It is the US drive to expand eastwards which lies at the root of the crisis in the former Soviet republic, argues JEREMY CORBYN – and it’s time we talked to Russia
Tomorrow will see a four-way meeting take place as Russia, the United States, the EU and Ukraine discuss ongoing tensions in the latter country.
But while the endless drama of meetings, lurid statements and predictions and mass demonstrations catches the world’s eye, something more significant and fundamental is taking place in international politics.
As the US moves into relative economic decline, China’s expansion and Russia’s huge energy reserves and location are moving the politics of the world to a different place.
Russia and China have reached a momentous agreement to sell gas and do business in either of their own currencies – but not in dollars.
As with Iraq’s 2002 move from dollars to euros, the new means of exchange downgrades the US dollar as the international currency of choice, but now on a far bigger scale.
The broad historical sweep since the end of the Soviet Union showed two decades of unipolar US power. But now the resurgence of Russia and the enormous economic power of China are ending that.
The history of conflicts since 1990 is grim. Hot wars took place in the Gulf, in the former Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, all involving the US and Nato.
The period saw the European Union cement its relationship with Nato, and more recently the US shift its military focus to the Asia-Pacific region as it now sees China as its main rival.
The EU and Nato have now become the tools of US policy in Europe.
The US remains overwhelmingly the military superpower. It seized opportunities in 1990 and in 2001 to increase its military spending and develop a global reach of bases unmatched since the second world war.
The expansion of Nato into Poland and the Czech Republic has particularly increased tensions with Russia.
Agreements Gorbachov reached before the final demise of the Soviet Union and subsequent pledges that Ukraine’s independence would not see it brought into Nato or any other military alliance appear to have been forgotten by Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen in his increasingly bellicose statements.
Indeed, a huge joint exercise is planned for this July between Nato and Ukrainian forces. This can only make an already dangerous situation even worse.
On Tuesday night the Stop the War Coalition hosted an extraordinarily well-informed public meeting on the crisis at the Wesley Hotel in Euston, London.
Jonathan Steele, a former Guardian Moscow correspondent, outlined the situation expertly, noting that coverage has been dominated by two Hs – hypocrisy and hysteria.
While there were democratic forces in the Maidan protests motivated by falling living standards and corruption, there were also far-right nazi groups involved.
The far-right is now sitting in government in Ukraine. The origins of the Ukrainian far-right go back to those who welcomed the nazi invasion in 1941 and acted as allies of the invaders.
Stop the War officer and long-term anti-war activist Carol Turner pointed out that the sanctions against Russia are confused and controversial, largely targeting individuals, while the effect on Germany of any broader-reaching economic sanctions would be huge.
And already Gazprom has increased the price of its exports to Ukraine.
The overall issue is still one of the activities and expansionism of the post-1990 United States.
Turner referred to statements made by the US in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse. In an article in the International Herald Tribune of March 9 1992 Patrick Tyler of the New York Times outlined the new strategy by which US defence secretary Dick Cheney was preparing for expansion – and many future conflicts.
Tyler wrote that “the classified document makes the case for a world dominated by one superpower, whose position can be perpetuated by constructive behaviour and sufficient military might to deter any nation or group of nations from challenging US primacy.”
The author of this strategy, Paul Wolfowitz, specifically divested it of any role for the United Nations, which had been used to provide a mandate for the Gulf war of 1990-91 while the Soviets were preoccupied with their state falling apart.
The plan was never to remove nuclear strike aircraft from Europe or reduce the role of Nato, despite the end of the Warsaw Pact.
“We must seek to prevent the emergence of European-only security arrangements which would undermine Nato,” Wolfowitz warned.
Wolfowitz wanted to make arrangements in eastern Europe similar to those in the Gulf, where Saudi Arabia had been armed as an ally for regional wars. Now it is acting as a US ally in the Syrian conflict.
On Ukraine, I would not condone Russian behaviour or expansion. But it is not unprovoked, and the right of people to seek a federal structure or independence should not be denied.
And there are huge questions around the West’s intentions in Ukraine.
The obsession with cold war politics that exercises the Nato and EU leaderships is fuelling the crisis and underlines the case for a whole new approach to foreign policy.
We have allowed Nato to act outside its own area since the Afghan war started. The Lisbon Treaty binds the EU and Nato together in a mutual alliance of interference and domination reaching ever eastwards.
The long-term effect of the behaviour of US Secretary of State John Kerry, backed by the EU and the British government, is to divide the world. An ever-growing and more confident Russia-China bloc will increasingly rival Nato and the EU, meaning a new cold war beckons.
Would it not be better if when the four powers sit down together they looked at agreeing on a neutral, nuclear-free Ukraine, the possibility of de-escalating the crisis and cut out the hypocrisy of feigned moral outrage from a country that has invaded many others, has military bases scattered worldwide and whose arms industry has made billions from the death and destruction of so much life in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Peace campaigners in Britain need to look at the dangers of the mutual defence agreement with the US and the way it ties us into all their strategies. We also need to look at the role of Nato overall.
The Nato summit due in Newport, Wales, in September is a good opportunity for us to express our opposition to the strange notion that expanding a nuclear alliance east makes us safer.
It does not. It makes the whole world infinitely more dangerous.