Lindsey German: We stand in solidarity with all those protesting, and with those in Ukraine and Russia who are bravely raising their voices against war

Dutch NATO forces in Lithuania await orders during Exercise Scorpion Strike in Feb 2018

The first anniversary of the Ukraine war should be marked by politicians and media doing everything that they can to promote peace. This is a war which has already cost many lives of Ukrainian troops and civilians, and of Russian troops. Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced, many of them outside its borders. It has raised the spectre of nuclear war, now a step closer as this week Vladimir Putin halted participation in the nuclear arms control treaty with the US.

Both sides are saying that this war will go on for a long time – and many military figures and commentators acknowledge that in the end there will have to be peace negotiations. But all the talk now is of war. Both Biden and Putin made speeches this week which talk up the need to continue fighting. NATO powers are pouring weapons into the country. In recent weeks the provision of increasing numbers of German made Leopard tanks is accompanied by a growing clamour for fighter planes to be sent. In Ukraine, there are even demands for cluster bombs and phosphorus weapons.

One interested party delighted with these developments is the ‘defence’ industry. The Financial Times reports that ‘Shares in defence companies have surged in recent months….as investors bet on the promises of increased military spending by western governments to help Ukraine’s war effort against Russia’. It continues, ‘The gains reflect a growing conviction that the conflict is unlikely to end quickly’.

There are far too many with an interest in prolonging the war. This includes the British government, unpopular on every front, and leaning more and more on nationalism, racism, and warmongering to maintain its base and try to deflect attacks. In recent weeks, Rishi Sunak, Boris Johnson (still obviously planning a comeback) and Keir Starmer have all visited Kyiv to pledge ‘whatever it takes’ to defeat Russia. Yet they also know that the war is at a stalemate, with trench warfare in some parts of the east reminiscent of the First World War.

It is perfectly possible to oppose the Russian invasion, as Stop the War has always done, but also oppose what our own government and NATO is doing. It is also possible – indeed necessary – to see this war in context. That means recognising that the war in the east has been going on for nearly a decade, and that the western powers represented by NATO have developed a firm policy of expansion taking in most of the east European states on or close to Russia’s borders. Russia was opposed to Ukraine joining NATO which it saw as a threat to its own security.

One year on, this is clearly a proxy war between NATO and Russia, with western troops stationed very close to Russian borders, two formerly neutral countries – Sweden and Finland – joining NATO, Ukraine becoming a de-facto member of NATO, and the provision of weapons growing. This is all at great cost to the people of the region, who are suffering, but also to the people of the countries supplying the arms. More spending is demanded by governments across Europe and the US while they allow inflation and the cost-of-living crisis to cut workers’ living standards. This money goes into the pockets of the arms producers and dealers, paid for by us.

There is also an ongoing attack on democracy and debate in countries such as Britain. The main broadcast and print media permit only the rarest dissenting voices, and proposals for peace or even attempts to discuss NATO’s role are regarded as ‘apologists for Putin’. The BBC flagship radio programme Today has this week carried fawning interviews from right wing politicians in Estonia and Poland, both of which countries are among the most hawkish, broadcast the thoughts of Tony Blair at some length, who is of course in favour of more weapons, and is promising us a programme from Kyiv on the anniversary of the invasion, complete with Thought for the Day from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

This is a level of war propaganda which comes from the same people who supported the disastrous ‘war on terror’, who have presided over a doubling of arms spending worldwide in the past two decades, and who are now promoting a new cold war with both Russia and China. The growing tension is a product of imperialist military and economic rivalry which can lead us into a much greater conflict if we do not oppose it now.

That’s why this weekend, on the anniversary of the invasion, there will be demonstrations and protests across Europe. We stand in solidarity with all those protesting, and with those in Ukraine and Russia who are bravely raising their voices against war. Opposition to the war will grow internationally as the real nature of the war becomes increasingly clear. To help build that opposition we need as many people as possible on the streets of London this Saturday. Join us.

23 Feb 2023 by Lindsey German

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