To all appearances imperialism is nerving itself up for a third major offensive against the Donbass, drawing still closer to an overt, ‘hot’ confrontation with Russia. But even as war preparations are stepped up, Poroshenko is struggling just to control his own fascist backyard.
Defence Minister Michael Fallon recently flew into Ukraine to pay a visit to the British military training teams outside Kiev. Whilst there he took the opportunity to announce plans to double the number of Ukrainian troops Britain is training by Christmas, and to pledge more trainers if Kiev requested them (at the moment the official number of trainers in place totals 75). Fallon claimed that they have trained a thousand men so far, with another thousand due to be trained up by the end of the year. The men are being shown how to engage in urban warfare, deal with mines and build fortifications. And in case anybody missed the significance of these developments, Fallon screeched that this war “right on the doorstep of Europe” is “not a frozen conflict, it’s still red hot” as “Ukraine fights for its freedom.” Which is to say, the freedom to terrorise the populations in the south and east of the country, the freedom to attack the living standards of the population as a whole, the freedom to criminalise any mention of the country’s proud socialist history and (most crucially) the freedom to serve imperialism as a stick with which to beat Russia herself.
Lest any should fear that British imperialism is out of lockstep with its senior partner across the pond, it is also reported that hundreds of US paratroopers have already been sent to Lvov to train the Ukraine National Guard, a body composed of members of fascist militias, not least the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. This training programme is to be further expanded in November. This escalation of the West’s warmongering was foreshadowed by a bizarre set of war games played out by NATO in June. Based in Poland and dubbed ‘Noble Jump’, these games tasked multi-national NATO Special Forces with the suppression of a fictitious regional rebellion which bore an uncanny resemblance to the West’s comic-strip version of events in Ukraine. The German paper Deutsche Welle offered this wry commentary at the time:
“The scene is recognizable as it is loosely based on the situation in eastern Ukraine, except this time, a NATO member has been threatened by ‘little green men’. After all, the planners want to make the situation as lifelike as possible. On command, masked Czech and Dutch Special Forces fast-rope out of US helicopters, throw smoke grenades, storm the wooden house and drag “Birdman” out. Scenes like this are reminiscent of films like ‘Black Hawk Down’ or TV series, such as ‘Homeland’. Light armored vehicles belonging to Dutch-Czech support units approach, followed by waves of combat helicopters. German and Norwegian jets roar by and we’re in the middle of a war film. The flyover was intended to intimidate and disorient the opponent, as the live battle commentator states – at any rate, the noise is impressive. Marder tanks at the edge of the forest advance with battalion 371, while on the adjacent field, a German-Norwegian unit explodes a mine field. At the same time, Norwegian pioneers set up a mobile bridge so Polish tanks can drive over an anti-tank trench. German ‘Panthers’ on the other side meanwhile shoot armor-piercing grenades at enemy terrain.” (‘NATO rapid reaction force trains in Poland’, Deutsche Welle, 19 June 2015)
For all the credulity-stretching risibility of this ‘little green men’ scenario (or the hardly less far-fetched assumption of seamless Norwegian, Polish, Dutch and Czech cooperation under the guiding hand of Uncle Sam), these NATO ‘games’ and the increasing actual military assistance now being given openly to the fascist junta in Kiev suggest that imperialism is nerving itself up to move yet closer to a direct and live confrontation with Russia – or into “hot” war, in Fallon’s glib words.
A new offensive by Kiev?
Poroshenko clearly believes he has the green light from his Western backers to continue to sabotage the agreements reached at Minsk, daily breaching the ceasefire arrangements whilst simultaneously crying foul against the Donbass resistance. And whilst the ‘low intensity’ shelling of schools, hospitals and factories by Kiev’s artillery never ceased, reports from the south and east suggest that the attacks are becoming ever more brazen, possibly prefiguring a renewed offensive.
