Above photo: Russian-Ukrainian talks in Belarus on 28 February 2022 (Reuters)Russian-Ukrainian talks in Belarus on 28 February 2022 (Reuters)Russian-Ukrainian talks in Belarus on 28 February 2022. Reuters.
Jacqueline Luqman was a panelist on the February 16, 2023 webinar Why and How to End the War in Ukraine, which was sponsored by Chicago Area Peace Action.
These were her remarks.
What I think we need to be clear on is that the US, the EU, and NATO are directly responsible for lighting the embers of war in Ukraine back in 2014. From late 2013 until February 2014, the Obama/Biden administration sent weapons, money, and encouragement to anti-democratic right-wing elements in Ukraine to execute “regime change” and overthrow the democratically elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.
The coup government, whose president was chosen by the US, legitimized Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and fascists such as the Right Sector and the Azov battalions. But large segments of Ukrainian society opposed this government, especially the predominantly Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens in the Eastern portions of the nation. They exercised their self-determination to be independent of the fascist coup government in Kyiv by holding referendums to secede from Ukraine. In response, the coup government declared those people – Ukrainian citizens – “terrorists” and unleashed a bombardment on the Eastern regions of the country, the Donbass, with a military that had at that point been augmented by neo-Nazi militias.
If you recall, this crime the US-backed Ukrainian coup government committed in attacking its own citizens was the very same pretext the US used for their attack on Syria – the claim that President Assad gassed his own citizens – which of course, we now know, was a lie. But the Ukrainian government bombing its own citizens with the full backing of the US was just fine.
The only thing that stopped an all-out war with Russia – who the people in the Eastern region of Ukraine were calling on to come to their aid – was the signing of the Minsk Accords. The second set of agreements, MINSK II, was signed by the president of Ukraine, the Chancellor of Germany, the President of France, the President of Russia, and by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which also mediated the talks and agreements. Minsk II included a commitment to a ceasefire between the Kyiv government and the forces in the Eastern Region of Ukraine and a commitment by the Kyiv government to grant relative autonomy to that region.
Russia abided by the accords and did not engage militarily in Ukraine since the accords were signed in 2014, but Kyiv did not stop its bombardment of the Donbass regions. Despite this, Russia stayed out until Joe Biden decided that his administration would finish what he and his then-boss Barack Obama started.
What did they start? The plan to use Ukraine to bog Russia down in a war that would ultimately weaken them – sort of like the US did during the original Cold War by helping to dismantle the Soviet Union. It worked once, the empire thought, why not do it again?
If you recall, State Department, Pentagon, and White House spokespeople were on the news for weeks before Russia engaged militarily in Ukraine with claims that Putin was amassing troops on the border of Ukraine, with formations getting larger and larger every day.
What they weren’t telling you was that the US and NATO were carrying out military exercises – massive military exercises – in the countries that border Russia for months if not years before then and were even doing military exercises at the same time that the US was claiming Russia was planning an invasion of Ukraine. An invasion, by the way, that the US State Department controlled media outlets told you that Vladimir Putin just woke up one morning and decided to do without any provocation whatsoever, which was a blatant lie.
And we need to understand that the joint US/NATO military exercises with and in countries bordering Russia are part of the decades-long policy of expanding NATO to include the countries that were formerly members of the Warsaw Pact – the Soviet Union federation of socialist countries that was the Eastern European counter to NATO. This policy of NATO expansion to encircle Russia was formalized by Bill Clinton in 1999, and the ongoing expansion of NATO has been a legitimate security concern for Russia since then – especially as multiple US presidents have promised that NATO would not expand closer to Russia’s borders, but they all reneged.
I would say that the real invasion of Ukraine took place then THEN with the invasion of the US/EU/NATO Axis of Domination into Ukraine began in 2014 when the Obama/Biden administration supported the coup and then supported the fascist Kyiv coup government’s military bombardment of their own people to force them back under Kyiv’s and Washington’s control. The Obama/Biden administration used the the guise of the promise to make Ukraine a member of NATO, something that Russia would, of course, oppose since it would mean the complete encirclement on the western border of Russia by NATO forces.
