In Multipolarity, Russia, Ukraine

By Roger Annis, A Socialist In Canada, June 25, 2023. Originally published on A Socialist In Canada.

Jill Stein, former leader of the Green Party U.S., and Dimitri Lascaris, leadership candidate in 2019 of the Green Party of Canada and recently returned from a month-long reporting visit to Russia, were interviewed recently on the conflict in Russia. The 71-minute interview was broadcast on the ‘Plebity’ program (AcTVism Munich) on YouTube, with host Rain Raza, on June 23, 2023. (Dimitri Lascaris’ reports from Russia and Crimea in May 2023 can be read on his website, here.)

Stein and Lascaris each had sharp words condemning what they consider to be years of political and military provocations by the governments of the United States and the NATO-member countries against the against the Russian Federation. They condemned the 2014 coup in Ukraine which brough a far-right government to power. The coup opened the door to sweeping measures since then to restrict or outright ban the political, social and language rights of the people of Ukraine, notably those in the large parts of the country that rejected the coup and wanted to maintain peaceful and mutually beneficial relations with Russia.

The two left-wing activists stumble, however, over the issue of the legality of Russia’s military intervention into Ukraine that began in late-February 2022. Jill Stein tells the interviewer, “Russia’s invasion, special operation–whatever you want to call it-of the eastern provinces of Ukraine and beyond is, arguably, illegal and murderous.” She cites three liberal commentators as authorities on the conflict in Ukraine –Jeffrey Sachs, Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky. All three have condemned Russia’s intervention, calling it ‘illegal’ or worse.

Dimitri Lascaris briefly states at the 30′ mark of the interview why he continues to believe that Russia’s military intervention is “illegal” according to the concept of ‘international law’. But his comments on the subject are nevertheless directed primarily against the NATO powers. He explains, “I’m sorry to have to say this, but the people on the left and in the progressive community who are out there focusing their ire upon the Russian Federation, the Chinese government–all the official ‘enemies’ of the United States–are giving ammunition to the imperialists and the regime change scam artists who have taken over our society and our politics.

“When our voices on the left are directed at the official enemies of the United States, we are being exploited and manipulated by the imperialist to pursue their agenda. What do they do? They look at us and say, ‘Look at these leftists out there, criticizing the Russian Federation. Surely everything we’re doing to undermine Russia and its government must be justified.

“Well I refuse to make myself a useful idiot of the Anglo-American Empire. And further, my goal as a journalist and as a public commentator is to talk about the things that are not being spoken about in the mainstream discourse.”

Jill Stein nods approvingly throughout the remarks by Lascaris.

The comments by Stein and Lascaris in the interview fail to explain and highlight one of the very key issues in the conflict in Ukraine, namely, the right to political self-determination of the people in what was formerly recognized as eastern and southern territories of the country.

Stein calls the two Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk “eastern provinces of Ukraine”. They are most decidedly not this anymore. In 2014, the peoples of the two territories rejected the coup carried out in Kiev and western Ukraine. They rebelled against it and voted that year to secede from the ‘new’, extreme-right Ukraine. For their defiant actions, they were targeted by the new regime. With NATO backing, the regime imposed an eight-year war on Donbass that killed some 14,000 civilians and combatants, Most of the deaths were on the side of those rejecting the coup. In 2022, the two republics voted again to join the Russian Federation. This vote was and remains lawful and definitive by any fair and progressive definition of the terms.

Crimea was also targeted for war by the new regime in Kiev. But the Crimean people acted quickly and decisively to forestall this by defending their territory against incursions by far-right paramilitaries from Ukraine. With crucial assistance from Russia, they held a referendum on March 16, 2014 to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. (Wikipedia)

Numerous polls in Crimea subsequent to the 2014 referendum vote have shown strong support for the original referendum. (The Wikipedia entry listed here contains considerable detail on these polls.)

‘International law’ typically refers to the Charter of the United Nations, the founding document of the UN approved by a large majority of the world’s governments of the day in San Francisco in June 1945. The Charter’s Article 51  specifically upholds the right of peoples and countries to resist armed aggression. It reads, “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.”

