Dies ist die englische Übersetzung unseres im Oktober 2022 veröffentlichten Papiers “Ukraine und Russland: Einwurf zur notwendigen Neujustierung der außenpolitischen Position der LINKEN”. Hier die deutsche Version.
Speaking of us as linXXnet office, our relationship to Russia was never easy. February 24th 2022 made us freeze. We did not see it coming that Russia would launch a full scale war against the whole of Ukraine, as the many analysts, commentators and experts didn’t see it.
We discussed, formulated positions, corrected and readjusted them and try to make a contribution to a difficult debate around a left stance towards the Russian war against Ukraine in particular and around a comprehensive position in foreign policy in general for us as a left party. We do not want to give a static perspective but rather an input to a necessary debate. We are thankful for further references, critique and discussion!
Speaking of us as linXXnet office, our relationship to Russia was never easy. The political communication that some of our members had with critical left-wing actors in Russia shaped our position in the long run. For many years this work was done in the so-called “AGRu” (“Working Group on Russia”) and supported by Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation. Together, camps and workshops in Russia were held where critical and opposing Russians became partners and friends of ours. Today we need to ask ourselves: have we been too quiet? Was our communication there not enough? Communication on the repression that we ourselves experienced practically in our work? Didn’t we do enough to represent, also in our own party, the critical positions towards Putin’s authoritarian regime and the voices of LGBTIQ+ and freedom-oriented left-wing people as well as artists and journalists? This question was raised in front of the background of the war-like Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2014 already as well as the military campaign of Russia side by side with dictator Assad against Syrian cities and regions or the repression against uprisings in former Soviet republics with Kazakhstan being the only most recent example.
February 24th 2022 made us freeze. We did not see it coming that Russia would launch an attack against the whole of Ukraine, as the many analysts, commentators and experts didn’t see it. But this war started in 2014: with the illegal occupation of Crimea, and the support of separatists’ movements in Donbass region. Already back then, Russia reacted in an aggressive way towards the pro-Europe and democracy-orientied protests that directed against the failed association agreement between Ukraine and EU and the politics of former president Janukovich. We should have seen it; see that Putin won’t be satisfied.
The objective of the Maidan protests in 2013/14 was not alone or in particular the accession to EU and/ or NATO but rather, democratization, an end to the corruption of the political class and a self-enriching president. Whereas huge parts of Ukrainian population have and had been living in poverty, Janukovich lived his exclusive lifestyle – portraying the symbol of a class of Ukrainian politicians who had been in power ever since the country’s independence in 1991. The tremendous effects of Euromaidan on domestic and later on also foreign politics were caused by the violent reaction of Janukovich towards protests, who were rather small in the beginning.
Back then already, single voices within LINKE legitimized the annexation of Crimea and the occupation of Eastern Ukrainian territories by Russia. Secretly they hoped for Russia’s expansion. Peace activists propagated – like Putin – that Euromaidan protests were initiated by fascists and controlled by the West. A position that was and is out of question. It includes the wrong analysis of a very plural movement at that time. This does not mean that one should close the eyes towards Neo-Fascists among the protesters in 2013/14 or towards the clearly extremely right-wing volunteers’ battalion named “Asow” that recruited itself in reaction to the Russian aggression and played an important part in the fights in Eastern Ukraine. Yet, it is utterly wrong to narrow down the protests to that part of the story.
After the successful protests of 2013/14, Ukraine remained divided concerning the accession to EU or NATO. This is a mirror of Ukrainian society, whose painful history is torn apart between independence and belonging to Soviet Union, between the crimes of Stalin as well as Hitler’s and his collaborators, and first and foremost between generations. Today one has to say: it was torn apart. The war that Putin started in 2022 softened that inner conflict. A huge part of Ukrainian society clearly stands for an accession to EU, a marginally lower number supports membership in NATO. Putin and his fellows changed with their brutal war the opinion making process in the country.
