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Ukraine, International Law, and a Left Worth Wanting

Tortilla con Sal

March 10, 2022

By Stephen Sefton

 

 

Most commentary on Western progressive and radical media on events in Ukraine has failed to acknowledge the right to self-defense of the Russian Federation and its allies the Donetsk and Lugansk Popular Republics. This is one more example of the way North American and European progressive and radical movements collaborate with their ruling classes, just as they generally did over their governments’ repressive economic and social measures addressing Covid-19. The very Western movements claiming to be morally superior to both sides in the Ukraine war, by doing so, aid and abet the US government, its NATO allies and their Nazi sympathizer protegés in Ukraine.

The double standard could hardly be more clear. As distinguished international war crimes specialist Christopher Black notes: “When one takes account of all the factors that governed the Russian decision to send its forces into Ukraine it is clear that in law they had the legal right to do so whereas the United States continues its illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq and Syria to this day and the NATO media powers and governments say nothing, because they are all complicit in those invasions.” Now, Ukrainian military documents retrieved by the Russian authorities have demonstrated conclusively that their intervention preempted a large scale assault by Ukrainian armed forces against Donetsk and Lugansk, planned for early March this year.

So President Vladimir Putin was right to argue his government was acting in self defense in Ukraine after eight years of Ukrainian attacks on Donestk and Lugansk, since, as Christopher Black argues, Article 51 of the UN Charter applies, namely “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

Which renders entirely specious the argument of many widely respected left wing commentators like, for example, Ignacio Ramonet that Russia’s action in self defense “is barely even a fig leaf, a barebones legal skeleton to explain away an unjustifiable attack on Ukraine”. The role of Ramonet, like so many similar commentators, is to cover the Left flank of their social democrat and liberal support networks in the European Union and the United States, giving cover for otherwise inexcusable EU and US policies. Such commentators played a practically identical role in 2011 making excuses for Nato countries’ destructive aggression against Libya, Syria and Ivory Coast.

 

This explains why Ramonet’s claim that it is “difficult to understand why the United States did not do more to avoid this conflict in Ukraine” is fundamentally dishonest and false. Self-evidently the Western corporate elites have used the governments they own in North America and Europe to weaken and, if possible, destroy not just the independence and autonomy of the Russian Federation, but that of the European Union too. Western corporate elites will make enormous profits rearming Germany and the rest of Europe, and also Japan, and ensuring that Europe depends on US and allied country energy and food supplies. Turning Europe into a heavily militarized US vassal region prevents the US from losing the extremely lucrative, for now, European markets to Russia and China.

Also self-evident is the fact that commentators like Ignacio Ramonet and others assign completely disproportionate meaning to the recent UN General Assembly vote on the war in Ukraine which was so symbolic as to be practically meaningless. Countries representing an enormous majority of the world’s peoples chose to abstain or simply not take part in the vote. Here is the list of abstentions: Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burundi, Central African Republic, China, Congo, Cuba, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikstan, Uganda, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. Not taking part in the vote were: Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Morocco, Togo, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

So it is completely false to claim that the UN vote in any way at all represented a global condemnation of Russia by the majority of the world’s peoples. This is even more the case because, subsequently, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Brazil and Mexico have all made clear they are unwilling to apply illegal coercive economic and other measures against Russia. Nor is it likely that countries in Latin America and the Caribbean will act to damage their countries’s already fragile economies in the context of global efforts to recover from the effects of measures supposedly addressing Covid-19. These are incontrovertible realities that most Western progressives and radicals seem unwilling to acknowledge.

In turn, this means that what they think is practically irrelevant for the majority world. Very serious and committed anti-imperialist, class conscious writers openly discuss whether any kind of Left worth wanting exists any more in North America and Europe, for example Max Blumenthal and Cory Morningstar or the Black Agenda Report collective. These discussions may well be useful eventually for the cultural, social and political well being of Western countries, but in any case the majority world, despite the evil policies of the US and European ruling elites, will continue working successfully to realize their peoples’ right to a decent life, to their human development and to the sovereign independence of their nations.

[Stephen Sefton is a member of the Tortilla con Sal collective based in Nicaragua.]

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