Article 2 of the UN Charter defines the very purpose of the organization as “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.”

Why, then, do self-professed opponents of U.S. and NATO aggression in Ukraine give skewed and inaccurate interpretations of ‘international law’ and condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine as ‘illegal’? In so doing, they ignore the lead of progressive governments such as China, Cuba, Venezuela and others which reject the anti-Russia propaganda and war measures by the West and refuse to condemn Russia’s defensive military intervention.

It was the Western countries, not Russia, that fomented a violent coup in Ukraine in 2014, aimed at rupturing the historically close–very close–relations between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples. Their coup (truly an ‘illegal’ act if ever there was one) then proceeded with draconian measures that have eliminated political rights in Ukraine and placed the country on a murderous path to war against Donbass and Crimea.

Those who choose to accept a Western interpretation of the already-loose concept of ‘international law’ are doing a disservice to the people of Russia and Ukraine. Their words create confusion and hinder the crucial need to speak out and organize against the ‘real’ aggression taking place in Ukraine—that of the U.S. and the other governments of NATO, joined with the ultra-nationalist and far-right governing regime in Kyiv.

Related readings:

*  Green Party USA debates Ukraineby Howie Hawkins, published in the July/August 2023 issue of Against The Current  …This new cold war is the emergence of a multi-polar world of competing imperialisms…  (Howie Hawkins was the presidential candidate of the U.S. Green Party in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. He condemns Russia’s defensive military operation in Ukraine and calls for Russia to withdraw from ‘Ukraine’. He dismisses any legitimacy of the right of political self-determination for the people of Donbass and Crimea. His essay appears in Against the Current , a Trotskyist and virulently anti-Russia magazine.)

*  Uproar in New Zealand as state media self-censors its reporting on Ukraineby Roger Annis, A Socialist In Canada, June 13, 2023 (with postscript and background reading)

*  Nordic green left: Solidarity with Ukraine, statement by green left parties in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland, published in Swedish on the website of the Left Party of Sweden, June 24, 2023  (English translation via here:  (The five signing parties are: Rødt (Red Party), Norway; Vänsterpartiet (Left Party), Sweden; Sosialistisk venstreparti (Socialist Left Party), Norway;  Enhedslisten (Red-Green Alliance), Denmark; Vasemmistoliitto (Left Alliance), Finland.)  ‘…We emphasise the sole responsibility of the Russian regime for initiating this illegal invasion, escalating it to the point of risking nuclear war, and provoking global re-armament… We recognize that arms support is necessary to give Ukraine the ability to defend itself…’

*  Excerpt from ‘The Ukraine War in light of the UN Charter’essay by Alfred de Zayas, Feb 6, 2023:  …Without the Maidan putsch and the anti-Russian measures immediately taken by the putsch-regime, the Crimean and Donbass peoples would not have felt menaced and would not have insisted on their right of self-determination.  Lawrence Wittner errs in his essay when he uses the term “annexation” to refer to the reincorporation of Crimea into Russia.  “Annexation” in international law presupposes an invasion and military occupation contrary to the will of the people.  That is not what happened in Crimea in March 2014.  First there was a referendum on March 16 to which the UN and OSCE were invited – and never came. Then there was an unilateral declaration of independence by the legitimate Crimean Parliament [the elected government of the Autonomous , only then was there an official request to be re-incorporated into Russia, a request that went through the due process mill, being first approved by the Duma, then by the Constitutional Court of Russia, and only then signed by Putin.  Had a referendum been held in 1994, when I was in Crimea, the results would surely have been similar.  A referendum today would confirm the will of the Crimeans to be part of Russia, not Ukraine, to which they had been artificially attached by decision of Nikita Khruschev, a Ukrainian himself.  There are no historical or ethnic reasons justifying Crimea’s attachment to the Ukraine. Many international lawyers agree that Crimea exercised its right of self-determination and was not “annexed” by Russia.  (Alfred de Zayas served from 2012 to 2018 as United Nations Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order. He is the author of ten books including Building a Just World Order, Clarity Press, 2021.)


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