Ukraine: No to Putin’s war! No to NATO’s escalation! Why sanctions won’t stop dictator Putin!

Ukraine: No to Putin’s war! No to NATO’s escalation! Why sanctions won’t stop dictator Putin!
by Marx 21, 2/28/2022

Nato expansion to the east: an imperialist act
Putin bears full responsibility for the current Ukraine war. However, Scholz’s rearmament speech is a reminder that the foundation for the escalation that is now culminating in Russian aggression was laid by NATO and the EU.
Ukraine: No to Putin’s war! No to NATO’s escalation!

[This article published on 2/28/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Ukraine: Nein zu Putins Krieg! Nein zur Eskalation der Nato! | marx21]

Why leftists must strongly condemn Putin’s imperialist war over Ukraine, but also the escalation by arming Germany and NATO. An analysis of the marx21 network

On the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian army is waging war against Ukraine. Putin is concerned with restoring Russian domination over Ukraine. For this purpose, he uses Great Russian chauvinist ideas and war lies. Thus he speaks of a “peace mission” with which a “genocide” by a Ukrainian “fascism” is to be prevented.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Since Feb. 24, the Russian army has been overrunning Ukraine with massive shelling and attacks by ground forces using tanks and other heavy weapons. In the face of Ukrainian army resistance, the Russian assault is proceeding more slowly than first expected. Already, there are hundreds of dead and wounded on both sides, and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are fleeing. Further destruction is expected as more Russian troops invade.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine joins a series of bloody military interventions under Putin’s supreme command. Russia under Putin has put down the Chechen independence movement, waged war on Georgia, annexed Crimea, bombed Syria to save the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, and recently intervened against broad-based protests in Kazakhstan.

Reaction from the German government and NATO

Initially, the German government had reacted rather cautiously compared to other NATO states. However, Chancellor Scholz’s speech on Feb. 27 marked a turn toward a drastic escalation policy. In addition to a tightening of sanctions, the centerpiece of this turnaround is the delivery of weapons to Ukraine, an armament package of 100 billion euros for the Bundeswehr, as well as the decision for combat drones.

With this announcement, Chancellor Scholz and the traffic light coalition are further fueling the spiral of military and economic escalation. They are thus complying with the demands of the arms lobby and militarists, who have been beating the drum for a higher military budget and the procurement of combat drones for years.

Gigantic rearmament of Germany

100 billion euros more for armaments – that is twice the amount of a complete year’s military budget. Yet Germany’s military budget has already increased by 50 percent since 2014.

Although there is not even a commitment to NATO’s 2 percent target in the coalition agreement, Scholz’s announcement overfulfills this NATO target. There is no longer a review of combat drone procurement. The militarists in the SPD and the Greens have thus prevailed over the doubters.

This decision will have fatal consequences for foreign policy in the coming years. The vast majority of the population will pay for it. Both social demands and necessary investments in climate change will fall behind the primacy of rearmament.

Nato expansion to the east: an imperialist act

Putin bears full responsibility for the current Ukraine war. However, Scholz’s rearmament speech is a reminder that the foundation for the escalation that is now culminating in Russian aggression was laid by NATO and the EU.

U.S. Secretary of State Baker and West German Foreign Minister Genscher promised the then Soviet foreign minister in 1989, in return for Moscow’s “permission” to reunify Germany, that Nato would not expand eastward. Nato’s eastward expansion is an imperialist act by the West. It allows Putin to present the invasion of Ukraine to his own people as an act of defense by Russia.

NATO is not a defensive alliance. It is a military alliance that secures access to raw materials and markets worldwide. Its purpose is to assert the influence of the Western powers led by the USA. The USA, as the leading power in NATO, has been responsible for 13 wars and military interventions since 2000. None of them was “defensive” because the U.S. would have been attacked militarily.

The NATO-led attack on Serbia in 1999 led to the carve-out of Kosovo and a permanent NATO occupation in the Balkans. The 2001 attack on Afghanistan was followed by a 20-year Nato-led occupation. Many NATO states were also involved in the war against Iraq in 2003.

Ukraine: Plaything of the Great Powers

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the countries of Eastern Europe were very quickly integrated economically and politically into the West, first with free trade agreements and association agreements, and finally with admission to the EU, which was followed by admission to NATO. The association agreement with Ukraine was also about expanding the EU’s economic influence in Ukraine.

The people of Ukraine have become the plaything of the great powers. When Ursula von der Leyen now talks about accepting Ukraine into the EU, it is another step in the escalation.

At its core, this is a conflict between the most powerful bloc in the world, the United States with its European allies on the one hand, and Russia, an imperialist power that is far weaker and weakened economically and militarily and therefore all the more aggressive on the other.