So for example on 10 August the Donetsk People’s Republic reported that after two hours of massive artillery preparation from large-calibre guns, Grad multiple rocket launchers, tanks and mortars near populated areas in Petrovskoye, Novaya Laspa and Belava Kamenka, the junta’s forces used six armoured vehicles and six tanks to launch an offensive in the direction of Starognatovka and Belaya Kamenka. This offensive was rebuffed, but the shelling continued. Military spokesman Eduard Basurin noted that Kiev “knew that we had lived up to our commitment to withdraw all heavy weapons… and decided to take advantage of the situation to move deep into the DPR’s territory.” (Stephen Lendman, ‘At Russia’s doorstep: full-scale war looms in Donbass’, posted 13 August on Global Research website)
A week later, when residential districts in Mariupol were shelled by Ukraine forces holed up in a wood in the outskirts of Talakovka, the US State Department turned reality on its head, pointing the finger of blame at the resistance militias and excusing the junta’s ceasefire breaches as ‘self-defence’. The Kiev media routinely blame the militias, and the imperialist media just as routinely parrot the same lies. In an effort to nail these lies, in the aftermath of the Mariupol shelling, Eduard Basurin (Deputy Defence Minister and defence spokesman of the Donetsk People’s Republic) noted that he was ” using the visit by the OSCE SMM as an opportunity to ask its representatives to check the above mentioned facts because the Kiev government is intentionally inciting tensions in order to create a pretext for launching a new offensive in Donbas.” (‘Militia blame Ukraine army for shelling Mariupol’, TASS, 18 August 2015)
President Putin, acutely aware that every new provocation stoked up in the east of Ukraine is intended as a dagger pointed at the heart of Russia herself, is clear which side in the conflict is ready to implement the Minsk accords and which is determined to bury them. If imperialism is truly bent on pushing the war upon Russia, Putin makes it plain that imperialism must bear full responsibility for the consequences. ” Unfortunately, we are now seeing escalation, and the blame lies not with militias, but with the opposite side… It was the militia in Donbas, who proposed to withdraw all military hardware with the over-100 mm caliber. Unfortunately, the opposite side failed to do it and on the contrary, according to our data, is concentrating there its detachments, backed up with military hardware.” Putin added that Kiev is concentrating its military forces along the contact line with the Donbass. (‘Putin: Kiev, not militias is to blame for escalating violence in Ukraine’, TASS, 18 August 2015)
It will be remembered that each of the two previous Minsk agreements, signed by Kiev and instantly reneged upon, came in the wake of a failed offensive launched by Kiev and fought to a standstill by the resistance. Whilst it is possible that a third such offensive now might meet a similar fate and engender similar consequences, giving the imperialist warmongers a third, last-ditch opportunity to resolve the crisis through ‘Minsk III’, this cannot be guaranteed. With every throw of the dice, imperialist brinkmanship is raising the stakes, running the risk of finding itself in a confrontation with Russia which the latter does not seek but cannot by its own efforts alone prevent.
Thieves fall out
Poroshenko is obliged to deal with increasing disaffection within the fascist camp, having to divert forces from the Donbass frontline to deal with an armed rebellion by Pravy Sektor (PS) forces right in his own backyard, close to the borders with Poland and Hungary. On Saturday 16 July a full scale battle erupted in the far-west town of Mukachevo after PS fighters confronted men loyal to a local politician who had criticised their activities. The gun and grenade attack sparked fighting that continued all weekend, with official Ukraine forces eventually hounding the PS militia back to their bases in the surrounding countryside. At least two PS fighters were killed and seven people were injured, whilst two police cars were torched by grenade launchers.
Apparently lacking the confidence to crush this open rebellion against its authority, the junta instead proceeded to hold direct one-to-one talks between Poroshenko and the tinpot führer of PS, Dmytro Yarosh, who flew into Mukachevo to negotiate an end to what had become a stand-off. Yarosh proceeded to issue a list of demands: the arrest of the offending local politician, the resignation of Kiev’s interior minister and the sacking of the entire leadership of the regional police force. The whole episode revealed a fatal weakness in the junta’s authority which will not be healed by the more conciliatory statement Yarosh posted up on Facebook later, calling for “an objective and impartial investigation” into the affair in order to avoid “the danger of destroying Ukraine as a unified state.”
