a victorious workers’ revolution—a phenomenon unique in history, so far.

Leading the Russian bureaucracy and having just sent his army to crush a workers mass uprising in Kazakhstan, Putin’s only concern is to defend his power and more generally the power of the looting, reactionary, anti-worker bureaucracy. This is exactly what led to the break-up of the USSR, and this is what makes the Russian, Ukrainian and other leaders incapable of rebuilding it, even if they wanted to.

The bureaucrats have torn the former USSR to pieces, and they rely more and more on nationalism to uphold their power, from Russia to Kazakhstan via Ukraine. They pit all the peoples against each other. But what alternative future can the great imperialist powers, including the so-called democratic ones, offer the peoples?

The Russian government in all its brutality and cynicism replied to NATO’s measures by organizing major maneuvers in the Crimea, which the Kremlin “recaptured” from Ukraine in 2014. The Western powers’ side displays no less cynicism and brawn. This current escalation in the war of words and posturing in which the two camps are engaged risks leading to clashes on a much larger scale one day between peoples that every circumstance should unite, and who were united for many years.