This struggle for zones of influence in an international system of rival blocs threatens to trigger a spiral of violence and counter-violence that could end in a world war.

Economic war and sanctions

Sanctions are the wrong response to Putin’s war. The EU’s economic war preceded NATO’s military expansion. It cannot be the solution for a peaceful future. The sanctions that have now been introduced punish not only oligarchs, but also the Russian people; they are the precursor to further escalation, at the end of which there may also be the use of military means.

We stand by the side of the people who are resisting the Russian invasion. We are for an independent, neutral Ukraine. Only in this way can Ukraine preserve its unity as an independent state.

The key to Putin’s defeat lies in the resistance of the Russian people against the war and Great Russian chauvinism, not in the armament and escalation of NATO. Every Nato soldier more on Russia’s borders is one less anti-war opponent on the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Anti-militarism in Russia

There is a tradition of anti-militarism in Russia: in 1989, after more than a decade of Red Army warfare in Afghanistan, with a million dead among the Afghan population and more than 50,000 dead and wounded among Russian occupation forces, there were demonstrations in Moscow and many other Russian cities by mothers whose sons had been killed or wounded in Afghanistan.

Similar to the U.S. Army after the Vietnam War, the Red Army was not operational for many years after the fiasco of its war in Afghanistan. Gorbachev announced in the late 1980s that the Russian Army would no longer intervene in insurgencies in Eastern Europe because he knew the mood in his army all too well.

Anti-war movement and refugee solidarity

It is now crucial to organize solidarity with refugees, to take to the streets and build a protest movement against Putin’s war and the German government’s rearmament plans.

In this anti-war movement we stand up for a no to arms deliveries from Germany to Ukraine, a no to sanctions of the EU and Germany against Russia and a no to the Nato expansion to the East. The Bundeswehr must be withdrawn from the countries bordering Russia.

Against the increase of the Bundeswehr budget and the further rearmament, a broad alliance is needed to oppose this resolutely. For an end to the military arms race, which devours resources that are urgently needed for the fight against poverty and climate change.

Why sanctions won’t stop dictator Putin

10 points on the sanctions debate, or why it’s important right now for the left to stick to its consistent peace course, writ small and writ large.
By Yaak Pabst
[This article published on 3/2/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

1. the calls for sanctions against Russia by some leftists from Ukraine are understandable given their powerlessness, but they remain wrong. They always hit the civilian population. They are thus water on Putin’s nationalist propaganda mills and help him to rally the population behind him. Moreover, sanctions are only the precursor to further escalation, which may end with the use of military means. In this context, they correspond to imperialist logic. For Germany, sanctions open the door for the left to pursue a policy of truce. Against this background, it is important that DIE LINKE remains on a consistent peace course and rejects the various facets of Western and especially German imperialism in this conflict – sanctions, arms deliveries and rearmament.

2) Whoever associates the sanctions decided by the EU and other Western institutions with boycott movements such as the Palestinian BDS movement or the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s makes a mistake, because the current sanctions have nothing to do with them and they do not lead there. The sanctions that have been decided (account blocking / economic sanctions) are the means of an imperialist bloc to inhibit another imperialist competitor in its development. Such sanctions affect the uninvolved civilian population because they are aimed at imposing the most effective economic damage possible on the entire affected country (otherwise they would be wastepaper in the sense of the NATO states). The effects of such sanctions on the population can be studied very well in Iraq 1990-2003, in Afghanistan since 1999 or in Syria from 2011 until today. Such sanctions are not about a confrontation of oppressed against their oppressors, as in the case of the BDS campaign of the Palestinian liberation movement or the anti-apartheid movement of South Africa.

3. history shows that the rulers in the countries affected by sanctions do not have to fear a loss of power as a result of these sanctions. One of the most poignant examples is North Korea. The regime has repeatedly faced harsh sanctions and economic boycotts from the U.S. and the West since its founding in 1948. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people in the country have died from starvation and medical shortages, yet the regime remains unshaken in power. There is a simple reason for this. Politicians in sanctioned countries can use the situation to close ranks behind them. They are not to blame for the miserable situation, but foreign powers – the opposing imperialist bloc. Butcher Putin is quite a master in this discipline. Sanctions under such conditions weaken the resistance instead of strengthening it. Even the current sanctions adopted by the Western imperial bloc will not stop Putin. Putin’s regime was already subject to EU sanctions after the Crimea annexation in 2014. But instead of revolting against their president Putin, Russia’s population famously re-elected the same president in 2018 with a record result. In other countries with dictators, sanctions have done nothing either, except bring more poverty, hunger and death to the civilian population. Whether Haiti, Serbia, Syria – despite sanctions, those who were supposed to be forced out of office remained firmly in the saddle.

