Ukraine crisis sets back NATO’s eastward advance [Workers World]

By Fred Goldstein on March 20, 2014

* Strategic blow to Pentagon in Crimea *

March 19 — The overwhelming, popular turnout of the Crimean masses who affirmed their decision to separate from the Kiev coup regime in Ukraine and associate with Russia is the first great setback for the U.S. and NATO in their 15-year march to the East.

This constitutes a turning point in the international situation. The irresistibly expansionist imperialist establishment in Washington has engaged Russia in a direct confrontation by seizing control of the Ukrainian government.

The Russian nationalist Putin regime of counterrevolutionary oligarchs is no answer to the problems of the masses of people in Crimea or the workers and farmers in Ukraine. The workers’ organizations and the communists must retain their class independence in this struggle, promote class solidarity and be careful not to fall prey to Great Russian chauvinism or bourgeois nationalism.

But at the same time, they should oppose any victory for Washington’s war drive in the region, which is the greatest danger.

Since the fall of the USSR and Eastern Europe, NATO has swallowed nine countries from the former socialist camp in Eastern Europe and three formerly Soviet Baltic republics. This expansion toward Russia’s borders has taken place in steps, with little resistance.

In NATO’s march to the East — a march to encircle Russia on its western border — the seizure of Ukraine was a final and decisive step. But the militarists and expansionists in the Pentagon, the White House and the State Department forgot what the actual relationship of forces was on the ground.

They seem to have forgotten that Russia has a powerful military, including nuclear weapons and a large army. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and other neocons and right-wingers in Washington who were running the Ukraine operation were so narrowly focused on grabbing political power that they disregarded the history of Ukraine. They mistook the pro-imperialist oligarchs and Ukrainian nationalists in Kiev, Lviv and other parts of western Ukraine for the entire country.

* Washington underestimated Ukrainian masses *

Above all, they never foresaw the possibility of the intervention of the Ukrainian masses, particularly in Crimea and the eastern and southern parts of the country. They seem not to have noticed all the statues of Lenin, streets named after communists and monuments to the victories over fascism. Even the counterrevolutionary Ukrainian oligarchs had not dared to take them down.

After years of Washington and NATO running completely roughshod over country after country in the former socialist camp, this is their first land grab that has run into the dual resistance of the local population and the Russian state.

Washington gained its objective in Kiev by political subversion and by mobilizing fascist forces for the overthrow of the legally elected government, headed by Viktor Yanukovych. It then installed an unelected puppet government and gained political control of Kiev.

But with the seizure of the government of Ukraine in Kiev by Washington and its junior partners in the European Union, quantity has turned into quality. The imperialists in Washington have plunged across a red line and been caught flat-footed by the swift and forceful response they received, especially in Crimea.

Washington suffered a humiliating rebuff by the massive democratic turnout in Crimea. The U.S. warnings to Russia against federating with Crimea were demonstrably futile and ineffectual. And to make matters worse for them, the unelected puppet regime in Kiev has not been able to establish its authority, as shown by growing unrest and resistance in large and key industrial sections of the country in the east and the south.

To be sure, the U.S. and the EU still have the stronghold of Kiev, fortified by the fascists in the Svoboda Party and the Right Sector. This is just the first battle in a war which will be filled with future political, economic and military twists and turns that cannot be foreseen.

* Pentagon wanted to oust Russian navy from Crimea *

A measure of the setback, particularly for the Pentagon, can be seen in the howls and cries of the capitalist politicians over Crimea’s federation with Russia and the swiftness and decisiveness with which this was accomplished.

The howling seems truly disproportionate — but only if you leave out the fact that pushing the Russian Black Sea Fleet out of Sebastopol was a prime strategic objective of the Pentagon. The hope was that by capturing the regime in Kiev, it would become possible to invalidate the lease under which the Russian fleet is stationed there.

Much attention has been rightfully focused on the U.S. goal of bringing NATO into Ukraine. But little has been said about the desire of the U.S. high command to push the Russian navy out of Crimea. The base at Sebastopol is Russia’s only warm-water port and is its strategic entry to the Mediterranean and Syria as well as Iran…

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