But it is too simple to only check the numbers for EU and NATO membership as indicators for the current atmosphere in Ukraine. How did the country develop politically after 2014? Were the objectives of Maidan protest achieved and did the country become more democratic and more social? That answer needs to responded with yes and no. Corruption and oligarchy in politics and economics continue to exist and remain a serious problem ever since they broke fresh ground in 1991. Governments remained unstable. Only Wolpdymyr Selenskyj, after being elected in 2019 as president, legislated careful measures against oligarchs and their political influence. Economic and social policies are still characterized by deregulation and privatization. After Selenskyj’s election one can even speak about a push in privatization of state companies. By that, the demands of USA, EU and IMF were fulfilled. Ukraine is highly in debt. The life conditions of most people though did not improve. In May, the head of the left “Social Movement” [Sotsialniy Rukh] and legal expert on labor matters, Vitaliy Dudin, reports in the German newspaper “Analyse und Kritik” [Analysis and Critique], that employees often do not receive their already low wages. In sum, employers owed four billion Hrywnja (around 140 million Euros) to the employees. Half of the debt comes from the public sector and state companies. The war situation intensifies this already precarious social situation. The rights of employers were undermined. There is no right on receiving wages regularly anymore, strikes are prohibited, guaranteed rights in work relationships were out levered.
Deficits exist, when it comes to freedom rights in Ukraine as well. In the previous years as well as in war, parties and organizations were forbidden or prohibited to perform certain actions who supposedly have close connections to Russia or who indeed had close ties. Those who act for left-wing politics are quickly suspected of being close to Russia. This is a problem that by the way exists in many Eastern European countries and that requires stronger left alliances. The De-Communization-Act of 2015 not only equates communism/ state socialism and national socialism, but also resulted in the renaming of many Lenin-streets or in the dismantling of memorials that remembered the Soviet victory against national socialism. In this context, not only the Moscow Prospekt in Kyiv was renamed in remembrance of Stepan Bandera, an Ukrainian nationalist and Anti-Semite. He cooperated with Hitler and is, as head of OUN-B organization, responsible for the pogroms against the Jewish population in Ukraine. Yet it is interesting that ever since the Maidan protests broke out in 2013, no Bandera memorial was erected in Ukraine anymore.
However, progressive moments for climate justice, for feminism or sexual diversity find more and more space in Ukraine. In many places they fight reactionary opposition. Freedom of religion is granted in the country, too. In war times, different communities, may they be Jewish, Muslim or Ukrainian-Orthodox, come together, as the whole society does. Even though solidarity and cohesion of society might be enormous during war, the war might have negative consequences on the domestic level: authoritarian right-wingers might gain power, multi-ethnic (Russian-Ukrainian) communities and families might be torn apart, a rollback in memory politics and further economic and social disasters are on the plate.
The crucial question: armament supply – yes or no?
One of the current hottest debates in Germany in reaction to Russia’s war of aggression was and is the question of armament supply for Ukraine. People not only in our party fear a further escalation of the conflict.
Maybe a look into the UN charter helps: article 51 allows self defense in case of armed conflict until the Security Council “has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”
It is indisputable that Ukraine wants to defend itself against the Russian aggression and that it is capable to do so. It is also obvious what the Russian army is capable of, let alone its dimension and firepower. Aleppo and Homs are symbols of it. Already because Ukraine does not possess security guarantees as it would have as a member of NATO, one has to assume that self defense will remain the necessary action – notwithstanding that an attack by the Ukrainian side on Russian territory is not a declared objective of war by the Ukrainian government. Yet, in order to counter the Russian aggression, Ukraine needs support.
Self defense is one option. The other option is to surrender and to give up on the way that was described above towards democracy and state of law, away from corruption and oligarchy. Surrendering would mean choosing the way into the ever more authoritarian dictatorship of Putin. We will never support those demands as they are raised also from fellow members of LINKE.
No, this option is fatal. Not least because Ukraine has started to go its self determined way in the direction of European Union. Also: European Union is not Germany. Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia and more Eastern European countries leave no doubt what they think about how solidarity towards Ukraine needs to look like.
On the question of support for Ukraine by armament supply again a look into the law:
The Hague Agreements from 1907 need to be taken out of the drawer again. In agreement No. V, the “Convention relative to the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in case of War on Land” states nothing on a prohibition of armament supply, in difference to agreement No. VIII that regulates the behavior of neutral powers in a war at sea. There, article 6 prevents the delivery of war material that can be used at sea. It is obvious that international law is not consistent here but rather leaves us with open questions. But what can be stated as a fact in 2022: only by supplying arms, a neutral power does not become a war party.
