At the moment of writing these lines, an Ukrainian soldier falls to the ground, with a bullet piercing his head, while a Russian soldier is losing his life from a fragment of an anti-tank shell. At this time, small children are losing their parents in Ukraine, either they are Ukrainian or Russian orphans. We must end the war on Ukraine and find a way to put an end to perpetual wars.
The catastrophe that was set in motion by the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 cannot be averted on the basis of Russian nationalism, a thoroughly reactionary ideology that serves the interests of the capitalist ruling class represented by Vladimir Putin.Statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International
Analysts argue that Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has overturned the post-war world order. Surely, Putin’s indefensible invasion has been transformative, violating international law and fueling a perilous escalation of violence. We have witnessed the heart-rending suffering of Ukrainians, including the 350,000 already forced to flee; the bravery unfairly required of people lining up to donate blood or organize resistance; the more than 6,000 arrests of anti-war demonstrators in Russia.
If he persists in this mad act of imperial aggression, it will be catastrophic not only for Ukraine but for Russia and all of Europe — and maybe even the entire world. With his forces encircling Kyiv but bogged down after five days of heavy combat, Putin placed Russia’s nuclear forces on alert.
The Imperialist war between Russia and the United States into the Ukrainian territory.
Since 2014, the Russian regime has become more nationalistic and chauvinistic, while nationalism in Ukraine has become more civic, and yet some western writing on Ukraine and Russia since 2014 gives the opposite impression.
A successful overthrow of the current regime in Ukraine would increase the threat to the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, all NATO members, and encourage China to consider a military conquest of Taiwan.
Russia has demanded since the mid-1990s that Eurasia be recognized as Russia’s exclusive sphere of influence where countries cannot integrate with, or join, NATO and the EU. Russia has also been opposed to Eurasian countries using UN peacekeepers in frozen conflicts artificially manufactured by the Kremlin to thwart pro-Western countries integrating into NATO and the EU. Ranked by the human rights monitoring think tank Freedom House as a “consolidated authoritarian regime”, Russia aggressively opposes the spread of democracy in Eurasia. The existence of a successful democracy in Ukraine is viewed by the Kremlin as a threat to the autocracy built by President Vladimir Putin.
The US Biden administration, by refusing to discuss Russia’s objections to Ukraine’s integration into NATO, used Ukraine as bait. It incited the invasion, which will now be used as a pretext for escalating confrontation with Russia.
The claim, repeated by Biden, that “our forces are not and will not be engaged in a conflict with Russia in Ukraine,” has no credibility. The US and NATO powers have funneled billions of dollars in military equipment into Ukraine and have armed its fascistic paramilitary forces with the aim of prolonging the conflicts and exacting significant Russian losses. “History has shown time and again,” Biden said, “how swift gains in territory eventually give way to grinding occupations, acts of mass civil disobedience and strategic dead-ends.”
Biden again declared that in a confrontation involving Russia with any NATO country, the US will use the “full force of American power.” This can only mean that not only is nuclear war possible, but the danger is far advanced and greater than at any previous time in history. Biden stated today that relations between the US and Russia have completely broken down, declaring that, amidst the danger of a catastrophic European and global war, he has no plans to call Putin.
Putin Wants to Reinstate the Soviet Bloc Influence in East Europe
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and fall of Communism as a major global ideology, observers across the world were optimistic that “political ideologies” would never again determine great power competition. However, the spread of ethnic conflict in Ukraine between Russian-speaking minorities and the Kiev government since 2014 has demonstrated that the Communist political ideology, which was promoted by the Soviet Union for over seventy years, was being replaced by a new narrative, “identity politics”, which emphasized ethnolinguistic identities as fundamental pillars of society rather than socioeconomic categorizations.
Back in February of 2015, representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the leaders of separatist-held regions Donetsk and Luhansk signed a 13-point agreement called Minsk II.
The Minsk II deal set out military and political steps that remain unimplemented. A major blockage has been Russia’s insistence that it is not a party to the conflict and therefore is not bound by its terms Al-Jazeera reports.
Considering Ukraine’s own problems with corruption and the rule of law and given the active war in its east, it is impossible that the country joins either the EU or NATO in the near future. Russia, for one, demands that the latter remains completely off the table by a mutual agreement between Moscow and Washington. But part of the problem is that although Ukraine is not in NATO, Ukraine’s security is treated by EU and NATO member states (like Poland and Lithuania) as a matter of their own security.
What is the ‘Minsk conundrum’?
Ukraine sees the 2015 agreement as an instrument to re-establish control over the rebel territories. It wants a ceasefire, control of the Russia-Ukraine border, elections in the Donbas, and a limited devolution of power to the separatists – in that order.
