Genesis of current Ukrainian Conflict


File Photo, Kolkata

On 24 February morning, Russian forces launched a military assault on neighbouring Ukraine, crossing its borders and bombing military targets near and within big cities. This Russian military aggression and intervention in Ukraine has been vehemently condemned by all peace-loving people of the world. Two days back, Russia gave recognition to the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, established in 2014. These two breakaway regions were seized by Russian-backed rebels after Russia invaded Crimea in the same year after an US-backed coup ousted pro-Russian President Yanukovych and installed their pliant regime. Russia even declared that it would send troops to protect the two republics if they come under further attack from either the present pro-US Ukraine regime or NATO. Within no time, US and some of their European allies imposed stringent economic sanctions on the two republics. In fact for last two months, the US had been propagating that Russia would invade Ukraine. But the Russian authorities continued to deny that. French President Macron tried to mediate between the US and Russia for an amicable diplomatic solution through dialogue. Once it appeared that the tension might be diffused by successful bilateral talk. But now, these aggressive postures on either side have made the situation further complicated and finally an aggressive move towards military settlement is in display.


Ukraine —hotbed of imperialist intrigue
Ukraine, now a capitalist country after collapse of Soviet Union following counter-revolution, has been a playground for imperialist intrigues and machinations for long. Right from the day Ukraine was dismembered from erstwhile USSR, the US imperialists have been trying to establish their hegemonic control on this country rich in natural resources and remarkable agricultural production. Much more is its strategic importance as its boundaries touch Russia, Belarus, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Moldavia, Black Sea and Azov Sea. Although Ukraine is not rich in oil and natural gas, it is one of the main regions in the world over which oil and natural gas of Russia and Caspian Sea are transported to Europe and other countries. Ukraine also possess a highly developed infrastructure and cheap but highly educated and equipped labour power—both endowments of Soviet socialism. So both economically and strategically, it assumes immense importance to the US imperialists and their allies. Hence, the Pentagon rulers, the US corporate houses, multi-nationals as well as the big business of the Western imperialist countries have been having an eagle’s eye on Ukraine for last three decades. To bring Ukraine to their side, the US imperialists were making frantic efforts to rope it in the NATO. In fact, NATO was expanded to almost every country of Eastern Europe to lock in place capitalist restoration of the formerly socialist countries. But their efforts to woo Ukraine totally to their side did not materialize as Russia, which gradually emerged as a formidable imperialist power after dismantling of socialism and having similar economic and political interests, appeared as their bete noir. However, US did not spare any possible means to bring Ukraine under their fold by orchestrating coups, planting rebels, installing pliant regime and so forth. On the other hand, Russian imperialists too were trying to keep Ukraine aligned to them by blowing hot and cold. Trouble began when on 21 November 2013 Viktor Yanukovych, the then and subsequently deposed President of the country, announced his sudden decision to postpone signing the ‘‘association agreement’’ with the European Union in favour of aid and natural gas agreements with Russia, even though he had earlier agreed to endorse it. Following that, there was mass unrest and came out on the streets in protest by sign proponents of aligning Ukraine towards the EU. Before long the constantly growing confrontation and increasingly deadly clashes, in a series of events dubbed ‘Euromaidan’ (a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine, which began on the night of 21 November 2013), seemed to push Ukraine to the brink of civil war. In February, Yanukovych left for Crimea and from there went into exile in Russia. The following year parliament deposed him as President and subsequently in 2019 he was condemned for treason in absentia. Though the monopoly controlled media was trying to paint the conflict as one between democracy and corruption and between nationalist west Ukraine and the majorly Russian-speaking east Ukraine, in fact it was basically a political reflection of contradiction between the two imperialist camps vying with each other over domination on that country. This can be gauged also in the way the US and European capitalists had earlier been supporting Yuschenko who was trying to bring Ukraine into NATO in his standoff with Yanukovych both in the 2004 presidential elections, and during the latter’s two stints as prime minister in parliament. On the other hand, Yanukovych seemed to be tilted towards Russia. Since restoration of capitalism, the people of Ukraine have been subjected to ever-increasing suppression and oppression. On the other hand, Russian interference in their internal affairs and nascent Russian imperialism’s domineering attitude during the tenure of Yanukovych’s rule gave birth to mass discontent which erupted in the form of massive demonstrations. Capitalizing on this discontent among the people, the Yuschenko group finally managed to win the election in December 2004. But from then on, a serious political crisis ensued even posing threat to the integrity of the country and creating a situation with the possibility of direct confrontation gripped Ukraine, that culminated in the Euromaidan events.