The last point of article 51 of the UN charter: a country can act in self defense until the security council “has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” Now, Russian Federation is one of five permanent members of the security council. It can simply veto any necessary measure that would stop its own aggression.
Here, a couple of starting points become apparent for a left foreign and security policy. A UN body that had the objective that five victorious powers of World War II would play world police when needed and would respect international law does not work. It did not work before the Russian attack in 2022 already. UN security council in its current shape was dysfunctional in the most crises and wars where it had to make decisions. One example is the war in Syria.
A reform of international law, of the United Nations, is long overdue. New efforts need to be raised concerning the implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty of Nuclear Weapons and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Signing the latter by the Federal Republic of Germany would help those efforts.
Facing both an attack that violates international law as well as the impossibility to sanction that break of international law; facing the way Ukraine made in the direction towards European Union as well as the foreign and security interests of Eastern European EU member states and finally facing the margin that the Federal Republic has due to its security guarantees, we consider limited armament supply as a justified measure.
At the same time we are very aware, that weapons, being handed out once, could be used for another purpose than for self defense. A future misuse after the end of war cannot be excluded. During war they could fall in the hands of Russian troops or militias or could be sold on the black market. But Ukraine wants more from Germany than only weapons. Exerting influence on Ukrainian government, acting smartly towards an ally to prevent further escalation, without sacrificing positions concerning the hard currency aka weapons, is possible with the means of diplomacy.
We are aware that we take a strong position with that paragraph. It is our practice to come a consensus when we work on texts. Here we make transparent that this did not work and that there are people in our collective who reject armament supplies in principle.
Beyond Armament Supply
The sanctions against Putin and his fellows were quickly taken. Already in 2014, first individuals and organizations were listed by European Union and prevented from entering EU or to exert businesses. This list was expanded by many times over, more than 100 organizations and 1.200 individuals are on it nowadays.
Also trade was limited. High technology cannot be exported to Russia anymore. In the other direction, the import of Russian oil is slowly decreasing. Today, Russia cannot sell cement, steel or wood to EU already.
At the same time, sanctions are a sharp and double-edged sword and might fall back against the sanctioning actor. Not everything that is possible should be done immediately; not only to prevent damage from oneself. Certain measures should be held back for future developments, maybe even for negotiations in case Putin wants them. By that, one still has certain threats up one’s sleeve.
Further on, international product chains should be observed and analyzed more closely and intensively on chances to break them in order to harm Russian economy. Watching Turkey plays a decisive role here. On the one side, the Turkish government lets pass many goods that are actually sanctioned, on the other side did it contribute massively on the grain agreements between Russia and Ukraine.
We criticize those sharply who make profit out of war. Among them is the armament industry, which is BASF and other companies who refine raw materials and produce goods to keep the war going. It is clear for us as LINKE that profit cannot be made out of war. Expropriation is the answer!
Beyond economic and trade policies the interpretation of the war is a field of contest. Putin and his regime justify the war with the allegedly necessary prevention of genocide against the Russian people. No serious source has ever documented murder or internment of ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine during the war or before as well. Basically, such a crime cannot be kept secret anyway. In case Putin refers to an alleged genocide who aims to erase a society by prohibiting its language and culture it is not the case in Ukraine as well, see the remarks here in chapter I. The fact that more and more people in Eastern Ukraine had been starting speaking Ukrainian is indeed a result of the Russian aggressions ever since 2014.
We consider it to be essential to support a critical public in Russia. Preferably easy and safe access to independent journalism can be provided. Journalists who escape Russia and Belarus should get public support for producing and publishing critical perspectives. Attempts to undermine censorship, prohibitions and blockades of analogue and digital media should be supported in order to strengthen alternative information sources in Russia.
The escape movement from Russia and Belarus needs to be supported concerning residence permits, humanitarian visa and free and safe passages with all means. Deserters and conscientious objectors should receive the refugee status. Reception programs on the EU, federal and state level are possible. This goes along with a foreign policy guideline of support for refugees that run from authoritarian regimes. It should be implemented by the Federal Republic, when it comes to Afghanistan as an example as well.