Russia views the deal as obliging Ukraine to grant rebel authorities in Donbas comprehensive autonomy and representation in the central government, effectively giving Moscow the power to veto Kyiv’s foreign policy choices. Only then would Russia return the Russia-Ukraine border to Kyiv’s control.
After Minsk II and the implication of Russia in the Syrian conflict, Russian identity warfare has helped Moscow to advance her regional policies and to deter strategic threats. Following the 2014 Ukraine revolution, Russia was concerned about the expansion of NATO to Ukraine, though the pro-Russian separatist movements in Luhansk and Donetsk successfully established a buffer zone between Russia’s mainland and pro-west Kiev.
However, it is hard to believe that Russia and its proxies withdrew from their territorial ambitions solely to assist the Minsk II process. In reality, there were other issues that might have convinced the Kremlin to put a hold on its territorial ambitions. Moscow’s incursions against Georgia and Ukraine have also altered the attitudes of other traditional allies of Russia in Central Asia and East Europe. Following the occupation of Crimea by Russia, both Belarus and Kazakhstan were increasingly worried that they might be the next targets of Russian expansionism. Many in Kazakhstan started to fear that Russia might attempt to bring regions populated by ethnic Russian speakers in northern Kazakhstan back within its borders. Also, in Minsk, a growing fear began among elites over Russian intentions towards Belarus. Hence, despite the many achievements of Russia’s identity warfare, it also presented Moscow with new challenges.
One the other hand, Russian identity warfare has not been cost-free, Russia’s policy has led to the growth of xenophobic nationalism in Russia to the extent that many of the country’s minorities have started to consider themselves as persona-non-grata in Russia. In a way, the current emphasis on the Orthodox religion and Slavic ethnicity as the core elements of Russian national identity has raised concerns among non-Slavic minorities that Russia is moving toward a cultural nationalism that discriminates against these minorities. Hence, it seems that while identity warfare can be an efficient sword in Russia’s weaponry, it is also double-edged one that can be hurtful to Russia.
The Question of the Ukrainian Identity according to Ukrainians
Most people think of Ukraine as an Eastern European country. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba isn’t one of them. “I am deeply convinced that Ukraine is and has always been a Central European state: historically, politically, and culturally,” he said in a speech last year. “Central Europe is where our identity belongs.”
This was not a statement of geographical fact but one of historical and cultural perspective. Ukraine’s future, like its past, lies not with Russia but with the Central European countries firmly ensconced in NATO and the European Union: Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, and especially Poland.
Over the past 20 years, Poland has influenced Ukraine’s cultural and political development more than any other country besides Russia. It has been its staunchest supporter within the EU and NATO; welcomed millions of Ukrainians to live, study, and work there; and provided an alternative model of what Ukraine could become as a truly Central European country: European, patriotic, openly anti-Russian, and economically successful—all under the safety of the U.S. security umbrella.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014‚ Kyiv has steadily built itself up as a nation state on the Polish model. It is a process that Russia itself set in motion, and one that—as Russian troops again amass on Ukraine’s border, with talk of war imminent—is all but impossible to reverse.
In 2020, leaders of Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine met in Lublin, Poland, to make a joint declaration announcing a new alliance called the “Lublin Triangle,” dedicated to strengthening cultural, economic, political, and military ties as well as supporting Ukraine’s eventual EU and NATO integration. Pro-Kremlin propaganda labeled the formation part of an “Anglo-Saxon proxy war” with Russia. This year, Poland and Ukraine entered yet another trilateral alliance aimed at protecting Ukraine’s sovereignty, this time with the United Kingdom.
Fracking Shale Gas Reserves in Ukraine and the role of Presidents Biden and Putin since 2014
The vast shale gas reserves in the separatist-held Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions are an important element not to be overlooked when analysing the Ukraine crisis!
Concerns that Russia is using its gas supplies as a weapon to achieve its political aims are well founded. Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, noted that Russia’s decision to drop gas supplies to Europe by a quarter came as it was heightening tension towards Ukraine. “I hope this was only a coincidence,” he told the Guardian.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Ukraine has third-largest shale gas reserves in Europe at 128 trillion cubic feet (3.6 trillion cubic metres). As of 2011, approximately 22 domestic and foreign-owned companies have been engaged in hydraulic fracturing in Ukraine. Excluding Russia’s gas reserves in Asia, Ukraine today holds the second biggest known gas reserves in Europe. As of late 2019, known Ukrainian reserves amounted to 1.09 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, second only to Norway’s known resources of 1.53 trillion cubic meters. Yet, these enormous reserves of energy remain largely untapped. Today, Ukraine has a low annual reserve usage rate of about 2 percent. Moreover, more active exploration may yield previously undiscovered gas fields, which would further increase the overall volume of Ukraine’s deposits.
