A letter to the western left in Kiev

Unfortunately, we have seen the same ideological cliché repeated over Ukraine. Even after Russia recognized the independence of the “people’s republics” earlier this week, Branko Marcetic, a writer for the left-wing American magazine Jacobin, wrote a article almost entirely devoted to criticizing the United States. Regarding Putin’s actions, he went so far as to remark that the Russian leader had “a signal[led] less than benign ambitions”. Seriously?

I am not a fan of NATO. I know that after the end of the Cold War, the bloc lost its defensive function and pursued aggressive policies. I know that NATO’s eastward expansion has undermined efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament and the formation of a common security system. NATO has tried to marginalize the role of the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and to discredit them as “ineffective organizations”. But we cannot bring back the past and we must orient ourselves to the present circumstances when looking for a way out of this situation.

How many times has the Western left brought up informal US promises to former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev about NATO (“not an inch to the east”), and how many times did he mention the 1994 Budapest Memorandum which guarantees Ukraine’s sovereignty? How many times has the Western left supported the “legitimate security concerns” of Russia, a state that has the second largest nuclear arsenal in the world? And how many times has he recalled the security concerns of Ukraine, a State which had to exchange its nuclear weapons, under pressure from the United States and Russia, for a piece of paper (the Budapest memorandum ) that Putin conclusively trampled on in 2014? Has it ever occurred to left-wing critics of NATO that Ukraine is the main victim of the changes wrought by NATO enlargement?

Time and again, the Western left has responded to criticism of Russia by mentioning US aggression against Afghanistan, Iraq and other states. Of course, these states must be included in the discussion – but how, exactly?

The argument of the left should be that in 2003 other governments did not put enough pressure on the United States regarding Iraq. Not that there is a need to exert less pressure on Russia over Ukraine now.

An obvious mistake

Imagine for a moment that in 2003, as the United States prepared for the invasion of Iraq, Russia behaved as the United States has done in recent weeks: with escalating threats.

Now imagine what the Russian left could have done in this situation, according to the dogma of “our main enemy is at home”. Would he have reproached the Russian government for this “escalation”, affirming that it “should not jeopardize the inter-imperialist contradictions”? It is obvious to everyone that such behavior would have been a mistake in this case. Why was this not obvious in the case of the aggression against Ukraine?

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