But the geopolitical interests
In the context of Russian war against Ukraine, single individuals from different political ranges, also from our party, refer to the pre-history of the war, relativizing the attack. It is a fact that there is a history before that war, as it is with any historical event. But it is also a fact that no pre-history legitimizes a brutal and illegal war. This statement cannot end up as a phrase.
The eastward enlargement of NATO is not the only thing that belongs to the past before the war. There, Putin’s warfare in Chechenya, Georgia, Syria, Crime and Eastern Ukraine – Putin’s attempts of regime change in Ukraine should remind his supposedly lefty supporters of the behavior of the USA.
The list of wars and attacks that the USA, partly with the whole NATO alliance, has launched is long. Partly, they attacked with the objective to overthrow current governments, also without a mandate by UN. The NATO attack in Kosovo 1999, the bombing of Serbian capital Belgrade as well as the attack against Afghanistan in 2001 with the missionary objective of exporting democracy and do nation-building are only some examples. We want to outline here that NATO is actually weakened by its own and strongest members whenever they go for illegal solo attacks. That was the case with the “Coalition of the Willing” and their attack against Iraq in 2003 under US-president George W. Bush. Additionally, Western military missions as those in Syria 2018 in reaction to the use of chemical weapons by Assad government show the still existing blind spots of international law and the necessity to develop it further.
The mandate of NATO in Libya again was covered by international law and shows, that development of legal measures is indeed possible. The mission was covered by the so-called Responsibility to Protect, a legal norm that was created after the disaster in Yugoslavia. As far as there are hints for crimes against humanity, international community has got the right to prevent them. The no-fly area that was agreed upon by UN Security Council (UN-Resolution 1973) prevented a massacre among the population of Benghazi. In the long run, the mission of French and British units didn’t bring any peaceful solution for Libya, but this is a point that was also not covered by the mandate of the United Nations.
We are aware that it is not about counting something up. A progressive Left needs to argue in a universal way. Bombs and weapons are the wrong way for conflict solution (and if violent solutions are required because all other measures fail, then UN Charter needs to be the basis – see the previous chapter). The double standards of the LINKE in foreign policy need to come to an end. The aggressive, inhumane and anti-democratic action of supposedly Socialists regimes cannot be legitimized any further just because it fits the properly maintained Anti-Imperialism. LINKE’s speechlessness in foreign policy needs to come to an end. Peace and civil conflict solution mechanisms need to have priority. In situations where democracy fails as in Northern Syria or in Ukraine, we need to find answers.
One cannot deny that economic and further power interests are being voiced and, when in need, are also militarily enforced. That happens in the former Eastern block as well as in the so-called Middle East or on the continent Africa – let’s say: everywhere in the world. This is part of capitalist reality, part of a long story of Western fights for supremacy and imperial and Neo-colonial strategies. Russia and China are a part of that for a long time and position themselves especially against USA and institutions that are dominated by them such as NATO. And yes, also Ukraine belongs to those contested areas of influence just like other former Soviet republics or African or Asian countries.
The enlargement of NATO towards Eastern Europe was not a declared objective of the USA after the system change in 1989. But the urge of the affected countries to get a security guarantee against the influence of the Russian neighbor was big. Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic autonomously joined in 1999. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia followed 2004, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro and Nothern Macedonia were the last ones to join. Georgia and Ukraine aimed to join with the support of the US as well. It is of peculiar irony that Putin’s attack accelerated or even started the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO in his immediate neighborhood. The perspectives of Georgia and Ukraine are uncertain though as they were before February 24th 2022.
The sabre-rattling that Putin created months before the attack against Ukraine spun around the question how far the US-dominated NATO – as the globally biggest military alliance – should move in the direction of Russia. Only, at the beginning of the 90s serious considerations over an accession of Russia itself to NATO were on the table. In 1997, NATO and Russia under president Boris Jelzin signed the Founding Act on Mutual Relation, Cooperation and Security. The NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council was the result. Jelzin’s successor Putin terminated that Act.