4) To claim that sanctions are a peaceful alternative to war is unrealistic – sanctions are the continuation of war by other means. Or, conversely, they are only the precursor to further escalation, which may end with the use of military means. Take Iraq, for example: At the end of 1990, the United Nations decided to impose sanctions on Iraq. This “sanctions war” lasted for thirteen years (!) and was incredibly brutal. More people died under the sanctions against Iraq than from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Iraq’s economy was systematically attacked and its people were deprived of the chance to develop – UNICEF puts the number of dead children at more than half a million. The dictator at the time, Saddam Hussein, and the Sunni elite that supported him continued to rule unhindered during this period. In Iraq, these UN sanctions, which were disastrous for the people, were followed by the war of aggression waged by the U.S. and its “coalition of the willing.” The USA and its allies fought of course (who is surprised) for “peace, democracy and human rights”. By the way, nobody at that time thought of demanding sanctions against the USA or sanctions against the “oligarchs” in the USA or the countries that had joined the “coalition of the willing”, such as England.

5. the sanctions against Russia, which have been decided now, do not serve the Ukrainian people. They do not bring the people one step closer to peace. On the contrary: wars do not arise from the irrationality of individual politicians, so that personal sanctions could change anything. Imperialism does not only describe a certain violent policy or the fact that presidents of powerful nations, such as Russia, USA or Germany, can rule over smaller nations. Military violence follows an enormous intensification of economic competition. Economic competition turns into political-military competition, and to that extent it takes the form of a global system of competing capitalist states. In this system, sanctions are an integral part of the struggle between imperialist states. Over 150 times in the last decade, the UN Security Council has adopted economic restrictions. In addition, there are hundreds of sanctions that states impose on other states unilaterally without a UN decision. The various imperialisms have made Ukraine their playing field for the trial of strength, and the sanctions are part of it. All this is happening on the backs of the people of Ukraine. The key to Putin’s defeat ultimately lies in the Russian people’s resistance to war and Great Russian chauvinism, not in NATO’s armament and escalation.

6 There are no “good” sanctions. Some leftists want “just” and “sustainable” sanctions, sanctions that hit only the rich oligarchs, sanctions with a “class perspective.” “What’s wrong with that?” they ask. Such “good” sanctions do not exist in the real world. In capitalism, sanctions cannot be “separated” into “good” sanctions that hit only the rich and “bad” sanctions that hit the population. Take Syria, for example: EU sanctions have been in place there since 2011, also by decision of the European Council. They include an oil embargo, restrictions on investment, the freezing of Syrian Central Bank assets held in the EU, and export restrictions on equipment and technology. But these targeted sanctions have added to the suffering of the Syrian people caused by the war. According to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Consequences of Sanctions, Idriss Jazairy, “The measures that have been applied out of concern for human rights have contributed to the worsening of the humanitarian crisis.” Sanctions against Syria’s central bank and other measures to cut it off from international payments, in particular, have had devastating consequences. Journalist Fabian Goldmann writes in his article “Why Sanctions Only Make Things Worse,” “Research by the World Food Program WFP and the World Health Organization WHO holds EU sanctions partly responsible for the collapse of food and health services in the country. Representatives of international humanitarian organizations in Syria complain that EU sanctions make their work difficult or even impossible.” The left should abandon the idea that Putin’s regime could be weakened or even overthrown by economic sanctions of any kind. Instead, it should educate about the imperialist nature of sanctions and the hypocrisy of the rulers toward the people of Ukraine.

7 But can’t sanctions be used in a targeted manner and thus prevent an uncontrollable spiral of escalation? The answer is no. Sanctions against Putin’s Russia in recent decades have mostly been imposed unilaterally by the largest imperialist power, the United States, and its Western allies, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Union or its individual member states. Against Russia alone, the United States imposed sanctions on “at least 735 individuals, entities, vessels, and aircraft” in connection with Russia’s occupation of Crimea and on 68 individuals in connection with allegations of election interference in the United States. In addition, 54 individuals were sanctioned for their involvement in human rights abuses and corruption using the 2012 Magnitsky Act. The United States, the EU, and the United Kingdom also jointly sanctioned Russian officials or companies in connection with the poisonings of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in 2018 and opposition activist Alexei Nawalny in 2021, as well as for arms embargo violations and other activities by Russian mercenaries:inside Libya and elsewhere. All these targeted sanctions did not change the spiral of escalation.

