Picking NATO over Russia, or vice versa, is a fool’s game. Choose people, not power.

Russian soldier takes aims
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Less than 48 hours into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and so much remains unclear. Will Russia occupy? Will NATO respond militarily? What are the risks of nuclear escalation? But one thing should be very apparent. Looking to either NATO or Russia in search of a good guy in all of this is deeply naïve.

On the one side we have the Russian regime. Viciously illiberal and oligarchic, it’s a model of authoritarian capitalism. Determined to reclaim its lost imperial status, it’s as willing to bomb Ukrainian cities as it is to batter its own courageous anti-war protestors off the streets of Moscow.

In NATO, we have an organisation which today functions as a beard for US imperial ambitions. It comes with a bleak history of supporting fascists in Europe and of the kind of brinkmanship which has brought us to where we are today. It’s also played a direct part in the disastrous wars in – to name just two recent examples – Libya and Afghanistan.

Read on...

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Putin’s regime is no more anti-fascist than NATO is the FBPE movement with guns. They both just like to claim otherwise because it suits them.

How about… no.

There is little to admire or endorse in either party, even if both make claims which contain an atom of the truth. Has NATO aggressively pushed into the buffer zone Russia wanted after the end of the USSR? Have NATO countries helped arm and train actual, real-life fascists in Ukraine? Absolutely. Is the Russian regime grotesquely corrupt? Does it oppress LGBTQI+ people? Has it just invaded a sovereign nation? Yes, yes, and yes.

Then why the clamour to side with one over the other? Of course, part of it is effective propaganda. NATO, for example, is held up by many as a liberal institution which sustains peace. This is a line echoed by mainstream British politicians of all stripes. It’s a position which even notionally left-wing MPs invoke uncritically. Even the last Corbyn manifesto promised to fund NATO. I myself, however, have a NATO medal from the war in Afghanistan which tells a different story. A story of occupation, injustice and, ultimately, hubristic failure.

For some on the Russia-supporting side there is a nostalgia for an ‘anti-fascist’ and ‘anti-imperialist’ Russia which, if it ever did exist in this pure, unblemished form, it certainly does not today. The point being this nostalgia makes Putin’s claims of his invasion being about clearing out Nazis from Ukraine seem appealing and genuine. At least for some people. The Russia of 2022 is many things, but it’s certainly not the Russia which inhabits the mind of today’s Stalinists – even if that is your bag. From a purely humanist viewpoint, it definitely isn’t mine.

Software update

We need to move past the Cold and World War framings which are being applied to Ukraine. New Hitler’s, New Stalin’s, ‘appeasement’, and so on – this is a crass brand of politics, and it only benefits the powerful. We need to look at the world as it is, and support the people who are suffering in this war.

While Ukraine was being invaded, people across the political spectrum here in the UK were churning out any number of hot takes on Twitter. And that’s what Twitter is good for – pretending you have all the answers – something which should absolutely be avoided. The real questions we should be asking are where can practical forms of solidarity be given? And where is the resistance from below coming from?

We can’t make sense of the world running on Windows 1945, or Windows 1954. It’s long past time for some of us to update our software on Russia/NATO antagonism. And that doesn’t involve backing one over the other.

If not them, who?

While their crowdfunders and posts haven’t gained the same mass traction as some others, there are Ukrainians and Russians who are resisting both fascism and Russian militarism. The website CrimethInc has published the positions of some of these groups. Its article includes both Russian and Ukrainian perspectives.

Russian anarchists released a statement on the invasion which CrimethInc published:

Palaces, yachts, and prison sentences and torture for dissenting Russians are not enough for Putin’s imperial gang, they should be given war and the seizure of new territories. And so, “defenders of the fatherland” invade Ukraine, bombing residential areas. Huge sums are being invested in murder weapons while the people are impoverished more and more.

The Anarchist Black Cross Dresden group have also established a fundraiser to help those caught up between these two forces. It said:

You can help people to bring their relatives and friends in safety, support people who need to leave the country and establish a place to live, organize resistance to protect their neighborhoods, get needed goods and medical supply to survive. There are also a lot of people from other countries in the region like Belarus and Russia who seek in the last years refugee in Ukraine. With a Russian invasion they are threatened in Ukraine and are not safe anymore.

Neither NATO nor Putin

Partly, what we have seen in the last days are two sets of nostalgists relitigating old conflicts while Ukraine burns. This does nothing to help a population caught between two rapacious powers. There is a suggestion at times that because Ukraine – like Russia and, indeed, Britain – has fascists in it, the whole population is fascist and thus undeserving of solidarity. On the other side, there is considerable apologia for the bosses club that is NATO, and myth-peddling about its commitment to some liberal, ‘rules-based order.’

These are positions which cannot stand. They are no use to thinking people, because they are factually wrong and fundamentally immoral. On the left, we are meant to be engaged in the project of reason. We are meant to back people, not power. And the time to do so is now.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/ Russian defence ministry, cropped to 770 x 440, licenced under CY BB 4.0.

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  • Show Comments
    1. Democracy is the least worst system, misinformation and propaganda works, be it the partial messaging on Covid19 or Ukraine, you are being sold a pup
      So where is the moral hazard, start with membership of the International Criminal Court and work your way around the world, one kleptocrat in gaol and dont forget to take away their ill gotten gains

    2. In western nations, we may feel Putin didn’t need to publicly test a Russian non-nuclear-armed hypersonic missile recently — or nuclear-sabre-rattle at all, ever — since he surely must know that the west, including NATO, won’t launch a nuclear first strike. But how can he, or we, know for sure whether that’s true?

