May 27, 2022
First published in O Militante, magazine of the Portuguese Communist Party. The author is a regular contributor to PCP publications. This analysis is a contribution to the discussion of the current period, underlined by the crisis in Ukraine. This translation by John Catalinotto appeared in Workers World newspaper.
The world is in a deep convulsion. Three decades after the victory of the counterrevolutions in Eastern Europe, humanity faces the danger of a catastrophe.
The offensive to impose U.S. planetary hegemony, with the unpunished attacks and assaults on international legality by the U.S./NATO/EU/Israel, and the system of global plunder set up by “Western” big financial capital following the counterrevolutions at the end of the 20th century, have resulted in a crisis of enormous proportions, which the war in Ukraine is exacerbating.
Global crisis of capitalism
The background to this situation is the global crisis of the capitalist system which, having become particularly evident in 2007-2008, has never been overcome, despite the billions of public money spent to artificially prop up an insolvent financial system. A central element of this crisis is also the relative decline of the old imperialist powers, faced with the rise of new economic powers, especially China, and the refusal of the old imperialist ruling classes to accept the new correlation of world economic forces.
It is in the hands of the peoples of the world to determine the course of events, preventing the tragedy that is unfolding before us.
Hypocrisy without limits
The Russian military intervention in Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24, 2022, did not happen in a vacuum. It was not the beginning of the crisis, but one of its expressions. Anyone listening to the leaders of the major imperialist powers today would think that they are angelic defenders of peace and international legality, jealous of countries’ sovereignty. But the reality is the exact opposite.
U.S./NATO/EU have repeatedly and blatantly violated international legality. This was the case in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere. These wars and aggressions were always presented as “just,” “humanitarian,” “necessary” – or just forgotten, as in Yemen – even though the pretexts invoked to unleash them were monumental mystifications and their results were tragedies of enormous proportions.
Besides the more or less conventional wars, this was also the case in the successive operations of “hybrid war” and multifaceted subversion against any country that expressed its sovereignty, such as Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and so many others. It was the systematic destruction of international law by the U.S./NATO/EU that opened the door to the Ukrainian crisis.
It is obvious that Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine violates international law. But no one can claim that Russia has done anything that had not been repeatedly done, over decades, by the U.S./NATO/EU and its allies.
The boundless hypocrisy reigning today must be firmly resisted. Not only because it is hypocrisy, but above all because behind it − and the usual parade of lies and propaganda – is the imperialist War Party, which has long been preparing for confrontation with anyone who does not submit to its dictates, and is prepared to use any means, including a catastrophic world war, to achieve its objectives of planetary hegemony. In the mouths of the leaders and servants of imperialism, the speeches about peace in Ukraine conceal the strategy of raising the war to new and much more dangerous heights.
From the end of the USSR to the assault on Russia
The war in Ukraine is not a conflict merely between Russia and Ukraine. It is one episode in a clash that, after the phase when Boris Yeltsin led Russia [in the 1990s], has lasted for almost three decades, a clash between the capitalist Russia that emerged from the counterrevolution in the USSR in 1991 and the old imperialist powers, with the U.S. at their head.
At the time of the tragic disintegration of the USSR, the U.S. and its satellites, instead of reserving a role for the new capitalist Russia as a partner, treated Russia as a country to be plundered and, if possible, disintegrated. Among the reasons for such an option is the inevitable tendency of imperialism to seize the wealth of others – even more so of a country as vast and rich in resources as Russia – but also the desire for historical revenge and “exemplary punishment” of the country that is heir to the first great historical experience of a revolutionary transformation of society and the construction of socialism.
The goal of seizing Russia’s colossal natural wealth made it politically convenient to “forget” that the socialist Soviet Union was destroyed in 1991 and to reorient decades of violent anti-Soviet propaganda into hammering anti-Russian propaganda.
Direct attack on capitalist Russia was impossible, given its nuclear arsenal inherited from Soviet times, but that did not prevent a gradual process of assault aimed at its disintegration. Russia hung by a thread in the mid-1990s.
This near collapse came not only because of the enormous social and economic tragedy that befell the country with the end of socialism and the destruction and plundering of its resources by the “shock therapies” of imperialism that led to the notorious Russian oligarchs (and also the Ukrainian oligarchs that continue to plunder that country without the media remembering them). All, in the end, was created by the Western oligarchs.
