A statement from the rs21 Steering Group on the inter-imperialist war currently being waged in Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldiers training in Donbas with javelin missile systems, arms supplied to Ukraine by NATO.

Russia has invaded Ukraine. The imperialist rivalry between the key NATO powers and the Russian state has spilled over into war and a deepening crisis.

We condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We join the international call for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops to end the hostilities. 

We send our full solidarity to the working class of Ukraine, caught in a conflict driven by the ruling classes of competing imperialist states. The Ukrainian people, including ethnic Russians and other ethnicities can live together in peace. Together they could confront the rival imperialisms which stoke the fires of nationalism.

Russian imperialism is not a ‘lesser evil’ in this conflict. Over the past decade Russia has had a series of expansionist successes. The Russian state has reasserted its post-Cold War geopolitical role through its military intervention in Syria. Russia was able to annex Crimea and set up proxy states (the ‘People’s’ Republics of  Donetsk and Lugansk) in Eastern Ukraine. Even more recently the Russian armed forces have played a reactionary key role in suppressing the just rebellion of the working class and wider population of Kazakhstan against an authoritarian regime responsible for the deterioration of living standards, the arrest of trade unionists and banning of trade unions. A similar suppressive role was played by Russia in supporting the corrupt Lukashenko regime in Belarus.

The imperialist expansion of NATO is also part of this conflict, and we condemn NATO entirely. It has always been an offensive bloc, not simply a defensive one, and exists to further US imperialist policy. Accusations that it has been seeking to encircle Russia by expanding NATO Eastwards since the end of the Cold War are well-founded, even if Putin is now exploiting these concerns as cover for his aim to dominate the region. For over 70 years NATO has been responsible for violence and brutality visited upon the peoples of other countries, including Serbia and Afghanistan. NATO has bombed and dismembered countries, causing war, hunger and death throughout the world. It should be disbanded.

We join those calling for full de-escalation of this conflict. For that reason, we oppose the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia. The use of sanctions here is a ruling class weapon which heightens the conflict, and  which will bring suffering to the working class who have nothing to do with the conflicts of their governments. Sanctions will not end this conflict, only prolong it. This war can be stopped not by NATO machinations, but by mass resistance on the part of ordinary Russians, who are already coming out to protest at great risk to themselves.

Socialists across Europe should fight for the opening of borders to those displaced by this conflict. Regardless of what else happens, war brings violence and death to civilians, with gendered and racialised violence usually being the sharpest edge. It is a feminist and anti-racist obligation to fight to eradicate borders in general, but at this moment a focus must be to welcome refugees from Ukraine. Socialists must also stand in solidarity with the growing anti-war movement in Russia and with the ordinary Ukrainian people fighting occupation. 

This war is another tragic and deadly outcome of the current cycle of crises, including climate change and the pandemic, caused by capitalism. We must hope and struggle for peace in the short term but the only lasting peace that can ever be found must be won through the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist ruling class across the whole world. 

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