Therefore, when the US began claiming Putin was planning to invade Ukraine, they were merely carrying out plans laid out decades ago. But they were also withholding another piece of critical information from the population of this country and much of the west: that Russian officials were actively trying to negotiate to avoid a military conflict.
A February 24, 2022 article from the Yale MacMillan Center details the scuttled negotiations to completely avoid the conflict in Ukraine, and they note that:
“More than anything else, it was the refusal of Ukraine to implement the provisions of Minsk 2 – especially the provision that would give the predominantly Russian-speaking regions a special constitutional status – that caused Russia to threaten military action against Ukraine. Time after time in recent weeks, Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov made it clear in meetings and press conferences that the key to resolving the situation in and around Ukraine was the full implementation of Minsk 2.”
If that’s all it would have taken to avoid this conflict, why wasn’t this one demand adhered to? A demand that Ukraine agreed to when they signed the Minsk II agreements?
Well, we learn from the former Chancellor of Germany Angele Merkel, one of the signatories of the agreements, that the leaders who signed the Minsk Accords, with the exception of Russia, never had any intention of adhering to the agreements. She said signing the agreement was just a ploy, “… an attempt to give Ukraine time. Ukraine used this time to become stronger, as you can see today. Ukraine in 2014-2015 and Ukraine today are not the same.”
Since Merkel made her comments, former French president Francoise Hollande confirmed them, saying, “Since 2014, Ukraine has strengthened its military posture. Indeed, the Ukrainian army was completely different from that of 2014. It was better trained and equipped. It is the merit of the Minsk agreements to have given the Ukrainian army this opportunity.”
Every other country except for Russia that signed the MINSK II agreement never intended to adhere to them. They wanted to use that time of a negotiated peace that Russia fully complied with to arm Ukraine to fight a war with Russia on behalf of the US/EU/NATO Axis of Domination instead.
And to be clear: this is not a “pro-Russia” position. My comments should not be misconstrued as being in support of military action. They are instead an assessment of the dynamics of the situation that must be considered if you really want to know the why of this conflict.
So, if you want to know why this war in Ukraine must end, it is because the US/EU/NATO Axis of Domination has been engaged in this kind of geopolitical manipulation, coup plotting, regime change operations, economy destabilization, collective punishment of peoples through sanctions, and legitimizing and arming fascists and using them to stoke wars for decades. It just so happens that most people are paying attention to it now because Ukraine is in the crosshairs.
Because we have to be clear, what is happening in Ukraine is of the utmost importance because this has been the modus operandi of the US/EU/NATO Axis of domination around the world and, if they are not stopped, they will continue and more people will suffer their bloodthirsty warmongering even if there is never a nuclear exchange. Is nuclear war a concern? Of course it is. But that is not the only concern, nor should it be. Because let’s say this conflict ends within a year with no nuclear war. What then? Is all well because the war in Ukraine would have ended with no nuclear conflagration? No, it is not.
This is the part of these discussions about this proxy war in Ukraine that I would love for people to understand. We must not simply be anti-war. We must not simply be against this war. We MUST be anti-imperialists, and commit to anti-capitalism, because capitalism is the foundation of imperialism, which so many wars are waged in the name of.
To that end, we must decenter Ukraine, specifically, as the singular focus of our attention and understand that the why this war needs to end. And the how this war needs to end must be focused squarely on ending the US/EU/NATO Axis of Domination that started this and all modern imperialist wars!
The Black Alliance for Peace – the organization I am a member of – states that NATO is a criminal military structure whose only purpose is providing the military/material basis for the maintenance and extension of the U.S./EU/NATO Axis of Domination (white power). As a structure of white colonial power, NATO was essential in supporting colonial powers in Africa, including the Portuguese in their military struggles to maintain their colonial holdings in Africa during the initial wave of anti-colonial struggles on the continent. The Obama/Biden administration also used NATO for their attack on Libya in 2011, resulting in the destruction of the most prosperous and revolutionary state on the continent.