Yes. The democracy and freedom movements that came from Ukrainian society were followed by attempts of the West (USA and EU) as well as Russia to gain influence. But there is a proper difference between measures such as money, funding, structure development or a war. Support among Ukrainian society for welfare and democracy rather than for containment as a vassal state of authoritarian, illiberal Russia had been growing among Ukrainian society. This is a fact and that trend sped up with Russia’s brutal war.
Of course a security alliance that goes beyond the logic of cold war and armament would be in our left-wing political interest. NATO and its doctrine of armament, its deployment of troops and its history is no option. The collapse of the Eastern block would have been a chance to readjust world order and to install a global security system that would have included the competing players in West and East. Even though the failure has long lasting consequences, we need to avoid to focus on the logic of cold war again and again. We cannot just take note of the developments and the security interests in the Eastern states. We need to take them seriously too.
As an Anti-capitalist Left we cannot hide the fact that Ukraine is a contested area due to its leading production in grain and maize. The country inherits the nutritious black earth. High capital investors and big companies from the West and Russia had harsh fights in their competition over the country. The orientation towards the West meant further liberalization and concentration in agriculture for Ukraine. Those on the downside are small Ukrainian production structures. But Russia too aggressively pushed its economic interests.
We derive that us as LINKE need to refrain from neoliberal logic and the respective criteria of accession to EU. This does not mean that we refrain from EU as an association of states or from the will voiced by Ukrainian society to join. As a further result, we work for a reform and strengthening of European Union, maybe as a republic, and we support social and democracy-oriented struggles in Ukraine.
Measures in Energy Policy to Gain Independence from Russia
In recent decades, the energy transition proceeded only slowly. Germany is still dependent on fossil material. Germany is particular dependent on other states when it comes to natural gas. Although it no longer buys the gas from the Russian regime (since Russia does not deliver anymore), it will buy from other reactionary states (Qatar, Azerbaijan). The fact that Germany can actually do without Russian gas is shown by the current supply stop of the state-owned company Gazprom, although there are currently no sanctions on natural gas – contrary to what Wagenknecht and Co claim.
The storage of gas in Germany is organized exclusively by the private sector. This must change urgently. Energy supply and storage belong in public hands! The storages were never completely filled for the winter months, because cheap gas from Russia flowed at any time. Russia’s war of aggression has changed that. Therefore, there is now a storage law, which states that the storage facilities are to be filled from all inner-European sources of Western and Northern Europe over the summer and fall, in order to secure the heat supply over the winter months.
For the first time, the Gas Storage Act means that, according to current knowledge, the gas storage facilities in Germany will be filled to over 95%, which means that they will be able to get through the winter. The prerequisite, however, is that the coming winter is as “mild” as the last few winters. In the event of a “hard” winter, however, there will be bottlenecks despite full gas storage facilities. Thus it will be necessary to meet decisions as to who will receive how much gas and thus heat and when. We are opposed to deviating from the principle – as is repeatedly discussed by the federal government – that private consumers and social institutions such as hospitals should no longer be given top priority in terms of supply, but industrial groups should so. In the event of a gas shortage, households must be protected and large corporations must temporarily cease operations. This is the only way to ensure fair distribution of a scarce resource.
Ultimately, however, Germany is not in a supply crisis, but above all in a price crisis. Due to the “involuntary” change of supplier as well as speculation on the energy exchanges, the purchase prices from our European neighbors – from where we currently obtain our gas – have literally exploded. According to the original plans of the government, the increased prices were to be passed on to the end customers, which would have destroyed entire livelihoods. DIE LINKE and other progressive actors, however, have prevailed with the demand for a price cap, which is now to come. It must be ensured that energy and thus heat and electricity remain affordable for people. This requires enormous financial efforts, which could be financed by means of an excess profits tax, among other things.
In order to become independent of gas supplies from Qatar, Azerbaijan, Russia, the USA, etc., renewable alternatives must be expanded as quickly as possible. To store and use energy from wind, sun and water, a functioning hydrogen network is finally needed, which requires investment and can be partially integrated into the existing natural gas network for heat generation and storage. This development must be organized by the state and must not be subjected to neoliberal market logic. It is already evident that it is possible to be independent of Russia. The task now is to reduce dependence on oil and gas in order to avoid purchasing fossil fuels in the future.
