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In a global atmosphere dominated by war hysteria, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s call for peace in Ukraine has been sidelined. On March 7, 2022, he said that “those who provoked this conflict with decades of non-compliance with agreements, with decades of threats against Russia, with decades of preparing plans for the extension of NATO are the first ones who are responsible for de-escalating this conflict.” Maduro asked those responsible to seek “a favorable scenario of negotiation and agreement” to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. He added that Venezuela was “seriously concerned about the possibility of a war in Europe and an extension to other regions of the world,” and criticized the “public media campaign of hate” and “economic measures that aim to aggravate conditions” and extend the conflict, rather than de-escalate the situation.

Destabilization

A diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine is unfeasible for the West as it desires to maintain a stranglehold over Ukraine’s domestic affairs and consolidate a Euro-Atlantic alliance against regionalism and multipolarization. In November 2013, the Maidan protests – engineered by Washington – overthrew Viktor Yanukovych’s government for its reluctance to sign the European Union (EU) accession treaty. The new right-wing government was immediately recognized and given extensive financial, diplomatic and military support by the US, UK and EU. All this was done to open up Ukraine to international finance capital and use it as a Eurasian chess piece in North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) geopolitical war against Russia.

The post-coup regime’s domination by Ukrainian ultranationalist forces and Russophobe groups led to the persecution of minority groups. As a result, Crimea shifted its allegiance to Russia, and the Eastern Donbass region – now organized into two peoples’ republics of Luhansk and Donetsk – entered a protracted military conflict with the Kyiv administration. In the civil war that ensued between the Ukrainian regime and the separatist republics of Donbass, around 14,000 people were killed, and 2.5 million people displaced, most of them taking refuge in Russia. To put an end to this violence, Russia focused on resolving two core issues: (i) protecting the Russian speaking population of the Donbas through adherence to the Minsk Agreements, which were signed in 2014 to implement a ceasefire, and move toward federalism; and (ii) protecting Russia’s borders from NATO aggression.

Vladimir Putin declared that these demands were all “red lines” for Russia’s security, which if crossed would force Moscow to respond. On both issues, Washington and Kyiv proved to be belligerent. Since a federal Ukraine would have ensured Ukraine’s neutrality between Russia and USA, the latter pumped billions of dollars of weapons into the country, providing significant military training, including to the Azov Special Operations Detachment, an outfit made up of neo-Nazis who oppose any kind of negotiated settlement. In February 2022, 130,000 Ukrainian troops began firing on Luhansk and Donetsk, showing open disdain for the Minsk Agreements. Meanwhile, NATO showed an equal bellicosity, arranging military exercises close to the Russian border and in the Black Sea, year after year. It also positioned advanced nuclear “defensive” weaponry throughout Europe, which could become offensive anytime.

War-Profiteers

While the Ukrainian people are suffering due to their comprador elite’s complete subordination to the dictates of EU and NATO, oil corporations have got a new opportunity to make profits. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would have brought massive amounts of Russian gas into the European market without incurring any transit fees. This decision has greatly benefitted companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell, whose ambitions to supply gas to Europe have been obstructed by Russia’s state-owned Gazprom company, which accounts for over 30% of all imports into the EU. CJ Atkins notes:

“The fossil fuel contingent of the ruling class in the West will likely emerge as the biggest winner in the Ukraine war. The invasion has solidified the determination of the European political establishment to speed up the long and difficult process of cutting ties with Russian energy producers, and the U.S. government is playing its time-honored role of chief advocate for the capitalist class on the world stage.”

Apart from Western multinationals, the rentier class of Ukraine will also reap economic dividends from the disruption of Nord Stream 2. In 2021, it lobbied Washington to impose sanctions on the entities linked to the project as it believed that the project would decrease trade volumes and transit fees on pipelines through the country. In opposition to these “war-profiteering gangsters” (as Roger Waters calls them), we need to struggle for a multidimensional resolution of Ukrainian contradictions. This entails not only providing Russia with security guarantees but also repairing the internal fabric of Ukraine.

A New Social Contract

Under Soviet Union, the eastern industrial areas of Ukraine were linked to southern ports and the agrarian west. The dissolution of the USSR meant that this economic-territorial coherence was lost. “While Russian markets kept Ukrainian industry going in the east, the western provinces became increasingly dependent on remittances sent by Ukrainian guest workers in EU countries,” comments Boris Kagarlitsky.

“While the limited industrial production in the west fared poorly after independence, industry in the east continued to function…Kiev, as the country’s administrative and financial center, has been parasitically reliant on eastern wealth…While the oligarchs who control eastern Ukraine live in Kiev’s mansions…the largely Russian-speaking eastern working-class is frustrated and angry. They produce as much as 80% of Ukraine’s GDP but see little of it.” The economic disarticulation of the Ukrainian economy generated cultural divisions along territorial lines. Nationalists attempted to impose Ukrainian as the official language, despite the fact that a third of the population is ethnic Russian, and another third is Russian-speaking Ukrainian.

These xenophobic campaigns were supported by the Ukrainian oligarchs, who have privatized Soviet industry and exported profits to offshore banks rather than re-investing it in their own country. After 2008, their wretched exploitation of the country accelerated as they enacted policies of liberalization and flexibilization in response to pressing economic problems, such as the redundancy of much of Ukraine’s industry (except steel and a few others) and its highly educated workforce trained for Soviet-era models of prodution. Ending the turmoil in Ukraine will involve weakening the power of this decadent elite and crafting a new social contract that can promote equitable socio-economic growth and establish a multi-ethnic compact.

Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at yanisiqbal@gmail.com.


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