Ang Bayan interview with CPP Information Officer Marco L. Valbuena on the CPP’s stand on the armed conflict in Ukraine
Some activists, friends and readers have raised the critical concern that the CPP did not clearly or roundly condemn Russia’s “invasion of Ukraine” in the two statements released before the “special military operation” of February 24 and the background article published on that day. There is the view that Russia, as an imperialist country, is as culpable as the US and its NATO allies for the escalation of the armed conflict in Ukraine. Or that Russia’s attacks against Ukraine serve only the interests of Russia’s oligarchs and should therefore be opposed by the working class in Russia and Ukraine and peoples across the world.
1. First of all, does the CPP consider Russia as imperialist?
Yes, Russia is an imperialist power, albeit much smaller than the US, Japan, China, Germany, France and other imperialist countries. As an imperialist country, Russia imposes its military, political and economic dominance on smaller countries particularly around its borders in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, most of which belonged to the Soviet Union (USSR) until it was dissolved in 1991.
Since the leadership of the Soviet Union was taken over by modern revisionists in 1953 who subsequently carried out capitalist restoration, capital and resources became more and more concentrated in the hands of state monopoly capitalists in Russia, the biggest state in the Soviet Union, at the expense of the smaller member states and areas of the Russian countryside, many of which were reduced to sources of cheap labor or raw materials (grain and minerals). They became dependent on Russian investments and imported commodities from Russia.
Russia perpetuates its hegemonic power through military power, and by the fact that it maintains one of the world’s biggest nuclear arsenals, which it inherited from the Soviet Union. In terms of military strength, Russia is second or third in the world, ranked behind the US, and around equivalent to the overall strength of China. It has almost the same amount of nuclear weapons as the US and is ahead in many fields of military technological research including the development of hypersonic weapons.
Military overspending combined with large-scale bureaucratic corruption and plunder by oligarchs and criminal groups, however, has depleted Russia’s economic resources. Despite being the largest country in the world in terms of land and has vast economic resources, it is not as big as the US or China in economic terms (it is ranked only 11th in the world in terms of GDP as estimated by the IMF in 2021, only 7% of the size of the US economy, and 9.7% of China) and depends largely on exporting oil and natural gas. The workers and people of Russia suffer from economic stagnation, widespread misery, worsening forms of exploitation and oppression, chronic unemployment, low wages and deteriorating socioeconomic conditions.
2. Does the CPP consider the armed conflict in Ukraine a result of inter-imperialist armed conflict?
The current armed conflict in Ukraine is within the context of rising inter-imperialist contradictions and armed conflict. It is a manifestation of the push of the US and its allied imperialist powers to redivide the world and take away from Russia its spheres of influence, investment and trade; and the counter-push of Russia to preserve the current order and recover its lost spheres.
Russia’s sphere of influence has been systematically and violently eroded by the US-led NATO alliance since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, starting with the US-NATO-initiated war and destruction of Yugoslavia, and expansion of NATO in former Warsaw Pact countries in central Europe (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Lithuania, Poland) and eastern Europe, right up to the borders of Russia. This is in flagrant violation of the Minsk Agreement of 1991 which dissolved the USSR and which involved assurances of the US, NATO and OSCE that the Warsaw Pact members would not be converted to NATO members. Even those who celebrated the 1991 Minsk Agreement as a landmark achievement for ending the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war are appalled at how it has been systematically violated by the US and NATO.
Since 1991, the US and NATO have established military facilities and missile and anti-missile bases in Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania, in addition to those in Alaska bordering Russia. In 2019, the US trashed the intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) agreement with Russia further paving the way for expansion of the US and NATO’s missile system.
3. What are the specific circumstances that gave rise to the current armed conflict in Ukraine?
While it is important to understand the armed conflict in Ukraine as within the context of rising inter-imperialist conflict, we must proceed to grasp its particular characteristics, the main aspects of the conflict and the principal aspect of the armed conflict.
We must understand that Ukraine is the last frontier in the US imperialist drive to surround Russia with its intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The US has spent at least $4 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since 1991, with over $2.5 billion since the 2014 coup. The country has also received more than $1 billion in military aid from the NATO Trust Fund. In addition, the United Kingdom has forged agreements with Kyiv, in which the UK would spend 1.5 billion pounds for upgrading Ukraine’s naval capabilities and arming its warships with British missiles, and building naval military bases on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov bordering Ukraine, Crimea and Russia.
Having eroded Russia’s sphere of influence in central and eastern Europe since 1991, US imperialism and its NATO allies proceeded to push its drive to establish their military dominance in Ukraine and complete its network of missile bases surrounding Russia. In 2014, the US instigated a coup in Ukraine and installed a neo-Nazi regime. It did so by funding and arming far-right groups under the so-called Azov Battalion that was formed in 2014 from such groups as the Patriot of Ukraine and Social National Assembly. These groups trace their roots to the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) of Stepan Bandera, and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, that were both allied with Nazi Germany.