Somewhat giving the lie to such high-toned statements are reports that the violence was in fact sparked by a wrangle over who gets to control the lucrative trade in smuggling contraband cigarettes on lorries bound for Germany and Italy. As above, so below: whilst corrupt oligarchs sell Ukraine wholesale to the West, fascist hoodlums scrap over a smuggling racket – and all professing the loftiest of motives.
On 21 July, having humiliated the government with impunity, Yarosh called a rally in Kiev which drew an estimated 5,000 supporters waving fascist flags and chanting “Glory to Ukraine”. The führer told his adoring flock, “We are an organized revolutionary force that is opening the new phase of the Ukrainian revolution” and unbelievably accused Poroshenko of making excessive concessions to Moscow. With Washington in one ear and Yarosh in the other, Poroshenko is being urged on to ” the new phase of the Ukrainian revolution“, namely, outright war with Russia.
NATO’s real target is Russia
In an article recently published in Workers’ World, Greg Butterfield spelt out the West’ motivation in pushing on in this suicidal direction, plainly mad though it is. He wrote:
“To be sure, Ukraine is a country rich in natural resources, once known as the breadbasket of the USSR, with powerful mining and other industries in the eastern region developed in Soviet times, and a well-educated, skilled working class. Since the destruction of the Soviet Union, it has served as a crucial gateway for transporting Russian oil and gas to the European Union. For all these reasons, Ukraine is desired by the Western imperialist powers. The chance to get hold of these resources was the main reason that Germany and other European Union powers supported the right-wing coup in Kiev in February 2014. But the U.S. has greater ambitions. Not only does Wall Street crave Ukraine’s privatized industry and resources – not only does Monsanto want to control the fertile farmland – not only does Washington seek to control the flow of fuel to the countries in Europe that are both military allies in NATO and economic competitors – but at the heart of the Ukrainian crisis is the long-term U.S. strategy of overthrowing and breaking up an independent, capitalist Russian Federation… This crisis is not going away. No matter who is elected president next year, no matter which capitalist party controls Congress, the campaign to demonize Russia, threaten the people of Donbass and repress the Ukrainian opposition will continue, and the danger of a wider war will grow.” (Greg Butterfield, ‘Ukraine, Donbass and the new cold war against Russia’, Workers’ World, 23 July 2015)
Solidarity with the Donbass resistance
The people of the Donbass did not choose to find themselves on the front-line in what is increasingly looking like the third world war, but, having wound up there, they are reaching back into their Soviet anti-fascist history to find sources of inspiration for their present day resistance war against the Banderites. By their steadfastness in adversity they inspire all those who would resist against imperialism.
This resistance owes much to Russia. Contrary to all the media lies, Russia does not send tanks to the Donbass. What it does send, however, is a vast amount of humanitarian assistance. On 14 August Russia’s 35th aid convoy departed for the Donbass, to be followed on 20 August by the 36 th. Over the last year the Russian Emergencies Ministry has delivered over 43,000 tons of such solidarity aid.
But what must not be left out of account is the determination with which the people of the Donbass themselves have struggled. The struggle is twofold: both to fight and to rebuild. Their determination to rebuild as fast as the fascists destroy brings to mind the grit shown by the people of Gaza as they rebuild their flattened houses again and again under Zionist assault. The prime minister of Lugansk People’s Republic recently announced plans to restore houses flattened or badly damaged by shelling. Initially one hundred houses that were completely destroyed will be rebuilt, then another two thousand partially destroyed houses are to be rebuilt. The scheme will prioritise the homes of veterans of the Great Patriotic War, pensioners and single mothers. Brick by brick, let the Donbass be rebuilt!
British troops out of Ukraine!
Victory to the Donbass resistance!