Russia’s survival was also hanging by a thread as a result of the systematic intervention of the U.S. and other powers that fed a number of wars in the territories of the former USSR (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova) and within Russia itself (Chechnya). From the beginning, imperialism financed and armed subversion, with the assault on Russia as a strategic objective.
The fact that the Russian power has managed to halt and then reverse these processes of disintegration and assert a sovereign and independent Russia is the real “crime” for which “Western” imperialism will never forgive Putin.
The multifaceted offensive against Russia was also manifested in the five waves of NATO enlargement to former socialist and even ex-Soviet countries, accompanied by the installation of military bases, military resources and repeated military maneuvers involving thousands of NATO soldiers, ever closer to Russia’s borders.
Simultaneously, the U.S. repudiated arms control agreements. In 2019 the U.S. did not renew the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, followed by an official statement by Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry (MFA) expressing its right to endow itself with nuclear weapons. This intention was reiterated by President Volodymyr Zelensky at the February 2022 Munich Security Conference.
In 1962 the USSR installed missiles in socialist Cuba, which the U.S. had attacked [with proxy forces] the previous year (at Playa Girón). The U.S. found the presence of Soviet nuclear weapons near its borders unacceptable and brought the planet to the brink of nuclear war. But installing nuclear weapons ever closer to Moscow is presented [by the West] as an act of “freedom.”
Imperialist war plans
The offensive of the U.S./NATO/EU axis is directed against not only Russia. In his 1997 book, “The Great Chessboard – American primacy and its geostrategic imperatives,” former U.S. National Security Advisor [Zbigniew] Brzezinski explained that “The three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.” For the imperialist superpower, there are only two options for any people and country: become vassal and docile, or be treated as barbarians.
The brutal treatment of the “barbarians” who asserted their sovereignty, whether in Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, Africa or Europe, has been patent throughout these years. In 1999, during NATO’s war against Yugoslavia, the U.S. even bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.
But the world did not stand still. China, acting in the context of international economic rules largely dictated by the U.S. and the structures of global financial domination hegemonized by it, has achieved a GDP comparable to that of the U.S. and is growing at faster rates, manifesting the ability to develop cutting edge technological sectors.
This phenomenal economic rise is considered unacceptable and a threat by the U.S., whose military doctrines proclaim China as the main enemy. The China-Russia axis, reaffirmed in early February when Putin visited China, is a nightmare for the old imperialist powers.
When the planetary hegemony of the United States was undisputed, [Portuguese] General Loureiro dos Santos revealed the objective of the U.S. to unleash a full-scale war against any country or group of countries that “have the capacity to oppose or challenge the United States” (Diário de Notícias, March 13, 2000). It stated that “the United States will need to act. It won’t happen right away, but in 15, 20 years, it’s practically inevitable.”
The “inevitable” world war predicted by Loureiro dos Santos would result from the mere existence of sovereign countries that “opposed” or “challenged” the U.S.A. The general said: “We cannot forget that at the base of all this is the dispute over the world’s resources.”
Probably channeling conceptions he would have access to as a high-ranking member of NATO’s armed forces, General Loureiro dos Santos foresaw (and downplayed) the possibility of war becoming nuclear, dreaming of impossible invulnerabilities: “New technologies are, however, beginning to appear, particularly in the U.S., which will make it possible to make theaters of operations invulnerable to adversary missile attacks. […] There have to be new ways of waging war. Possibly the other weapons of mass destruction will play a much more important role, notably the biological weapon. The atomic weapon will continue to be a very important weapon, able to shield the territories of medium powers that do not have these new technologies, but for the great powers it will no longer be an obstacle.”
Note the reference to biological weapons, with the recent insistent denunciations by Russia and China about the hundreds of biological laboratories created and financed by the U.S.A. all over the world, many of them near the borders of these two countries. And note also the sentence that, considering that nuclear weapons “will not be an obstacle” for great powers, implicitly confesses who is thinking of starting a war.
Fascism in Ukraine… and beyond
On Dec. 16, 2021, the UN General Assembly voted on a motion, presented by Russia, to “Condemn the Glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices.” The motion passed by a large majority, with 130 votes in favor (including countries in open confrontation, such as Israel and Syria). Only two countries voted against the motion: the U.S. and Ukraine. How can the significance of this fact be denied? Confirming a servitude that has since taken a qualitative leap, the EU countries (including Portugal) abstained in the condemnation of Nazi-fascism.