Widespread protests by people in south and eastern Ukraine, as well as in Crimea, against the US-sponsored coup was violently suppressed by the neo-Nazi Ukrainian regime combined with the forces of the Azov Battalion. It proceeded to mount attacks against the predominantly Russian population in Crimea and the Donbass region marked by gross violations of human rights, war crimes, mass looting, unlawful detention and torture. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights estimates around 14,000 people were killed in massacres and artillery shelling.
The Russophobic attacks against the Donbass region instigated the people to mount an armed resistance and seek the support of Russia. By April 2014, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic were declared to have been established, further strengthened by a referendum on May 11, 2014. In 2014 and 2015 negotiations between Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France in Minsk, the Donbass region was recognized as an autonomous area under Ukraine, all foreign troops were withdrawn, and a “line of contact” was established on which either side will not enter or cross.
4. What is the status of the 2014 and 2015 ceasefire agreements around the Donbass region?
The attacks against the people of the Donbass region did not cease after the Minsk 2014 and 2015 agreements with repeated violations by Ukraine which has fortified its forces along the so-line of contact area. This year alone, monitoring organizations have recorded 8,000 violations of the agreement, largely from the Ukrainian side.
US weapons, military advisers and private contractors have been deployed around the Donbass area to arm, train and instigate Ukrainian military forces in mounting attacks against the people of Donetsk and Lugansk. The immediate objective of the US is to provoke Russia in order to justify its heightened military intervention and military financing in Ukraine, push for Ukraine’s inclusion into the NATO, and compel Germany and other allies in Europe to cancel trade agreements with Russia, specifically against the operations of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.
Russia and the predominantly Russian people of Donbass have been making repeated calls for negotiations to revisit the 2014 and 2015 Minsk agreements in order to ensure their implementation by making its provisions more explicit. Russia’s show of force since December in its western border area was a direct call for negotiations to revisit the Minsk agreements and forge new agreements to ensure security of the Donbass regions, and to push for clear prohibitions against Ukraine’s inclusion into the NATO.
Provoked by the US, Ukraine ignored calls for negotiations. Instead, it intensified attacks against Donetsk and Lugansk on February 21 firing 1,500 artillery rounds within 24 hours hitting civilian infrastructure, including power plants, water systems and school buildings.
These brazen acts prompted the DPR and LPR to declare secession from Ukraine as the only recourse to put an end to their oppression. These also heightened calls for Russia to recognize the DPR and LPR and independent nation states both from within the Donbass region, from Belarus and inside Russia. Russia formally recognized the DPR and LPR on February 22 and immediately deployed “peacekeeping” troops to fortify defenses of the Donbass region against Ukrainian attacks, then subsequently mounted a “special military operation.”
The declared objective of the “special military operations” mounted by Russia in Ukraine concerns primarily the struggle of the people of the Donbass region which has now taken the form of their defense of their right to national self-determination.
5. The CPP has condemned the US for provoking war in Ukraine? Are not both the US and Russian imperialists, in fact, equally to blame for the current armed conflict in Ukraine?
Indeed, the CPP has previously issued statements denouncing US war provocations and warmongering in Ukraine, specifically its frenzied attacks against the Donbass region to provoke Russia. It has also denounced the NATO expansion to the borders of Russia, as well as US-NATO intrusions and trouble making in Chechnya and Georgia, the so-called color revolutions. The aggressive acts of the US and NATO against Russia have been long-running and continuing.
The CPP considers the current armed conflict principally as a direct result of the heightened attacks of the Ukrainian armed forces, under the instigation by the US and planned with US military advisers, against the people in the Donbass region.
Russia’s military actions in Ukraine are not unprovoked. The CPP considers Russia’s action, tactically, as a counter-reaction to the incessant US-supported military provocations and attacks against Donbass. The escalation of the armed conflict could have been avoided had Ukraine heeded calls for it to stop the attacks against Donbass and engage in new negotiations. The CPP, however, is aware that Russia’s support for the Donbass region is motivated by its strategic imperialist interests of securing and expanding its hegemonic interests.
If we are to blame and condemn the US and Russia with equal weight for the escalation of the armed conflict in the region, we would have undermined the justness of the struggle for national self-determination of the people of Donetsk and Lugansk, the valiant armed resistance of the people of Donbass and their effort to take advantage of the inter-imperialist conflict by winning the support of Russia. It will also make the people of Donbass culpable for asking Russia to help repel Ukrainian aggression.
As a matter of fact, it is reasonable to criticize Russia and Putin for being so late in extending sufficient support to the peoples of Donetsk and Lugansk. For eight years, it allowed the Russophobic fascists to slaughter 14,000 Ukraine-born Russians, the destruction of their factories, homes, schools, hospitals and public utilities and the forced migration of millions of Russians, thus reducing the Russian population share in Ukraine from 22% in 2014 to 17% in 2022.