What follows from that
We mentioned it already: as LINKE we want another foreign and security policy in the Federal Republic. We want to take part in shaping that transition of policy and we must come to feasible suggestions. Looking at the recent events of the war in Ukraine we draft some key points for a foreign policy as we imagine it as LINKE.
What counts for us on a basic level and in the long-run:
We refrain from empty phrases such as “unconditional solidarity.” No state deserves unconditional solidarity, every state behavior needs to be monitored critically. We rule out “unconditional solidarity” towards “allied states”. This is necessary and becomes apparent – as one example – in the US-prison in Guantanamo that has been existing for 20 years and stands contrary to all agreements on human rights and anti-torture-measures.
Political allies can only be state and non-state actors that respect human rights and principles of democracy and state of law. We support movements for democracy, social rights, climate justice, feminist fights, gender justice and sexual self-determination.
Our solidarity applies first and foremost to progressive groups and suppressed classes and not to states or governments, because it’s allegedly worth supporting them from a supposed geopolitical perspective. Solidarity with left-wing or at least democratic opposition to dictatorships cannot be sacrificed in the name of Anti-NATO agitation.
That means for us: wherever democratic and/ or left opposition is forming against dictatorship, it shall be supported. We see civil and diplomatic support as an opportunity to advertise for the universality of democracy and human rights. To argue for it, to debate and to protest, when in doubt even to fight for it, always depends on resisting and brave people on-site. We cannot judge from the outside if they are willing to take the risk. But we can try to reach out to them despite all obstacles and get into discussion, determining perspectives and needs and to provide precise solidarity. Though, the export of democracy with military means has failed. The current situation in Afghanistan still shows this, reminding us of the responsibility of the West.
We stand for multilateralism and for strengthening international law. We want to strengthen intergovernmental organizations such as UN or supranational state alliances such as European Union and increase their democratic legitimacy at the same time. Partly, democratic legitimacy even needs to be established first.
We think of foreign and security policy also in the categories of asylum, energy, development cooperation and trade policies. We start receiving contingents of refugees the moment, people start to escape, we rely globally on renewable energies, we share knowledge and we support, not hinder, economies of the global south, we stand for fair trade relationships and subsume them in a comprehensive understanding of foreign policy.
Applying the unfulfilled promises of enlightenment is a global project. Firstly, this includes taking responsibility for the colonial and neo-colonial crimes committed in the name of a false, in reality particular universalism. Secondly, it is about correcting the flaws in the design that is still inherent in the parliamentary-representative systems of Europe and North America in the form of nation-states. Massive human rights violations at EU’s and US’ external borders and the aim to export democracy by military means as well as exploitative trade agreements with countries of the global south, not sharing knowledge and technologies with those countries, the injustices when it comes to paying the bill for the losses and damages that are caused by climate catastrophe – we recognize all of this and work for solutions that do justice to the whole of humanity.
Ending exploitation in South and North alike is not conceivable without the achievements of civil rights and state of law. The socialist attempt failed due to its lack of democracy and the brutal repression of opposition movements. The chance to create a collective alliance of states for democracy and for shared security was missed after the end of the cold war and the decline of the socialist Easter block.
As linXXnet we are not a Thinktank on foreign policy and we do not want to be that either. Our text is a careful intervention in a multilayered debate. It needs space and the acknowledgment that there are no easy answers in this debate.
We observe the debate around a strengthened European Union as autonomous actor on the international stage with interest. A fundamentally reformed and enlarged EU could be an actor for peace that constitutes itself independently from the confrontation between USA and Russia/ China and autonomously from NATO.
Basically we stick to a vision of a world without the borders of national states, without capitalist exploitation and depletion of natural resources, to the idea of demilitarization and peaceful mechanisms for conflict solution.
“There is no socialism outside the international solidarity of the proletariat, and there is no socialism outside the class struggle. The socialist proletariat cannot renounce class struggle and international solidarity, either in peace or in war, without committing suicide.” (Rosa Luxemburg, 1916)