Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is anathema to humanity. Russian troops, tanks, air force, and other military hardware should get out now. The Ukrainian people defending the country’s independence deserve international solidarity—already shown by protests condemning the invasion inside Russia; in Tbilisi, Georgia; and elsewhere.
It is also necessary to clearly see Washington’s hypocritical claims that it tried to avert war through diplomacy. We should demand that U.S. and NATO military forces pull out of eastern Europe and the broader region. The Pentagon has doubled the number of U.S. warships in the Mediterranean, redeployed an aircraft carrier there from the Pacific, and increased the number of U.S. troops in the area. It is opening up new NATO bases in eastern Europe. The newest, a “highly sensitive U.S. military installation” according to the New York Times, located near the village of Redzikowo, in Poland, is only about 100 miles from Russian territory.
These moves are aimed at expanding U.S. military domination in Europe and countering Russian economic interests, including growing exports of natural gas to Europe (Russia is a top producer of natural gas and oil, accounting for 17% of the world’s natural gas and 12% of its oil). The U.S./NATO actions pose a genuine threat to world peace while offering Putin a pretext for his brutal invasion.
The Russian attack on a sovereign neighboring republic smacks of the Great Russian chauvinism prevalent under the czars, the barbaric monarchy that ruled the Russian empire for centuries before it was overthrown by workers and peasants in 1917. That same chauvinism animated the reactionary policies re-established by the late 1920s in the former USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) during the counterrevolution led by Joseph Stalin—a regime Russian president Vladimir Putin faithfully served as a former officer of the KGB, the secret police.
On February 21, Putin declared that the Moscow-backed “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk set up in eastern Ukraine in 2014 were independent countries and ordered Russian troops to go in as “peacekeepers.” The Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine followed, in the largest military mobilization in Europe since World War II.
In a speech the same day crafted to justify the onslaught, Putin denied that Ukraine is a nation and blamed the Bolshevik revolution for the country’s independence. “Modern Ukraine was entirely and fully created by Russia, more specifically the Bolshevik, communist Russia,” Putin said. “This process began practically immediately after the 1917 revolution, and moreover Lenin and his associates did it in the sloppiest way in relation to Russia—by dividing, tearing from her pieces of her own historical territory.”
Putin is lying. The contrast between the position of Putin and Russia’s capitalists today, with that of the workers and peasants’ government V.I. Lenin led after the Russian Revolution, is crystal clear.
In December 1919, Lenin wrote to the Ukrainian workers and peasants:
“The independence of the Ukraine has been recognized both by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee of the R.S.F.S.R. (Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic) and by the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks). It is therefore self-evident and generally recognized that only the Ukrainian workers and peasants themselves can and will decide [emphasis added] at their All-Ukraine Congress of Soviets whether the Ukraine shall amalgamate with Russia, or whether she shall remain a separate and independent republic, and, in the latter case, what federal ties shall be established between that republic and Russia.
“How should this question be decided insofar as concerns the interests of the working people and the promotion of their fight for the complete emancipation of labor from the yoke of capital?…
“[T]he interests of labor demand the fullest confidence and the closest alliance among the working people of different countries and nations. The supporters of the landowners and capitalists, of the bourgeoisie, strive to disunite the workers, to intensify national discord and enmity, in order to weaken the workers and strengthen the power of capital.”From V.I. Lenin’s Dec. 1919 Letter to the Workers and Peasants of the Ukraine
The “national discord and enmity” Lenin warned about so clearly is precisely what both Putin and U.S. president Joe Biden and his allies are spreading today.
Moscow aims to reassert the Russian industrialists’, bankers’, and landowners’ control of Ukraine, as well as over other eastern European territories that achieved independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, followed by the re-establishment of capitalism in the former USSR. Moscow is also pushing back against the U.S.-led NATO expansion in eastern Europe.
NATO was established in 1949 to codify and maintain Washington’s military superiority in western Europe when the U.S. emerged as the main victor in World War II and the world’s top imperialist power. As the Cold War ended, NATO’s importance appeared to wane. But Washington breathed new life into the reactionary military alliance in the 1990s over the blood and bones of the people of Yugoslavia, fueling a decade-long war in that country that led to its break-up. It then used Yugoslavia’s destruction as a launching pad to expand NATO eastward by admitting 14 new member states, more than doubling its roster by 2020.
During the Cold War, Russia and the United States both worked on developing antimissile defenses. In 1972 both agreed to halt their rocket shield programs. But in 2001 U.S. president George W. Bush infuriated Putin by pulling out of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty and directing the Pentagon to build and deploy such a system in eastern Europe, under the flimsy pretext it was targeting Iran. New U.S. military bases such as the one in Poland, as well as another in Romania, are now becoming operational housing anti-missile launchers. This offers an edge to U.S. forces in shooting down Russian ballistic missiles, increasing the possibility of further military conflagrations.
None of this justifies Putin’s invasion. But it points to Washington’s hypocrisy in claiming to seek a “diplomatic solution” to the current crisis. U.S. president John F. Kennedy brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in October 1962 when Moscow stationed nuclear missiles for defensive purposes in Cuba. Would Washington accept military bases, like those it is now establishing in Poland, to be set up today by Russia in Mexico, 100 miles from the U.S. border?
That’s why working people should demand not only the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukraine but also the simultaneous pullout of all U.S. and NATO forces from eastern Europe.
The sanctions Washington and its allies are imposing against Russia will do little to deter Putin’s invasion, which is backed by China, while they will mostly hurt working people inside Russia and elsewhere in Europe.
Working people in the Ukraine can best defend their aspirations by their own mobilizations and actions, as they did in the Maidan revolt of 2014.
 For an explanation of how Washington fueled the war in Yugoslavia and used it to expand NATO eastward see “How U.S. Imperialism Fueled Yugoslav War” published in the April 19, 1999, issue of the Militant newspaper.