Crimea episode
Here a special mention needs to be made about developments in Crimea, a peninsula along the northern coast of the Black Sea in Eastern Europe. It has a population of 2.4 millions, made up mostly of ethnic Russians with significant Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar minorities. The peninsula was reorganized as the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921. Later, it was downgraded from an autonomous republic to an oblast (region) of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, and in 1954 it was transferred to Ukraine to mark the 300th anniversary of the Pereyaslav Agreement, a treaty that had submitted Ukraine to Russian rule. After sad dissolution of Soviet Union, the Crimean Peninsula, on which the de facto republic is located, became a part of post-Soviet Ukraine in 1991, upon the latter’s independence, by virtue of Ukraine’s uti possidetis inheritance of the territory from the Ukrainian Soviet Ssocialist Republic, of which Crimea was a part since 1954. In 2014, Russia recognized and supported the separatists, the secessionists—the overwhelming majority, apparently, being ethnic Russians who wanted to join Russia at that time and did not want to stay under pro EU-NATO regimes. Two two federal subjects were established in that peninsula, Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol. But the territories are still internationally recognized as being part of Ukraine. But they continued to remain the centres of a stand-off. Pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian demonstrations clashed with each other. While the former, apparently larger in number declined to go with ‘Ukrainian fascists’, the latter chanted slogan against ‘illegal occupation’ of Crimea. Pro- Russian lawmakers stood for a referendum on 16 March 2014, a move that has been dismissed as ‘illegitimate’ by the new Ukraine government backed by the western imperialist powers. Thus, people of Ukraine continued to be strangled by capitalists-imperialists and their brute power game. The spate of incidents in succession exacerbated the situation further. While clamouring against Russian incursion, the US imperialists nakedly imposed sanction and warned those undermining the ‘‘democratic processes’’, dictated terms and thus nakedly intervened in Ukraine’s internal matters.
Again at the end of the ‘Euromaidan’ protests in February 2014 when a series of violent events involving protesters, riot police and unknown shooters in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv led to the ouster of the Yanukovych pro-Russian government and he fled to Russia, a new pro-US government was then formed in Ukraine. Pertinent to mention that it was not merely an event of ‘people’s rebellion against an autocratic rule’, nor just a ‘struggle for democracy’ as the US imperialists and their lackeys with the help of pliant media tried to make the world believe. Their cries for democracy rather prove to be in the same refrain in which they raised the hype whenever they come out to force a change of regime be it in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Syria. Nor, was it triggered merely in response to uncalled for Russian military intervention in the neighboring Ukraine ostensibly to protect people of Russian origin or speaking Russian. In fact, Russia was having concerns for its national security because of aggressive presence of NATO inching forwards towards Russian doorsteps. It is pertinent to mention here that after being thoroughly discredited in the oil-rich Middle-East and beating retreat in Syria, US imperialists have been trying to switch to East Europe in pursuit of their hegemonic design. On the other hand, Russia, which gained success in militarily aiding the President Assad-led Syrian regime in combating US aggression, derived confidence of its own might and ability. Thus the two major imperialist powers have been in confrontation for quite sometime. What is most regretful is that around 14,000 precious innocent lives of Ukrainian people were lost in this sustained virtual civil war orchestrated by the two major contending imperialist camps.
The Ukraine crisis has thus been deep enough to draw in the major powers of the capitalist- imperialist world, namely the US and the European majors led by Germany, France, on the one side and Russia on the other. They are embroiled in a crisis that seemed at one stage to be one of the severest of confrontations since the days of the ‘‘Cold War’’, between the western imperialist power bloc and Russia, now itself a capitalist-imperialist power. Though China, which also turned into an imperialist power after completion of counter-revolution in 2004, did not involve themselves directly in the conflict, their tacit support has been to Russia. India, another imperialist power, so far has not sided with either US bloc or Russia, abstained from voting against Russia at UN Security Council and only appealed to Russia for eschewing violence. This skilful equidistance is to keep the scope for bargaining with either side in deriving economic-political advantage in future. Thus, Ukraine continued to remain a hotbed of imperialist-imperialist contradiction and intrigue surcharged with war psychosis.