      Although Ronald Reagan may have been correct in his observation that “Of the four wars in my lifetime none came about because the U.S. was too strong”, I have long wondered what may have historically come to fruition had the U.S. remained the sole possessor of atomic weaponry. There’s a presumptive, and perhaps even arrogant, concept of American governance as somehow, unless physically provoked, being morally/ethically above using nuclear weapons internationally.

      After President Harry S. Truman relieved General Douglas MacArthur as commander of the forces warring with North Korea — for the latter’s public remarks about how he would/could use dozens of atomic bombs to promptly end the war — Americans’ approval-rating of the president dropped to 23 percent. It is still a record-breaking low, even lower than the worst approval-rating points of the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson.

      Had it not been for the formidable international pressure on Truman (and perhaps his personal morality) to relieve MacArthur as commander, I wonder, could/would Truman eventually have succumbed to domestic political pressure to allow MacArthur’s command to continue? After all, absolute power can corrupt absolutely.

    3. Its certainly wonderful to read what war is really about from a soldier who fought.
      Jumping on the war bandwagon instead of finding the truth about how it came about by being informed for years is to be living in a fool’s paradise.
      War is a horror is so soon forgotten. It exists without a learning curve for the mass which is impossible to have unless you subscribe to rational thought and the belief we can be civilized without being boring.
      In peace time you’d think the pursuit of peace would be taken seriously given what is happening now , again.

    4. From another story on this site, for which comments are closed: “Amnesty International reports that Russia may be guilty of war crimes. Indiscriminate attacks by Russian forces have included hits on civilian areas as well as hospitals”. Odd that there has been little reporting in the UK about such crimes being committed by our close ally and supplier of oil, Saudi Arabia which has certainly been guilty since 2015. Where are the calls to stop buying its oil? Where is the stigmatisation of the well-paid workers in weapons factories in the UK whose products – as the workers themselves have admitted – are being used to slaughter children? Perhaps it’s because Yemeni, unlike Ukrainians, are not European and that this is a war the USA wants.

    5. Let’s put it this way. The Canary would not even exist in Russia as a legal platform. Enjoy your freedom of speech. It’s not a good given right but something many have had to die for for.
      There have been disastrous western interventions against barbaric dictators in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan.

      That does not make it right to find parity between Putin and NATO.
      A website critical of Putins murderous regime would be shut down instantly in Russia and those behind it arrested.
      Enjoy your freedom of speech, which has its roots in those who fought Hitler in WW2. What kind of world would we be in now if the Nazis had won the war and become the global superpower?
      Or are you saying that Hitler was misunderstood and the Allies forces the likes of my father served in were no better then the Nazis?

      1. Who do you think sacrificed most for ‘your’ democracy in WW2? Churchill actually stated it was the Red Army that tore the guts out of the nazi war machine but it didn’t take long for that racist bigot to turn against his major ally. The Russians are no lover of war but they know it historically comes from the east, this time they took preventative action.

        1. Why don’t you move to Russia if it’s that good? You could join Putin’s freedom fighters slaughtering the Ukrainian western puppets civilian population.

          Stalin, Putin – the true colours of elements of Canary’s readership being exposed for the pathetic and deluded views they hold.

          1. Putin, whatever his record of brutality in Chechnya and Ukraine, has no monopoly.

            “Twenty five years ago, one of the most brutal massacres in war history occurred in Iraq, along Highway 80, about 32 km west of Kuwait city. On the night of February 26–27, 1991, thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians were retreating to Baghdad, after a ceasefire was announced, when President George Bush ordered his forces to slaughter the retreating Iraqi army. Fighter planes of the coalition forces swooped down upon the unarmed convoy and disabled the vehicles in the front, and at the rear, so that they couldn’t escape. Then wave after wave of aircraft pounded the trapped vehicles for hours on end. After the carnage was over, some 2,000 mangled Iraqi vehicles, and charred and dismembered bodies of tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers lay for miles along what came to be known as the “Highway of Death”. Several hundred more littered along another road, Highway 8, that leads to Basra.

            The day before, Baghdad had radio announced that Iraq’s Foreign Minister had accepted the Soviet ceasefire proposal and had ordered all Iraqi troops to withdraw from Kuwait in compliance with UN Resolution 660.”

            https://www.amusingplanet.com/2016/05/the-highway-of-death.html

    6. Obviously I understand all you are saying but 2/3 ‘wh!te’ people have discriminated against me since early childhood and now extensive data proves that – I remember how much I hated places like school, something about large groups of people made me deeply unhappy – I didn’t realise why until recently in my 40s, ie 60% of ‘wh!te’ britain, LSE has shown, believes in eugenics and we can presume discriminates; much other data shows the level of discrimination

      WHEN I WAS CANVASSING FOR CORBYN IN 2017, a lib dem asian guy in richmond told me “britain can’t stop america’s wars, it has no power, so there’s no point voting for corbyn. China will sort America out”.

      Today, because men like you, Joe, and our allies, whether Roger Waters, Mr Corbyn, Lindsey, whether russell brand or patrick cockburn – you have not done ANYTHING to succeed in (a) stopping the imperialist anglo saxon run wars, (b) reducing the discrimination against me and new generations of british ‘non wh!tes’.

      So Putin is out there doing the only thing which can do that now, he is leading the east against the west’s never-ending war and racism.

      So don’t come it with me son.

      I am against wars, truly, unlike you. I’d never sign up EVER to be paid to kill, you actually did that.

      And you have no right to lecture Russia anyway, even if they’re in the wrong, which they’re not.

      PUTIN IS THE ANTI-WAR HERO YOU WILL NEVER BE JOE.

      Put away your ego.

      regards,

      Shams (aka the leader of the revolution)

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