It is fashionable today to deny or minimize the influence of fascism in the highest spheres of power in Ukraine. This denialism does not come from the fact that Ukrainian fascism is a fiction. It exists and has a prominent place in the Armed Forces, which have officially incorporated Nazi-fascist militias such as the Azov Battalion.
World War II fascist collaborators responsible for huge massacres, such as Semyon Bandera, have been turned into Ukrainian national heroes. The denialism aims to cover up the uncomfortable reality that Ukrainian fascists are allies “of the West” in the U.S./NATO/EU planetary domination strategy, allies needed as shock troops of the regime and as cannon fodder in the war against Russia.
In the context of the hybrid war against Russia, the U.S. has invested particular efforts in Ukraine. This is not out of love for the Ukrainian people, whom the imperialist leaders despise as much as they do any other people, but because the U.S. wants to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian.
In 2013 U.S. State Department Vice-Secretary Victoria Nuland confessed that the U.S. had already channeled $5 billion to “support democracy” in Ukraine. The significance of that “democracy” became clear with the Maidan coup that on Feb. 24, 2014, overthrew elected President Yanukovych.
The spark for the Maidan coup was the massacre of anti-government protesters and police. The pro-imperialist media blamed the government. But the story is more complex and indicates a provocation committed by snipers who were shooting at both sides, installed on top of the Ukraina Hotel, which was under the control of Ukrainian fascists.
The fascist violence that followed the 2014 coup focused on repressing popular resistance to the coup in the majority Russian-speaking parts of the country (which had given overwhelming electoral majorities to the deposed President).
In Odessa, at least 50 people were murdered after fascist gangs attacked anti-coup protesters and burned down the House of Trade Unions where they had taken refuge.
In the Donbass, the popular resistance proclaimed the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. The military response was led by the Ukrainian fascists. The 2015 Minsk agreements, which provided for a political solution preserving the autonomous Donbass within Ukraine, have always been disregarded by the Ukrainian government. It is impossible to understand what is happening today without taking into account the war in the Donbass, which caused the death of 14,000 people over eight years, in the face of Western media indifference.
The U.S./NATO/EU alliance with fascism is not “counter-natural.” Fascism has always been the most violent and brutal expression of the power of big capital, used in moments of crisis to impose its class domination by force. In the 1920s and 1930s, a large part of the ruling classes of the capitalist countries of Europe and the U.S. had strong sympathies for fascism.
After the defeat of Nazi-fascism in World War II, thanks mainly to the Soviet Union, U.S. imperialism promoted a global anti-communist alliance, in which the defeated Nazi-fascists played a prominent role. Many Ukrainian fascists were recruited for the (not always cold) war against the USSR and the communists.
The use of veritable terrorist armies, capable of the most brutal crimes, is a permanent feature of imperialism’s interventions in the four corners of the world. It was like this in the 1980s with the Nicaraguan Contras, the Unita [in Angola] or Renamo [in Mozambique], the Afghan mujahideen, or more recently with the fundamentalist and terrorist gangs of the ISIS type in Libya, Syria, Iraq and other countries. It is like that in Ukraine today.
Underneath the “democratic” veneer of the power of big capital and imperialism, the finger is always ready to squeeze the trigger. In moments of acute crisis, this fascist digit comes to the fore.
The Russian military intervention
While it is true that the Russian leadership reads, and not without reason, the events of the past decades as a mortal threat to the survival of their country, it is equally a fact that the class nature of Russian power is reflected in the military action initiated exactly eight years, to the day, after the 2014 coup.
By opting for a military operation outside international law, Russia has weakened its position on the international stage. By focusing its response on the strictly military level, and not on the role or intervention of popular forces in the territories of Ukraine, it shows distrust of the people. By attacking the historical legacy of the USSR in recognizing and defending the national rights of peoples – namely the Ukrainian people – it helps to feed the myths of Ukrainian fascist nationalism. By re-legitimizing the Tsarist Empire it places itself outside of history and narrows its base of internal and external support.