Nord Stream 2 project
There is another formidable issue on which the imperialist-imperialist contradiction is so accentuated as to result in war threat. The advent of hydraulic fracturing or ‘‘fracking’’ has transformed the US into an oil and gas superpower. Though the environmentalists are staunchly opposed to fracking because the extraction process poisons local groundwater quality and causes seismic events, most of US gas production is by fracking. To store and transport natural gas extracted through fracking, it is chilled to minus 162 C (minus 260 F), which transforms it to liquefied natural gas, which is 1/600th of its volume in a gaseous state. The liquid is shipped in reinforced massive tankers called LNG carriers in large, onboard, super-cooled (cryogenic) tanks to the special LNG terminals in Europe. LNG needs to be transformed from its liquid state back to gas and then transported through pipes at high pressure. With fracking technology in operation, the US has become the largest exporter of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) in the world. The US have also surpassed Russia as the world’s largest gas producer. US oil and gas giants, as well as their pliant bourgeois leaders have been pushing European countries to increase their capacity to receive LNG by framing it as an energy security issue since that enable them to dispose of excess domestic production conveniently as well as profitably. Shifting purchases to the US would make all the European economies dependent on US pricing.
But a thorn in their neck is a 1,230-kilometer-long long natural gas pipeline project called Nord Stream. It runs from Russia to Germany’s Baltic coast pipeline under the Baltic Sea, parallel to an earlier Nord Stream pipeline and would double its capacity, to 110 billion cubic meters of gas a year. It is a joint German-Russian energy project which is now complete. At present, Germany imports 35% of the gas it needs from Russia, and Angela Merkel, former German Chancellor thought that Nord Stream 2 would be a way of getting much more Russian gas delivered directly to Germany through transmission under the Baltic Sea bypassing Ukrainian transit infrastructure. Ukraine, in that case would stand to forego approximately $2bn in transit fees from Russia. The loss of the fees, the US rulers fear, could further destabilize the country now having a pliant regime of theirs. This newly laid pipeline is set to double the gas supply. It was awaiting final certification by German regulators who hitherto maintained that the pipeline was solely a commercial project. But now, perhaps under pressure of US, the German government is withholding the clearance as it took the step after Russia formally recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, and sent troops there. Though Germany badly needs the pipeline for its energy transition from coal and nuclear until it can build or import enough renewable energy and has already closed down three of its last six nuclear power stations, the present German chancellor Olaf Scholz said that ‘‘With regard to the latest developments, we need to reassess the situation also with regard to Nord Stream 2. It sounds very technocratic but it is the necessary administrative step in order to stop certification of the pipeline’’. So there is a stalemate. The fact is that Russia already provides around a third of Europe’s natural gas through other existing pipelines. While it is far cheaper, environmentally preferable and more direct to build pipelines from Russia to European customers than to export from North America, US corporations are driven to offload liquefied natural gas (LNG) gas in Europe, Asia or elsewhere. The Pentagon rulers apprehend that Russia would use Nord Stream 2 as a tool for influence over Germany and Europe and undercut the ability of giant US energy corporations to sell their far more expensive natural gas extracted through hydraulic fracturing or fracking. It would deprive them of enjoying financial and geopolitical advantage in the region. So, the US imperialists have been trying to sabotage the project at every turn as they are frantic to short-circuit any European plan to connect more with Russia and China which would hinder the prospect of exporting domestically surplus natural gas to Europe and other countries. Both the US and their allies had been pressuring Germany to publicly state that the future of the pipeline which would be at risk if Russia moved against Ukraine. In fact, daily US announcements of ominous information on Russian plans to invade Ukraine have dominated the media for two months. Breaking news headlines used to announce secret information that U.S. intelligence has of 150,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. It clearly indicates that US imperialism badly needs a war threat to block expanding European trade with Russia and China. On the other hand, in the global competition for expanding natural gas market, Russia would cease to derive the expected advantage if the project would fall through. It also commands enormous military might and possesses highly developed nuclear weapons. So, it is not cowed down by US war threats as it knows the balance of military power in the present global situation does not affirm to any of the superpowers’ indulgence in a large scale war. So, military action at local levels might well nigh be a strong bargaining strategy. The pro-US Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has already called Nord Stream 2 ‘‘a dangerous political weapon’’. It might therefore be so that in order to create pressure on the pro- NATO government, that Russia has opted to undertake aggressive military action as it can hardly afford to lose fuel trade advantage in Europe.
Ukraine has imposed a state of emergency and told its citizens in Russia to leave immediately, as Moscow began evacuating its Kyiv embassy in view of the Russian military onslaught. The US, as expected, has described Russia’s actions as the start of an ‘‘invasion’’. Along with their allies they have unveiled incremental economic sanctions against Russia. US President hastened to add that they would impose sanctions on the company building Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as well.

