Moscow’s military buildup and menacing war exercises in the region threatens Ukrainian sovereignty and independence and pose the potential of a ground war with devastating consequences for working people throughout Europe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the German rulers’ dependency on Russian energy supplies to pressure them to stand aside. As Moscow asserts its interests it also aims to deepen rifts between Berlin and Washington.
The U.S. government and its close allies have pulled most of their military training units and diplomatic personnel out of Ukraine. These actions all confirm the fact that Washington’s belief it had won the Cold War after the Soviet Union came apart in 1991, and could act as it liked to assert its imperialist domination worldwide, was an illusion.
Attempting to defend its interests in the region, U.S. forces will now train alongside Danish troops after Copenhagen ended its decadeslong policy, adopted under pressure from Moscow, of not allowing foreign troops on its soil. The rulers of Norway and the Baltic countries are also asking for U.S. troops.
Thirty thousand Russian troops began a 10-day military exercise alongside Belarusian forces near the Ukrainian border Feb. 10. Russian naval maneuvers are being held in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov around the Crimean Peninsula. With the arrival of more forces and armaments elsewhere, Moscow has up to 140,000 troops encircling Ukraine, and 40 combat ships in the Black Sea.
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, proposed more talks with Washington Feb. 14. The next day Moscow said it would withdraw an unspecified number of units from the Ukrainian border.
Moscow seized Crimea and armed and backed a proxy war in eastern Ukraine in 2014, after the hated President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown by popular working-class mobilizations in Kyiv’s Maidan square and across Ukraine.
Speaking beside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Putin told a Feb. 15 press conference that his demand for a halt to NATO’s eastward expansion is “unconditional.” Moscow insists Ukraine, the largest country in Europe after Russia, be permanently excluded from the U.S.-dominated military alliance.
Russia’s capitalist rulers see weakness among Washington’s Western European imperialist allies. The German rulers, most of all, are increasingly dependent on piped Russian natural gas.
“Lasting security cannot be achieved against Russia but only with Russia,” Scholz said at the press conference. He urged “all protagonists,” including Washington, to agree Ukraine will not become a NATO member.
The German rulers have long run down their armed forces. They are convinced that Germany can compete as an imperialist power by balancing between Washington and Moscow, and by getting rich off their subjugation of weaker nations in the European Union. But no imperialist power can hope to defend, much less expand, its interests without military power.
The Pentagon ordered 3,000 more soldiers to Poland, and warplanes to Poland and Romania, Feb. 11. But the White House’s main response is posing “swift and severe” sanctions, not military action, against Moscow. These would fall hardest on working people in Russia.
Ukraine protests defy Moscow
“The Socialist Workers Party joins with those demanding ‘Russia hands off Ukraine!’ We back the fight by Ukrainian working people to defend their sovereignty against Moscow’s war threats,” Rachele Fruit, Socialist Workers Party 2022 candidate for governor of Florida, told the Militant Feb. 15.
“Washington’s threat of sanctions serves the interests of the same capitalist class attacking workers and farmers here at home,” Fruit said. “The SWP calls for U.S. forces to get out of Eastern Europe.
“Ukrainian workers and farmers showed their power in the mass 2014 Maidan actions,” she said. “With a revolutionary leadership, they can advance their class interests, defend their national sovereignty and win widespread support across Russia and beyond.”
Several thousand people marched in Kyiv Feb. 12 with banners like “Ukrainians will resist!” and “Say no to Putin!” Nazar Novoselsky, a protester, told the press, “We are here to show that we are not afraid.” Tens of thousands of civilians are joining the defense reserves.
Russia’s parliament urged Putin Feb. 14 to recognize the separatist-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics” as independent states. This would give Moscow further pretexts to attack Ukrainian sovereignty. At his press conference with Scholz, Putin claimed the Ukrainian government was carrying out “genocide” in the Donbas region.
Nearly 2 million people have been displaced by the fighting in eastern Ukraine and 14,000 killed. Hundreds of thousands found their way to Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Some still live in cramped temporary accommodation there more than seven years later.
Kharkiv “has become more pro-Ukrainian since the war started, like every city,” Boris Redin, who has kept up a pro-Ukrainian protest tent, told the BBC Feb. 13.