Troops trained by the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) have been involved in nine coups d’etat in the thirteen years that AFRICOM has operated on the continent. Ukraine is connected to these actions because what was done in Ukraine was done in these places and in others.
And the attempt to expand NATO into Ukraine is just one aspect of a larger U.S. imperialist strategy of Full Spectrum Dominance. A strategy, by the way, that the US is able to implement without much pushback these days because much of the American public sees these conflicts in different places around the world as disconnected. But they are all the same US hegemony trying to impose its control over the whole earth.
So once this conflict in Ukraine ends, will people join in the fight against the destruction of revolutionary, leftist, socialist, and communist governments and countries in the Global South, Africa, Asia, the Americas by the US/EU/NATO Axis of Domination? Or are people comfortable telling those of us who have been fighting against this all of our lives that we need to wait until you’re satisfied that you made inroads with some of the very right-wing forces that care nothing for all the other victims of this evil hegemon everywhere else in the world that is not named Ukraine?
And for those whose response to the need to build a broad coalition with people who, on any and every other day of the week, would take away our rights if they had the power to do so, and uphold capitalism and private property over people-centered human rights as a political ideology, once this conflict ends and nuclear war is once again avoided: what will be your response when those people refuse to rage against imperialism, against capitalist dictatorship, against racist police terrorism, against the stripping of human rights of queer and trans adults and even children?
Certainly, if there is a nuclear war, we all die. Why is that not an argument for organizing with the people – and there are plenty of organizations to choose from – who have been in this fight for decades who do not believe that we can win by denying humanity, dignity, and human rights to all people or that we can wait until later to address those fundamental principles? Why not build a broad working-class, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, international coalition with people who do not de-prioritize the struggle for human rights for all people in favor of just focusing on ending one war, because we understand that ending capitalism and imperialism is critical to ending all imperialist wars and protecting and affirming all life? Human rights and dignity for all people cannot be realized under capitalism, so the fight for people-centered human rights cannot be divorced from the fight to end imperialist wars.
Yes, this conflict in Ukraine must end. And the how is what we in the Black Alliance for Peace believe can be achieved by:
An Immediate Ceasefire
Providing Humanitarian aid and resettlement of all refugees and displaced persons in Ukraine and the Donbass Region
The Ceasing of all shipments of NATO weapons to Ukraine and negotiating Ukrainian NATO neutrality. UKRAINE MUST NEVER BECOME A MEMBER OF NATO. I will never not remind people that the late Rep. John Conyers introduced an amendment to the defense spending bill in 2015 that would have made it illegal to send weapons to the Azov Battalion and other neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine. The neo-Nazi threat in Ukraine was recognized then by US lawmakers, but the Pentagon removed the amendment.
Expulsion of all foreign white supremacist and neo-Nazi forces from Ukraine. Because if we’re going to fight to end the war in Ukraine and do and say nothing about the neo-Nazis that the US legitimized to destabilize the country, we are merely saving people from one catastrophe – the war – only to have them subjected to another existential threat – violent neo-Nazis with a particular hatred for Russians – to be faced later.
That NATO, a structure for advancing the interests of white supremacy and the U.S. empire, be dismantled.
That the U.S. government renounce its commitment to the doctrine of global “Full Spectrum Dominance.”
And if that doesn’t happen, what do we do?
We must commit ourselves to genuine and principled anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggle against imperialist war wherever in the world it manifests.
We must engage in solidarity with people around the world who are fighting against the US/EU/NATO Axis of Domination.
We must commit to destroying this capitalist, white supremacist, patriarchal, settler-colonial system in this country that wages war on marginalized people domestically and abroad, and commit to building a new system that is focused on people-centered human rights for everyone.
We must grow an anti-imperialist movement on the shared principles of upholding and defending all and everyone’s humanity, with the understanding that any right-wing elements that engage with us must adhere to our shared principles. We must not abandon our shared principles of unity and solidarity to appease the right-wing that is not interested in the struggle for human rights.
Anything short of this is a win for the empire that has already done so well at dividing our focus.