IST statement on the war in Ukraine
1. The Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February was an act of imperialist aggression and a violation of the Ukrainian people’s right to self-determination. For Ukrainians it is a war of national self-defence. At the same time from the side of Western imperialist powers led by the United States and organised through NATO it is a proxy war against Russia. The war is both an imperialist invasion of a former colony and part of an inter-imperialist conflict between the US and Russia with their allies. We are against both imperial powers. We express our solidarity with the Ukrainian people, supporting their right to resist the invasion. While doing so, we also oppose NATO and its expansion to the East.
2. The inter-imperialist character of this conflict is confirmed by the policy of the Kyiv government, which is to draw the West into the shooting war. This is, in effect, the meaning of its constantly repeated demand for NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. This would inevitably bring NATO and Russian forces into combat. Such a war could escalate into nuclear exchanges between the two sides – not just because the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has directly threatened nuclear retaliation, but because of Russia’s conventional superiority in the war-zone. The US and Russia are by far the greatest thermonuclear powers in the world. A war between them would destroy most of humankind and leave the survivors eking out a miserable, impoverished existence.
3. Responsibility for this terrifying prospect lies firmly with the two imperialist antagonists – the US and its allies for driving NATO and the European Union eastwards towards Russia’s borders to expand and entrench their domination of western Eurasia, Russia and its allies for seeking to halt this process through war, conquest, and occupation. The spiral of escalation is being fuelled by both the imperialist antagonists. All this is happening on the backs of the people of Ukraine. The workers in the affected countries have nothing good to expect from either Western or Russian imperialism
4. Accordingly, we demand:
- Immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine!
- NATO forces pull back from Central and Eastern Europe!
- No arms shipments to Ukraine! No sanctions against Russia!
- No escalation by either Russia or NATO!
- Stop the arms race – Spend trillions to fight against hunger, the climate crisis and poverty and inequality not for war and arms!
- Cancel Ukraine’s $113 billion foreign debt, and send rapid humanitarian aid for the people of Ukraine!
5. The evils of Russian military escalation are obvious. But, although NATO has decided to avoid direct involvement in the war, it is escalating the struggle dangerously. Supplying arms to Ukraine invites Russian retaliation. And the economic sanctions imposed on Russian institutions and interests are warfare by other means. Sanctions always hit the civilian population. They fit with Putin’s nationalist propaganda and help him rally popular support. When the US and the EU used their dominance of the global financial system to cut the Central Bank of Russia off from its foreign exchange reserves, Putin reacted by putting Russian nuclear forces on alert. Relying on economic pressure supposedly to bring Russia peacefully to its knees can instead bring on the final disaster. Sanctions and embargoes are only the preliminary stage for a further escalation, which frequently ends in the use of military means. This is what happened in Iraq from 1990, in Yugoslavia/Serbia from 1992, Somalia from 1992, Haiti from 1992, Afghanistan from 1999, Georgia from 2006, Libya from 1992/2011, Yemen from 2014. In almost recent every military operation by the US, this pattern is evident: sanctions precede the bombings.
6. We also oppose the NATO military buildup – for example, the decision of the German government to spend an additional €100bn on ‘defence’, Poland doubling the size of its army and increasing military expenditure to three percent of GDP, and the general push by the EU to militarize. We reject the NATO target of increasing arms spending to two percent of gross domestic product at a time of war, global poverty, climate crisis, low wages and dilapidated infrastructure in schools and hospitals, and poor and scarce housing. Workers and their families will pay the price for this policy of militarisation and war.
7. It is worth underlining that this is a war that involves primarily Europe, the US, and Canada. China has given Russia conditional support, but many other states in the global South are refusing to take sides, including the Gulf states, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and South Africa. This underlines the obscenity of Russia and the West of threatening humankind with obliteration over a regional conflict.
8. This war will exact a huge economic price, and not only for the populations of Ukraine and Russia. The leaps in energy and food prices that it has caused are pushing up inflation, which was already at a 30-year high. The determination of central banks to continue with their policy of raising interest rates and cutting quantitative easing is an attempt to force working people to pay for a crisis that is not at all of their making. Meanwhile, Russia and Ukraine are major food producers. Their war will lead to more people starving in the global South.
9. The war has caused a huge displacement of refugees both within Ukraine and beyond its borders. Large numbers of ordinary people in many countries have agreed to take these refugees into their homes. The relatively welcoming attitude of some EU member states contrasts with the construction of Fortress Europe to keep migrants and refugees out. We say: Ukrainians are welcome in our countries, but open the borders to all refugees and migrants! We also oppose the growth of anti-Russian racism, often hypocritically encouraged by politicians happy to welcome the Russian superrich in the very recent past, and of anti-Black racism in Ukraine and neighbouring countries like Poland, where Africans have been denied refuge.
10. The global mass anti-war movement that developed against the invasion of Iraq has dwindled in the past 15 years. It will now need to revive itself based on the clear political recognition that the main threat to world peace comes from the rivalries of the big military powers. Campaigning for unilateral nuclear disarmament has become important again, as it was during the Cold War. NATO must not be expanded, it must be dissolved.
11. The anti-war movement in Russia has a special importance. We salute the courage of the protesters and hope that the experience of this disastrous war will swell their numbers. They deserve worldwide solidarity.
12. This war is a disaster from any environmental perspective. The rival military machines are huge CO2 emitters. The disruption of energy supplies is encouraging more oil production and potentially greater reliance on nuclear power. And even the most limited use of nuclear weapons would have multiple polluting effects. Moreover, the war is a diversion from the urgent task of decarbonising the world economy. On 27 February, the same day Putin announced he was putting Russian nuclear forces on alert, the latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change warned of the devasting effect that climate change is having on human societies, and the much greater damage it is likely to cause in future. Socialists must strive to bring together the anti-war movement and the climate movement.
13. This war serves further notice that the global capitalist system has outlived its usefulness. Increasingly all it promises humankind is war, environmental destruction, disease, and impoverishment. Socialists have the task of building the extra-parliamentary movements and workplace action against this system – whether it is the anti-war movement, the climate movement, the fight against the fascists or wage struggles in the workplaces – and thus strengthening and building up their networks and organisations. We recommit ourselves to helping to achieve the international socialist revolution that can finally rid the planet of the curse of capitalism. Karl Liebknecht’s slogan ‘the main enemy is at home’ must be our watchword.
The Coordination of the International Socialist Tendency15 March 2022