8 Targeted sanctions have long been part of the imperialist show of force – also and especially against powerful or influential persons. Here, too, the USA is setting the pace. In 2016, the U.S. government extended the Magnitsky Act, which originally applied to Russia, to all states on earth. This gave the U.S. government the authority to impose sanctions, visa restrictions, asset freezes, or other penalties not only on countries but on specific targeted individuals anywhere in the world. Under the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, these types of sanctions have increased sharply. In 2021, 173 expulsions were issued under the Magnitsky Act, up from 12 in 2020. The U.S. is not alone in this. Canada, the UK, the EU, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and more recently Australia have also passed their own versions of the Magnitsky Act. And sure enough, the EU Parliament passed a resolution in March 2019 to call on the EU Commission and the 28 member states to enact legislation similar to the Magnitsky Act. Accordingly, this is also to be implemented in Germany. The Netherlands, France, Sweden and Denmark are also considering similar versions of the Magnitsky Act. All this is happening despite the fact that it is well known that the imposition of sanctions exacerbates political and geopolitical tensions. For example, U.S. sanctions, visa restrictions, embassy closures and other measures targeting Chinese officials and entities have triggered retaliation from Beijing. The Trump administration wanted to use the sanctions to force Chinese leaders to give in on tariff policies. But this only exacerbated tensions between the U.S. and China. Another example is Iran, where the Trump administration’s numerous sanctions against Iranian generals, agencies and companies led to dangerous saber rattling throughout 2019.

9 There is not one bit of sanctions. The Left should draw the connection between sanctions against Russia and the 100 billion euro rearmament package for the Bundeswehr. The approval of the LEFT to sanctions, would be a first dam break in the direction of escalation and rearmament. Why? The sanctions against Russia are an expression of rivalries between the Western bloc and its competitors. The cornerstone for this war was laid by NATO and the EU with their aggressive foreign policy – for example, with the eastward expansion of NATO, but also with their sanctions policy. Germany plays a very important role in this architecture. On the other hand, the invasion of Ukraine is part of a series of bloody military interventions under Putin’s supreme command. Russia under Putin has put down the Chechen independence movement, waged war on Georgia, annexed Crimea, bombed Syria to save the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, and recently put down mass protests in Kazakhstan. Putin bears full responsibility for the current Ukraine war. However, Chancellor Scholz’s rearmament speech shows that the imperialist escalation, now culminating in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, will go on and on. The Scholz government bears a share of responsibility for this, at the latest with its “turn of the times” speech in the Bundestag and its government’s rearmament decisions. The current developments (troop deployments / NATO ally buildup / sanctions / arms deliveries / largest rearmament program in the history of the Federal Republic), prepares for a possible future entry of Germany into war against Russia. Leftists should recognize and sharply criticize the totality of this process. Many qualitative developments, lead from a certain point to a new quality. We are in the middle of this process. Under these conditions, a “little” (symbolic) arms deliveries and sanctions are no small intervention. There is no such thing as a little bit pregnant! The Rulers The new very big coalition of SPD, Greens, FDP, CDU/CSU (and AfD, which clapped along enthusiastically during armament passages in Scholz’s speech) in Germany is not (yet) promoting war entry, but “only” a Cold War of deterrence. But this Cold War threatens to pave the way to barbarism. Karl Liebknecht’s slogan from the First World War is rightly still relevant today. It read, “The main enemy is in our own country.” But this slogan of the main enemy not only refers to the immediate entry into the war, but also describes the attitude of the left before it. This is also the context for the rejection of sanctions and the associated resistance to the largest rearmament program in the history of the Federal Republic.

The Scholz government will further fuel the military arms race with its rearmament program. In times of increasing wars, global poverty, refugee catastrophe, climate crisis, low wages and dilapidated infrastructure in schools, hospitals or lack of housing, this is fatal. Wage earners and their families will pay the price for this policy of militarization and war. Resistance is the only way to put the rulers, no matter in which imperialist bloc they act, on the spot. For the left in Germany, its own government must be in the foreground. Anything that distracts from building this resistance and chains the left to the rulers, such as sanctions, should be rejected by the left. There will have to be a hard struggle in the LEFT to maintain the peace policy position. This should not stop us from organizing solidarity with the refugees from Ukraine now, from taking to the streets and building a protest movement against Putin’s war and the rearmament plans of the German government. Putin is the plague, but NATO / EU is the cholera. We should not choose between two diseases. This is the game of the rulers. The many have nothing of the nationalist bluster, war and rearmament. “The dividends rise and the proletarians fall”, a clever revolutionary once said. We should remember that these days. Instead of demanding sanctions, leftists should educate: About the ugly grimace of the new imperialism in East and West; about the hypocrisy of their own government in this conflict, about the fact that the world needs billions for climate protection and social welfare not for armament and war; about the necessity of a world in which not the profits but the needs of the people are in the center. Neither Washington nor Moscow, neither Brussels nor Berlin, but international socialism should be the slogan of the left.

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