These limitations, whose weight in the unfolding of events has yet to be assessed, reveal the capitalist nature and class conceptions in Russia today, which, however, does not prevent the Portuguese Communist Party from pointing to the U.S., NATO and the EU as the major culprits for the grave situation that has been reached in Eastern Europe.
A new international order?
But the “Western” hysteria also reflects desperation. The desperation to understand that, far from being “stronger and more united than ever,” as the war propaganda proclaims, the U.S./NATO/EU is experiencing an unprecedented crisis (the EU in particular). The “sanctions from hell” announced against Russia soon revealed their limits, and Russian counter-measures (demanding rubles for oil purchases, as well as pegging the ruble to gold) seem to have prevented the collapse of the Russian economy that the imperialist centers so desired.
The sanctions are accentuating an inflationary process (which was already making itself felt earlier) in the capitalist centers, with inevitable economic and social consequences. This process, if confirmed, could lead to the destruction of the hegemony of the dollar as an international reserve currency and to the end of the financial system on which the plundering of the riches of the planet by the imperialist centers is based.
The confiscation of the assets of the Central Bank and of Russian citizens in the West, following similar acts of plunder of state assets in Venezuela, Iran, Afghanistan and other countries, will accelerate the general distrust of the reliability of the financial system dominated by the United States.
A salient fact of the current crisis is the difficulty the imperialist centers have in rallying many countries to their strategy, including some of the largest in the world. Despite the votes in the UN General Assembly, the countries that applied sanctions to Russia are limited to North America, the European Union and some of their closest “allies.” Countries like China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Indonesia and even NATO countries like Turkey have refused to join the sanctions war.
If these statements seem bold, read the Financial Times of April 7: “It may seem that most of the world is united in its condemnation of the war in Ukraine, but while there is a Western-led coalition against Russia, there is no global coalition. This fact may have important implications for the future of international finance as the countries of the world respond to the dramatic decision by the U.S. and its allies to freeze Russia’s foreign currency reserves […].
“Yet by explicitly weaponizing the dollar in this way, the U.S. and its allies risk provoking a backlash that could undermine the U.S. currency and sunder the global financial system into rival blocks. […] But if there is a steady shift away from the dollar in the coming years, the sanctions on Russia’s central bank might come to be seen not as a bold, new way of exerting pressure on an opponent but the moment when the dollar’s dominance began to decline.”
What prospects for workers and peoples?
The dangers for humanity are clear. War is not in the interest of the peoples, who are its first victims. It is urgent to stop the war in Ukraine and even more urgent to prevent its spread.
Even if it is possible to stop the warmongers and avoid a catastrophe, throughout the imperialist center, the assault on the living standards of workers and peoples will be reinforced, under the pretext of the current crisis, by diverting gigantic resources to the war machines and reinforcing the authoritarian and fascist tendency that can already be seen. Long-existing plans (remember the troikas and the measures taken under the pretext of the pandemic) will now be tried out again, on a larger scale.
Communists have the historical responsibility, as in the past, to know how to read the events and identify the orientations that correspond to the situation – making good use of our theory, which results from the experience accumulated by the workers’ movement over decades. And understanding that each concrete situation has to correspond to concrete analyses, adequate to the situation, with the identification of the main enemy and the effort to create the best correlation of forces possible to isolate and fight that main enemy. One thing is certain: it will be the struggle of the peoples that can, as in the past, defeat the instigators of imperialist war.
Brzezinski was National Security Advisor between 1977 and 1981 and the artisan of the policy of arming and legitimizing Islamic fundamentalist terrorism to fight the popular government of Afghanistan in 1979, six months before Soviet troops were sent to that country, as he confessed in 1998 in an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur magazine.
Among the numerous recent references, see the following articles in the Chinese newspaper Global Times:
– U.S. biolabs need exposure and investigation: U.S. scholar
– Chinese FM raises six key questions on U.S. bio labs in Ukraine, demanding truth
– U.S. biolabs unacceptable: Putin
– New evidence shows U.S.-funded biolabs used to attack Donbass, Russia: RT
The systematic censorship introduced in the EU in the aftermath of the war makes it harder to access sources, but here is a detailed fact-finding: “The Buried Maidan Massacre and Its Misrepresentation by the West” in Consortium News.
Among many other sources is U.S. journalist Christopher Simpson’s book, “Blowback: America’s recruitment of Nazis and its effects on the Cold War,” Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988.