On June 9, Heino Berg, Thies Gleiss, Jakob Schäfer, Matthias Schindler, Winfried Wolf published a detailed statement in Junge Welt in which they advocated an "anti-militarist defeatism" and the abandonment of Ukraine's military resistance to the Russian war of occupation.[i] We take her article as an opportunity for a fundamental response about a necessary anti-imperialist ecosocialist perspective committed to global solidarity. We are appalled at the way they bend the reality of war in this article and ultimately argue in favor of Putin's oligarch regime. Paternalistically, they recommend that the Ukrainian population submit to Russian occupation in order to end the war. The authors make not the slightest reference to socialist, feminist, and anarchist forces in Ukraine and Russia. They argue from a distinctly German perspective. They are not alone in this. Many statements of the old peace movement turn against the "escalation of the West" and "forget" that Russia has already escalated long ago and wants to systematically destroy Ukrainian society. The statement of the five authors ignores anti-imperialist solidarity to such an extent that we consider it appropriate to set our arguments against it.

Reversal of Responsibility

The statement of the authors reads like many contributions from the old peace movement and a one-sided sham anti-imperialist left. Of course, at the beginning of the text they condemn the invasion of Ukraine "without any reservation or relativization.” But afterwards they do exactly that: they relativize the aggression of the Putin oligarchy. Under the title "No Interest in Ceasefire," they explain in detail why NATO is much worse than Russia and that the West, first and foremost the U.S., does not want an early ceasefire but is primarily using the Ukrainian battlefield to weaken Russia.

The five authors turn the responsibility for the war around. They say that it is not Putin, who has openly and repeatedly rejected any cease-fire beyond a Ukrainian surrender, who is responsible for the ongoing war, but the "regime" in Kyiv, which had offered negotiations on neutrality just a week before the Russian attack began. They write that the "Kyiv regime chose the military response to the invasion from the outset, and it shows no sign of making any effort to reach a cease-fire even in early June." It is not the Putin regime, which has repeatedly stated that it will continue the war of destruction and attrition until Ukraine surrenders, but Ukraine, which is desperately asking for weapons in self-defense, that is responsible for allowing the destruction of its own country to continue, they say. The authors castigate the alleged arming of Ukraine by the West, but they do not mention with a single word that Russia began its campaign of conquest only after a long period of political, economic, logistical and military preparation.

Behind this reversal of responsibility lies a fundamental misjudgment of the Putin regime, whose character the five authors do not even rudimentarily attempt to define. On the contrary, they equate the proto-fascist Putin dictatorship with the corrupt bourgeois parliamentary democracy in Ukraine. For the authors, they are quite simply "two bourgeois states, both determined by an oligarchic system."

Bizarrely, the authors rely on former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as a key witness. Because Kissinger explicitly demanded concessions from Ukraine and the cession of parts of the country to Russia, they attribute to him a more responsible position than the current U.S. leadership. Yet Kissinger is certainly in continuity with his own positions. Just as he had the resistance of the Vietnamese population buried under area bombardments as security advisor to the president from 1969 on, he orchestrated the coup against President Allende in Chile in 1973 and the establishment of Pinochet's dictatorship. And equally, now in his old age, he is overriding the sovereignty of the Ukrainian people and recommending that they "realistically" give up. In this respect, it is by no means a coincidence that Vladimir Putin, of all people, while still 2nd mayor of Petersburg in 1993, chose Pinochet's dictatorship as a model and thus revealed, just like Kissinger, what he thinks of democratic achievements.[ii] Kissinger and Putin are brothers in spirit. When socialists invoke Kissinger, of all people, as a representative of a reasonable position, it indicates quite a shift in the political coordinate system and a questionable level of argumentation.

The Putin Regime Denies the Existence of a Ukrainian Nation

The Kremlin wants to prevent any independent development of Ukraine. The Putin leadership considers Ukraine, together with Belarus, to be part of Russia.[iii] Ukraine's independence contradicts Russia's alleged historical claims. The Russian leadership has not reacted to one or another of NATO's moves; rather, it is pursuing fundamental goals with its war, which it justifies with its Great Russian ideology. Putin and exponents of his regime have repeatedly placed themselves in the historical continuity of the tsarist empire, thereby excluding the existence of an independent Ukrainian national culture and identity. In June, Putin placed the war of conquest against Ukraine on a par with the Great Northern War under Russia's Tsar Peter I, speaking simply of a reclaiming of Russian soil.[iv]

