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Proletarian issue 80 (October 2017)
Ukraine: Washington flirts with proxy war against Russia
Splits in the imperialist camp deepen as the US ruling class argues over whether to increase its military intervention in Ukraine.
For months now, hawkish noises have been heard from Washington about the likelihood of the US openly donating lethal weapons to the Kiev junta that was installed on the back of the fascistic Maidan coup (with plenty of help from unacknowledged lethal US weaponry).

These provocative threats certainly impress junta leader Poroshenko, who frequently announces that, any minute now, the US is about to hand over the key to the arsenal. To date however, leaving aside the question of the unofficial supply of arms undoubtedly long since in place, these bellicose threats have yet to translate into action.

Kurt Volker, director of the McCain Institute think tank and former US ambassador to Nato, is the latest to join in this war of words. Volker, whom The Times says has been mandated “to support European leaders in talks with Moscow” (lucky for them), warns that former president Obama’s (official) rejection of the policy of arming the Kiev junta could change.

“The Trump administration,” he hinted darkly, “is looking at do we continue this rejection from the Obama administration, or do we change,” adding that, whilst no decision has been taken yet, “at very senior levels people are taking that very seriously.” But after this great build-up, the conclusion is lame in the extreme: “Of course, it has to be a decision from the president.” (Ukraine crisis will ‘cripple’ Russia-US relations by Roman Olearchyk, Financial Times, 27 August 2017)

By the time these words are read the striptease may be over and crates of tank-busting artillery may well be winging their way to Kiev. There are, however, substantial reasons why Trump, or whoever is actually taking the decisions, might pull back from such a flagrant provocation so clearly aimed at Moscow.

This is well understood in sections of the imperialist media. Michael Kofman writes in the New York Times: “The push to supply Javelin missiles to Ukraine is really a political decision that would turn the conflict between Russia and Ukraine into a proxy war between the United States and Russia. Ukrainians may understandably dream of Washington’s joining the conflict, but American policy makers should remember that their obligation is to their own national interest. Washington should focus its attention instead on its Nato allies.”

In other words, having stirred up trouble in the Ukraine and led the ultra-nationalists to believe they had a seat reserved in Nato Valhalla, Washington now needs to extricate itself from the mess and avoid starting a war with Russia for which it is hardly ready, particularly given the humiliating collapse of its regime-change plans in Syria.

Kofman makes the link with Syria clearly: “The idea of providing Ukraine with $50m-worth of anti-tank missiles is eerily reminiscent of Washington’s half-hearted efforts to train and arm the moderate (sic) Syrian opposition. That plan was ill-conceived and ended in defeat after Russia escalated its military backing of the government of President Bashar al-Assad in 2015. Russia’s interests in Ukraine are far greater and its military superiority is well established. In contrast, the United States’ coercive credibility in the region is close to nonexistent.” (For the US, arming Ukraine could be a deadly mistake by Michael Kofman, New York Times, 25 August 2017)

Ukraine: neither EU nor Nato

Meanwhile Poroshenko’s dreams of getting full membership of the imperialist club were rudely dashed by the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, when he told a conference of EU ambassadors: “A few days ago I saw that my friend Poroshenko said that Ukraine is the European Union, and it is Nato. At the moment, it’s neither one nor the other, and I think we do need to bear this in mind.” (Ukraine’s association deal bittersweet with no real hope for EU integration, RT, 1 September 2017)

Instead of a seat at the Nato table, Kiev must content itself with the dubious privilege of billeting 2,500 troops from 15 member states so that Nato’s Rapid Trident anti-Russia provocations can be held near the Polish border.

As for the dreams of Ukraine’s association agreement as a stepping stone to full EU membership, these had long since soured by the time that the agreement finally came officially into force on 1 September this year. So wary had the Netherlands been of ratifying the agreement that Brussels had to promise faithfully that Ukraine will neither get automatic EU membership, nor receive EU funding, nor share in its defence programmes.

Thanks to the agreement, Ukrainian exports to the EU grew by 3 percent in 2016; in the same period, however, exports to Russia sank by 25.6 percent on the previous year. Complaints are heard that EU members protect their home markets, restricting access by Ukrainian companies as unwelcome competition. Ukraine is given tight duty-free export quotas specific to different commodities. Exports exceeding the quotas attract import tax.

An expert interviewed by RT explained: “Branches of foreign companies in Ukraine, unlike local firms, will receive guaranteed international legal support, and any economic disputes in EU courts will automatically be resolved in favour of the Europeans. This firmly consolidates the priority of European law over Ukrainian legislation.” (Ibid)

Such are the benefits the EU rains down on the Ukrainian economy, already saved from bankruptcy solely by drip-feed loans from the IMF. Figures released by the state statistics service of Ukraine reported that industrial activity overall contracted 2.6 percent in July compared to the same month last year, with steep contractions in the mining, quarrying, electrical and gas sectors.

Particularly crippling have been the effects of the blockade of the Donbass region, initiated by Kiev, which has starved steel plants of anthracite and dislocated industry across the country. And as Ukrainian workers struggle to keep their heads above water, the government is currently trying to push through another string of IMF-dictated ‘reforms’, including further pension cuts. (See Ukraine Economic Outlook, 5 September 2017)

Donbass fights on

Meanwhile the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics in the Donbass continue to mount their courageous resistance to Nato’s stooges in Kiev. Twice they have withstood a full military offensive, fighting the Ukraine army and its fascist auxiliaries to a standstill. In the aftermath of each failed offensive the people’s republics have signed up to the Minsk Accords, providing for ceasefire and negotiation over a form of autonomy for the Donbass.

But again and again the Kiev junta has stonewalled over implementation of the agreement to which it is signatory, and continues to this day to violate the ceasefire, subjecting the population to indiscriminate shelling.

According to a recent briefing by the head of the DPR, Alexander Zakharchenko, the Ukrainian army is accumulating weapons on the contact line, with regular attempts to break through the line. In his assessment: “These are not single or chaotic cases. This is a purposeful identification of weaknesses, reconnaissance by fighting.”

Efforts by Russian President Vladimir Putin to break the logjam and win support for a draft resolution to the UN security council proposing the dispatch of UN peacekeepers to the Donbass, first raised at the recent Brics conference in China, found a ready ear in Germany.

Foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel called on all interested parties to “openly discuss with the Russian Federation the conditions of a UN mission”, adding that this could open the door to ending sanctions against Russia. (Merkel welcomes Putin’s initiative on sending UN peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine, RT, 11 September 2017)

Alexander Zakharchenko, whilst expressing the DPR’s readiness to discuss with Kiev the conditions for deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission, warned: “Kiev just wants to take the entire territory, take control of the borders, introduce troops here.” (See Donbass Defence Journal, 11 September 2017)

Kiev’s response to Putin’s initiative confirmed this opinion, with officials stating that the regime would never agree to coordinate the details of the UN mission with the DPR and LPR as this would mean their “legalisation”. It would also veto any peacekeepers from Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan.

However, Berlin’s positive reception for President Putin’s peacekeeping plan will strike a chord with many in Europe and elsewhere who grow weary of the war of tit-for-tat sanctions into which the US has dragged everyone through its championing of the Kiev junta and its clumsy flirtation with proxy war against Russia.

Victory to the Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics!
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