The people of Donetsk and Lugansk must stand firmly for their right to national self-determination and adopt a foreign policy that is consistent with their national interests. While winning the support of Russia, the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk must also stand firmly against Russian hegemonism and demand equal treatment as independent nation states. But only the US-NATO imperialists and Trotskyites would demand right now for the people of Donetsk and Lugansk to fight Russia’s “invasion” which is helping them to fight the Kyiv fascist puppets of the US and NATO.
6. Does this mean the CPP considers Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine justified because of its declared aims of ending the attacks against the people of the Donbass region?
From the point of view of the national revolutionary war of the people of Donetsk and Lugansk, Russian military support is justified and necessary. Prior to Russia’s direct support, they were practically being butchered by Ukraine’s US-supported military forces which have shown outright disregard for all previous international agreements.
The CPP, however, is also keenly aware that Russia is an imperialist power that is driven by its hegemonic aims and drive to defend and expand its spheres of influence and control. While Russia declares its “special military operation” as congruent with the objective of the Donbass people to put an end to Ukraine’s attacks, it is motivated primarily by its imperialist objective of defending its sphere of influence and strategic aim of reinstalling a client-state in Ukraine.
If Russia will stick to its declarations of hitting only military targets and not occupying territory, its actions can be considered defensive and retaliatory which are generally acceptable under international rules of war. It will be Russia’s own lookout if it has not learned any lesson from both the Soviet social-imperialist aggression and occupation in Afghanistan in the 1980s and from the US wars of aggression and occupation since the end of World War II which have been frustrated by people’s resistance but which have caused the death 25 to 30 million as well self-defeating costs for the US that have accelerated its strategic decline.
There are information that Russian military forces are pushing beyond the Donbass region, and occupying Ukrainian territory reportedly prompted by the massacre of Russians in the Kharkiv region by the forces of the Akov Battalion.
The CPP joins in appeals to the Ukrainian people to demand a stop to the Russophobic fascist attacks and to demand their government to respect and protect the Ukrainians of Russian nationality in the various cities of Ukraine in and beyond the Donbass region.
At the same time, the CPP supports their fight to defend their country’s sovereignty and in the demand for Russia to suspend its military offensives, withdraw its forces as soon as possible, and pave the way for dialogue and peaceful resolution of the conflict.
7. Russia’s attacks against Ukraine are now on its fifth day. There are news of civilian casualties and residential apartments damaged by rocket fire. People in Kyiv and other areas are evacuating in droves. On the other hand, Russia insists that civilians are not being targeted and claims to have eliminated 975 Ukrainian military facilities, and shooting down jets, helicopters and drones. In light of these developments, what is the CPP’s call?
In times of intense armed conflict, the fog of war thickens, and actual facts on the ground become hard to determine in real time. Both sides are expected to heighten their propaganda offensive to support their military objectives. Even the widely-circulated photograph of an apartment in Kyiv damaged by missile fire is unverified and disputed: Ukraine claims it was hit by a Russian missile, while there are information that it was damaged by a Ukrainian missile or anti-missile rocket that misfired.
Faced with Russia’s blitzkrieg attacks, Kyiv publicly lamented that it was “left alone” to fight and declared openness to dialogue to discuss Ukraine’s “neutrality” and other issues. This was followed by Russia’s order to suspend military operations on February 25.
However, the US imperialists and its allies intensified its intervention with the US decision to extend $600 million military aid to Ukraine. The US also succeeded in pushing Germany to send tanks and other weapons contrary to its own policy of not sending weapons to conflict areas. This has apparently emboldened the Zelensky government to return to its previous bellicose position and abandon the planned negotiations. Russia’s response was to resume its attacks.
The CPP welcomes fresh news that lines of dialogue remain open and that Ukraine has proposed to meet with Russian officials in the Belarussian city of Gomel, and that Russia has declared it will be sending its delegation. The talks are set to start today. Russia, however, said it will not suspend again its military attacks during the upcoming dialogue.
The CPP urges Russia to suspend its military offensives against Ukraine in order to increase the chances of success of the talks and the Kyiv authorities to stop their offensive against the people of the Donbass region as well as the attacks on Russians by its Russophobic territorial units and neo-Nazi vigilante groups like the Azov Battalion against Russian apartments and communities.
Most importantly, the CPP calls on the US and its allies in the NATO to put an end to intervening and provoking Ukraine to escalate the war, and let the dialogue between the two countries proceed and seek to resolve the conflict through peaceful negotiations to discuss the issues being raised by both sides.
The CPP calls on the workers and people of Ukraine to demand an end to the genocidal war against the people in the Donbass region, resist Russian aggression, oppose US and NATO intervention and fight for their country’s neutrality in the face of rising conflicts among the hegemonic powers.
The CPP calls on the workers and people of Russia to strengthen support for the struggle for national self-determination of the people of the Donbass region and demand the Putin government to immediately suspend its military offensives against Ukraine, extend solidarity with the democratic people of Ukraine and advance their own struggles against the Russian oligarchs and ruling classes.