Thus, the goals of the Russian leadership are fundamental and far-reaching and go far beyond repelling NATO: destroying Ukraine as an independent country and incorporating it as "Little Russia." The war practice coincides with the war goal. Towns and villages are systematically destroyed, the population terrorized and expelled. In the occupied territories, the Russian state establishes a regime of terror, incorporates the schools into the Russian school system, allows only Russian media and imposes the ruble as a means of payment. By June 20, Russia had brought over 1.9 million Ukrainians to Russia, including 300,000 children. Thousands of Ukrainians are holding out in camps in eastern Siberia, far from Ukraine.[v]

Ukraine's resistance to the Russian invading forces, surprising both to the U.S. and European governments and to the Putin regime, prevented a rapid occupation of the country and the installation of a puppet pro-Russian government. It was this popular resistance in Ukraine that presented all actors with a new situation. The Ukrainian oligarchs had to get behind the resistance and against Russia. The governments of Europe and the United States had to correct their assessment that Ukraine would quickly collapse. Putin was forced to adapt his war strategy to the new situation.

At the same time, the Putin regime links the war with a "struggle for values" against the decadent West. It wants to push back democratic rights, achievements of the workers', women's and homosexual movements, not only in Russia but also in the areas under its influence. Russia funds and promotes far-right parties throughout Europe and the world. The Putin regime is the admired spearhead of a reactionary to fascist movement with Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Marine Le Pen in France, and the AfD in Germany.

Ukrainian Resistance Puts Arms Deliveries on the Agenda

It was the determined and self-sacrificing resistance of the Ukrainian people against the occupying forces that confronted the NATO countries with the question of comprehensive arms deliveries. Immediately after the war began, the U.S. and U.K. governments advised Ukrainian President Zelensky to leave the country and offered him protection. Like the leadership in the Kremlin, they expected Ukraine to be defeated quickly. They were all mistaken in the Ukrainian people's will to resist. They assumed that after a wave of outrage and economic sanctions, European and U.S. corporations would return to normal business with Russia.

The tenacious resistance of Ukraine and the military difficulties of the Russian occupation forces opened the opportunity for the governments of NATO countries to weaken Russia's military and geopolitical position through massive arms deliveries to Ukraine. Thus, the fighting people in Ukraine are not the executors of an imperialist plan, but they are fighting for their legitimate goals and rights in Ukrainian society, fighting for their existence as Ukrainians.

Until the outbreak of war, there can be no talk of NATO arming Ukraine. Ukraine received $4 billion in military aid from the United States from 2014 to 2022. Since at least 2015, the U.S. Army also trained Ukrainian troops, albeit on a relatively small scale.[vi] But much of the military assistance flowed after the war began.[vii] From 2014 to 2021, direct military assistance amounted to $2.4 billion. German arms exports to Ukraine have been relatively small to date; German arms exports to Russia have been disproportionately larger since 2014 – despite the embargo – and even into the period immediately before the war began.[viii]

Without the deliveries of militarily usable components by the German (as well as Swiss, Italian Japanese, and U.S.) machine tool industry, the Russian defense industry would not have been able to incorporate complex control systems into its weapons. The Soviet Union's technological path was exhausted and Russia has had to import key machine tools ever since. The oil boom of the 2000s provided the money. Without these imported machine tools, Russia could not operate a defense industry.[ix]

In mid-April, President Biden announced another $750 million military aid program for Ukraine.[x] Finally, on May 19, the Senate passed a $40 billion program of military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, making this the largest foreign aid package in at least two decades. Much of this sum, however, will be spent on infrastructure and replacement investments in the U.S. itself.[xi] Thus, U.S. and NATO involvement has taken on a comprehensive dimension. The U.S. government openly states that it wants to substantially weaken Russian military capabilities. Obviously, the same goal is pursued by the Ukrainian government.

The Interests of the USA and Western Europe

The governments of Europe and the United States share responsibility for the escalation of geopolitical tensions, but not because of the alleged NATO encirclement of Russia that Russian propaganda painted on the wall and that many on the left in Europe adopted quite cheaply. It is forgotten that the expansion of NATO with the accession of Russia's neighboring countries was essentially completed by 2004, and above all that numerous countries in Eastern Europe sought NATO membership not out of a desire for military rearmament, but out of fear of a strengthening Russian revanchism.[xii]

The real co-responsibility of the NATO countries for the aggravation of the contradictions lies in their economic interest in the former Soviet republics. Capital in the imperialist countries of Europe and North America was not only looking for new NATO members, but primarily wanted to open up further markets and obtain cheap raw materials. For this, it needed governments that could organize the process of social transformation in an orderly manner and, if necessary, by force.