In addition, if we put the map of the conflict on the one of Ukraine’s shale gas fields, the Donetsk region is an obvious overlap. Besides sitting on an allegedly huge deposit of shale gas known as Yuzivska, perhaps not surprisingly, it is also the hotbed of the fiercest fighting between the government’s armed forces and pro-Russian separatists.
Yuzivska is believed to contain up to four trillion cubic meters of shale gas, according to the Ukrainian government. To tap this, energy giant Shell signed a production sharing agreement in January 2013, opening way for a potential $10 billion investment in the field. In an optimistic scenario before the armed conflict, Yuzivska alone was supposed to produce up to 20 billion cubic meters of gas annually (bcm/y) by 2030, which equals Ukraine’s 2011 overall gas output.
It is not hard to see why this would be a quite a scary scenario for Moscow. An energy independent Ukraine, let alone if it decides to export its gas to Europe, would mean enormous losses for Gazprom.
Foreign Policy reported in June 2014 that the Russian president and his inner circle have been covertly backing European movements that demonise fracking, in order to maintain the Russian stranglehold on European gas imports. FP notes that strong environmental opposition to fracking is present in countries like Bulgaria and Ukraine, which are heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies.
According to Russia’s TASS, the residents of Slavyansk, which is the centre of the Yuzivska deposit, organised several protests against development of the deposit. They even planned to have a referendum on the issue.
Another TASS report even allegedly cited Pavel Gubarev, the self-proclaimed leader of pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, admitting in an interview with Russian television Rossiya 24 on 19 May 2015 that one of the key reasons for the fighting is Kyiv’s push to “continue development of shale gas on the territory of Ukraine”.
In 2015, Vice President Joe Biden announced that the United States would bring in technical experts to speed up Ukraine’s shale gas development.
In fact, the Biden family was so interested in Ukraine, that his son Hunter was appointed to the board of directors of Ukraine’s largest private gas producer, Burisma Holdings. This has put Ukraine’s shale gas question into a new perspective – at least from the American viewpoint.
Burisma holds licenses covering the Dnieper-Donets basin in the eastern Ukraine and Biden Jr. is not the only American with political ties to have recently joined the company’s board. Devon Archer, a former senior advisor to current Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and a college roommate of Kerry’s stepson, signed up with Burisma in April 2014.
Contemporary Russian Nationalist (Imperialist) Imagining of Ukraine and Ukrainians
The following was also repeated during President’s Putin speech before starting the war in Ukraine
First, Ukraine is an artificial country and a failed, bankrupt state. Putin (2008) raised this in his 2008 speech to the NATO-Russia Council at the Bucharest NATO summit. Ukraine as a failed state is one of the most common themes in Russian information warfare and appears in many different guises (Zolotukhin 2018, 302–358). Political collapse in 2014 required Russian intervention, Ukrainian authorities are incapable of dealing with their problems, Ukraine is not a real state and will not survive without trade with Russia, western neighbours put forward territorial claims on western Ukraine, while the east is naturally aligned with Russia, and Ukraine was artificially created with ‘Russian’ lands. Ukraine is a land of perennial instability and revolution where extremists run amok, Russian speakers are persecuted, and pro-Russian politicians and media are repressed or closed down.
Russia’s long-term inability to come to terms with an independent Ukraine and Ukrainians as a separate people became patently obvious when Putin’s regime rehabilitated Tsarist Russian and White émigré views of Ukraine and Ukrainians (see Wolkonsky 1920; Bregy and Obolensky 1940). Igor Torbakov (2020) traces the continued influence of Tsarist ‘liberal’ and White movement supporter Struve’s view of what constitutes an ‘All-Russian People’ to contemporary Russian leaders.
In the USSR, there was a Ukrainian lobby in Moscow, while under Putin there is no such thing (Zygar 2016, 87). In the USSR, Soviet nationality policy defined Ukrainians and Russians as close, but nevertheless separate peoples; this no longer remains the case in Putin’s Russia. In the USSR, Ukraine and the Ukrainian language ‘always had robust defenders at the very top. Under Putin, however, the idea of Ukrainian national statehood was discouraged’ (Zygar 2016, 87) and the Ukrainian language is disparaged as a Russian dialect that was artificially made into a language in the USSR. (source)
Borders of Identity: Ukraine’s Political and Cultural Significance for Russia : https://www.jstor.org/stable/40869778