Guest Essay: The war in Ukraine and the danger of World War III
Oppose Putin’s regime without supporting U.S. imperialism and oppose U.S. imperialism without supporting Putin, IYSSE President Karsten Stoeber writes.
April 21, 2022
Karsten Stoeber is the president of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality chapter at NYU.
Millions around the world are shocked by the war in Ukraine. The media openly acknowledges that a nuclear third world war is a real possibility. The war and the economic sanctions against Russia are driving up fuel and food prices, threatening famine in many parts of the world.
Students and youth must unequivocally oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But opposition to this war must start with an accurate understanding of its origins.
The U.S. media is now filled with articles feigning outrage at war crimes in Ukraine. Yet the same media had little or nothing to say when, over the past 30 years, the United States invaded and bombed one country after another: Iraq in 1991 and 2003, Serbia in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001 and Libya in 2011, to name but a few examples. According to “The United States of War” by David Vine, conservative estimates put the total number of dead from all U.S. wars between 3 and 4 million since 2001 alone.
It is not an excuse of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions to acknowledge that the war was provoked by NATO and, above all, the United States. In addition to wars in the Middle East and Africa, NATO has expanded to the borders of Russia, despite earlier promises to the Kremlin to the contrary. In 2014, Germany and the United States backed the overthrow of the pro-Russian government of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, with fascist forces such as the political party Svoboda and the far-right organization Right Sector playing a central role. In 2019, the U.S. Congressional Research Service announced a new strategic doctrine: The U.S. military would actively prepare for “great-power competitions” with Russia and China.
Now, the crisis is escalating further. The United States and NATO are funneling billions of dollars worth of weapons to Ukraine. On March 26, U.S. President Joe Biden publicly called for a “regime change” in Moscow — though he clarified that it was a personal opinion, not policy. The United States is fighting a de facto proxy war in Ukraine against Russia.
Young people must oppose the nationalist Putin regime without lining up behind U.S. imperialism, and oppose U.S. imperialism without supporting the Putin regime.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, pundits proclaimed the end of history — but what was the reality? U.S. youth have never known a time when their country was not at war. We have witnessed the economic collapse of 2008, an attempt to overthrow the American constitution, led by Donald Trump and a fascistic mob on Jan. 6, 2021, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in nearly 1 million deaths in the United States alone. Now, we are confronted with the danger of a new world war.
This domestic crisis — mirrored in Russia, which also reported more than 700,000 deaths from COVID-19 — has been a significant factor in driving this war. It would not be the first time in history for a government to try to deflect from its domestic crisis through war abroad.
There is no anti-war movement to speak of. How, then, can young people fight?
I am the president of the IYSSE at NYU, which believes that the only basis for the fight against war is the working class — in the United States and internationally. The last few years have already seen the beginning of significant struggles by the working class. Now, millions have gone through the horrific experience of the pandemic, which has shown the true face of capitalism.
War must be waged on COVID-19, not Russia. The billions of dollars that go to war must be spent on the social needs of workers and young people. This can only be accomplished through the building of a socialist anti-war movement in the working class that unites workers and young people in the United States, Russia, Ukraine and beyond in a joint struggle for socialism.
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Contact Karsten Stoeber at [email protected]