From spectacular rise in socialism to debacle in capitalism
After joining the USSR in 1922, Ukraine transformed itself into a giant industrial force from a backward agricultural and simply mineral-rich region with the planned socialist economy of the Soviet Union. It became the second most industrialized state in the USSR after Russia. And it was that planned socialist economy free from exploitation and hence from market crisis by dint of which Ukraine could rise again after the unthinkable destruction and devastation of World War II. After the fall of socialism in the USSR, the constituent states, including Ukraine, fell away from Russia to establish bourgeois rules of their own just like Russia. At that time, Russia formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to keep those bourgeois states under its hegemonic fold with its imperialist ambition. Along with others, Ukraine also joined CIS for its own capitalistic interests. The US and the Western imperialists at that time did not oppose that move of Russia but with the passage of time, Ukraine came closer also to Western and US imperialist countries in spite of its closeness with Russia for its speedier capitalist development.
The table had been turned after the demise of great Stalin and usurpation of the leadership of Soviet Union and Soviet Communist Party by the revisionists. When no one could initially make out that Khrushchevite leadership would be pursuing revisionist line, it was Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, an outstanding Marxist leader and thinker and founder General Secretary of SUCI (C), who warned way back in 1956 that ‘‘floodgate of revisionism’’ was being opened under disguise of denigrating Stalin and his authority. This indeed proved to be true. As against development along socialist line, the revisionist leadership reversed the direction and the concomitant evils were manifest at all levels of economy and society. From 1965 the industrial growth in Ukraine decreased, and finally stagnated. Ukraine’s economy contracted further and severely following the years after the Soviet dissolution. The transition from socialism to capitalism only meant sufferings and downfall for the majority of the population, of which nearly 25% plunged into poverty. A significant number of citizens in rural Ukraine survived by growing their own food, often juggling two or more jobs and buying the basic necessities through the barter economy. More than 60 million of Ukrainians were reported to have gone abroad in search of livelihood. Mortality rate rose fast; scope of decent education receded from common people. Ukraine was hit by the economic crisis of 2008 and the country which once developed without foreign aid had to live on a humiliating IMF approved stand-by loan of $16.5 billion. The hyper-inflationary levels in the 1990s pushed Ukraine to hold the world record for inflation in the calendar year of 1993. Thus, the capitalist rule in Ukraine after dismantling of socialism was bringing forth crisis in people’s life as elsewhere in the capitalist world. The government was unable to address people’s problems and demands. This generated huge resentment among the masses. Proper political consciousness among people was marked by its absence; taking advantage of it, ethnic-linguistic tension and strife had been incessantly fanned up; correct revolutionary leadership to guide people was lacking. All this helped the reactionaries of the country to come to the forefront and the imperialist vultures to find a fertile ground to carry through their designs and engineer supine submission of the country to western imperialist dictates in the name of bringing change. What is further painful that the people of both Russia and Ukraine who once worked hand in hand in cementing socialist construction as constituents of Soviet Union, are now made to turn guns against each other because of imperialist conspiracy after collapse of socialism.


Ukrainians are now pawns in imperialist–imperialist contradiction
The growing acute market crisis and recession made it urgent for the imperialists to look for newer markets even in the unipolar world with no socialist markets and bring in more and more countries into their fold. Among others, Ukraine market has become their target. At the same time, Russian capitalism which had long consolidated its power after the initial chaos of the counter-revolution was also out to pursue its hegemonic aspiration for developing and expanding its own sphere of influence. This conflict between the Russian imperialism, EU and US imperialism is plainly centred on grabbing market and extending spheres of influence. Torn apart by the ruthless capitalist exploitation and oppression, as in other capitalist country of the world, compounded by the clashes and skirmishes precipitated by the imperialist powers to buttress their respective narrow economic-political interests, the common people of Ukraine are now pawns in the hands of the brigands and hegemons engaged in power duels.
But the capitalist rulers of the country as also the imperialist hawks, including the Russian rulers care a fig for suffering of the Ukrainians. Faced with unprecedented economic crisis, endemic of the system, marked by rising prices, poverty, unemployment and recession, the imperialists are increesingly excalating war tension and formenting national chauvinis11m to divert attention of the oppressed people. In fact, they thrive on escalated suffering, mutual distrust and disaffection among the people. Also they are sestoring more and more to militarization of economy. But whoever may gain out of this conflict of imperialists and whoever loses out–the hardship of the people would not be mitigated thereby. Rather, it would sustain ethnic-nationality conflicts, escalate war tensions in the region and subject people to more and more suffering. With the rabid anti-communist, anti-Russian and even anti-Semitic fascist forces rising to power, the progressive democratic minded working people including those sympathetic to socialism are sure to face severe coercion and oppression. Already the omens are there. The US imperialist rulers are spitting unbridled venom against the progressive democratic minded section of the population branding them as opponents to their schemes.
So, the Ukrainian crisis is nothing but the reflection of the crisis of world capitalism and imperialism in a new context. In such a situation the patriotic people of Ukraine must now realize that the conflict and contention between the two groups of Ukrainian bourgeoisie have nothing to do with their interest because both these groups dismantled their working class state to restore capitalism for exploiting them.
Both US and its allies as well as Russian imperialism are out to fish in troubled waters and hence backing this or that bourgeois leader of their country. Also the right thinking peace-loving people of the whole world can easily make out that the armed invasion by the Russian imperialist rulers is triggered by nothing else but the objective of expanding their sphere of influence just like what the US imperialists are engaged in globally. It also once again proves that contradiction between the capitalist-imperialist camp and the socialist camp was never the cause of outbreak of any war. On the contrary, as shown by great Lenin, ‘‘Imperialism generates war’’. So long the mighty socialist bloc, notwithstanding its many limitations, was in place, it worked as a bulwark against imperialist war machination. But, now, in absence of that, imperialist powers are unbridled in their war-mongering.

Way out for suffering Ukrainians
In the circumstances, the toiling people of Ukraine need to imbibe the truth that the capitalist rule they have ushered in with counter-revolution would bring no respite to them from any problem, any exploitation. Rather, they would be squeezed more and more between the two war-monger imperialist camps fighting over grab of market. From experience, many now understand what they have lost with the fall of socialism and how ruinous has been the consequence of drifting away from the invaluable teachings of Marxism- Leninism. The situation has unequivocally upheld the lesson that only true socialism is the real alternative for people; neither revisionism in the cloak of socialism nor capitalism- imperialism can free people from exploitation, disunity, discrimination and oppression. Hence the goal is singular and that is overthrow of capitalism again along with throwing down these imperialist demons from their shoulder. For that, they will need to isolate the anti-people forces and give rise to a strong revolutionary leadership which will uphold their cause, their rights, thwart the bourgeois design to create linguistic and regional cleavage in working class solidarity, and will seek friendly and a unified family-like relation with the peace-loving people of the erstwhile Soviet Russia of which they were also once an integral part. Certainly they need no guardian or overlord.
It is heartening to note that a sizeable number of Russian citizens are out in the street of Moscow and Petrogard with anti-war slogans and demanding of Russian President Putin to take hands off Ukraine. This solidarity of working people against war-mongering of imperialist forces is a silver line. Alongside asking for stopping Russian military attack on Ukraine immediately, the peace-loving people of Ukraine as well as the entire world should raise voice against US imperialists and their allies and demand dismantling of NATO. Ukrainian people must not let themselves get drawn into the lap of the US imperialists or for that matter any other imperialists in the name of resisting Russia or vice versa. Only spearheading a revolutionary struggle afresh on the basis of Marxism-Leninism and its developed and enriched understanding provided by Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, the worthy continuer of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin-Mao Zedong, can bring back socialism in their fatherland and remedy all their problems.

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